Musika, the Zambezi Valley’s Native Tamarind

Towering wild tamarind trees - called musika by the indigenous Tonga and Tokaleya - thrive along the banks of the Zambezi River not far from the author's home.

Photo credit: Annabel Hughes

Annabel Hughes

Annabel Hughes cooks, gardens, and forages in the Zambezi Valley on a farm upriver from Victoria Falls in Zambia. Read her blog at www.SavannaBel.com.

Musika (Tamarind) Purée

Desserts may be drizzled with tangy tamarind purée. Photo credit: Annbel Hughes


1.  Place the musika/tamarind pulp into a medium bowl. Add warm water, ensuring all the fruit is well-covered, and soak for 3-4 hours, or until the pulp starts separating from the seeds and turns into a thick puree.  If it becomes too thick, add a little more water.

2. Transfer the puree to a heavy-based saucepan and add the sugar.  I use 118 ml (½ cup) sugar to every 473 ml (2 cups) tamarind puree.

3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer until the consistency of the puree becomes smoother and starts to soften, about 30 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat, cool, and store in sterilized preserving jars in the refrigerator. The puree will last for months.

Roasted Sweet Pepper & Musika Soup with Greek Yogurt & Edible Flowers

Photo credit: Annabel Hughes


1. Preheat oven to 204°C (400°F).

2. Place all the vegetables and basil in a large roasting tray. Mix together the vinegar and oil and pour it over the vegetables, making sure everything is well-coated.

3. Roast the vegetables in the oven, turning them over from time to time, about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool when done, about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Push through a sieve to remove any seeds or skin that remain, ensuring the end result is silky smooth.

5. Transfer to a heavy-based saucepan, add the musika puree, and then thin the soup with the stock to a desired consistency. Place over a medium heat, stirring regularly to ensure all the ingredients are well-combined. Remove from the heat when the soup is hot but not boiling. Whisk in the Greek yogurt, and season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.

6. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with a teaspoon of Greek yogurt in the center of the soup, along with edible flowers arranged to your preference. If serving cold, garnish with an edible flower frozen into an ice cube, placed atop the Greek yogurt in the center of the plate.

Musika (Tamarind) Ice Cream

Musika ice cream on a mongongo nut florentine with fresh summer fruit Photo credit: Annabel Hughes


1.  Put an ice cream container and a metal bowl into the freezer. Pour the cream and milk into a heavy-based saucepan and place over a medium heat. Gently bring up to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then remove from the heat. Set aside.

2.  While the cream and milk are heating up, beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large metal bowl until the mixture turns pale and thick. Slowly pour the hot creamy milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you do so.

3.  Place the egg yolk mixture in the metal bowl on top of a saucepan with 68 cm (2-3 inches) of boiling water over a medium heat; do not allow the boiling water does not touch the bowl.

4.  Gently stir the custard in a figure eight, moving all around the bowl, until it thickens, 6-8 minutes. The custard should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat, pour into the pre-cooled metal bowl and return to the freezer for a few minutes. Do not leave the custard in the saucepan, as the heat of the pan will continue to cook it.

5.  When the custard is cool whisk in the musika purée, ensuring it is very well-combined. Pour into an ice cream maker and after the cycle is complete, transfer into the pre-cooled ice cream container and store in the freezer until ready to serve.