RAISE YOUR GAME
Fresh eggs and a closed oven are key to a souffle.
Don’t be frightened of a souffle. They’re easy. Make sure you have good, fresh eggs, and just follow the instructions. And DON’T OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.
This is the pudding I make when I’ve forgotten to make pudding – that sudden moment of realisation/horror when you decide to have a spontaneous dinner gathering, you have everyone looking expectantly over at you after the main, and you haven’t got the heart to run down to the dairy for a Sara Lee.
It’s much easier than it looks – I’ve been making it since I was a teenager. You can of course use any citrus you like; lemon will always be my first love, but lime is pretty delicious, too. Make sure you save a bit for breakfast the next morning; with a little runny cream when nobody is watching.
A LEMON SOUFFLE
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 15 mins Serves: 6
250g caster sugar
8 eggs, separated
200ml lemon juice (about 3 lemons), plus zest
Recently I enjoyed a Southeast Asian-inspired vegan tasting menu by Chef Alok Vasanth and team at The Tasting Shed, an excellent restaurant in Kumeu, west of Auckland. One of a series of snacks we were served was a tamarind “rice wash” soup, a thin broth packed with flavour. Vasanth had looked to the Philippines, where sinigang soup is soured with tamarind, and features the starchy water from the second rinsing of rice. “This means you’re not wasting the starchy water, which contains valuable nutrients, and you’re also not wasting the water, which is a precious resource,” explains Vasanth, who eschewed meat or other vegetables for his version, instead treating the tamarind as both the main ingredient and souring agent.
The flesh from tamarind pods is used by cooks throughout Southeast and South Asia, some parts of the Middle East and Central America, to add sourness. Vasanth notes that its ability to be stored is a bonus, especially in tropical climates – lime juice wouldn’t last a day without going fizzy, whereas tamarind preserves well. (On that note, Vasanth suggests trying tamarind in place of citrus in a vinaigrette.) As well as tartness, tamarind adds other flavour dimensions to a dish. “Darker notes of caramel,” explains Vasanth, “which helps it stand up to strong flavours like fermented fish or shrimp, and spices.”
This is why tamarind is often paired with seafood – one famous example being Penang’s assam laksa, where tamarind both bolsters and balances a generous amount of flaked oily fish, and a spoonful of potent shrimp paste. My mother-in-law, Eman, makes an Irani-style charcoal-barbecued mackerel flavoured with a sweet-sour tamarind glaze. Its caramelly sweetness can be played up: a dish of tamarind prawns I once ate by the beach on the island of Koh Lanta in Thailand saw palm sugar, fish sauce, shallots and tamarind combined to make a fantastic sweet and sour sauce.
Whereas citrus needs to be added at the very end of cooking (or heat will destroy its flavour and sour-factor), Vasanth says tamarind is best added three-quarters of the way through cooking.
There are options when selecting tamarind to cook with. Buy the pulp, which comes in a dark-brown, compressed block, and needs to be soaked then strained to remove the seeds and create a kind of paste to cook with, or in plastic tubs you’ll find ready-strained pulp, or a more concentrated paste. Asian and Indian grocers boast a selection of candied tamarind products – go forth and explore.