May comes, and with it mango season. For me, mangoes are the ultimate spring-into-summer food: they’re pale, restrained and firm for weeks until suddenly, and without any warning, they relent into sunny yellow softness. I like them at both ends of the ripeness spectrum – faintly powder flavoured and a little crunchy at first and then lusciously tropical, honeyed and generously giving a week later. I can still sort of remember how bizarre and wonderful I found them when I was little (and when they were still rare and expensive), with their uneven, bony stone and their paradise-like, fruitier-than-fruit taste. I loved them from the off, and I still think of them as somehow unreal, the sort of fruit you’d read about in a children’s adventure story.
I used seven mangoes at various stages of ripeness this week, making a mango and passionfruit coulis for Greek yoghurt; a mango chutney and a heavenly mango and cardamon ice-cream, adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe. The best mangoes of all, the Alphonso variety, may prove hard to track down this year due to a ban on imports, so just seek out any firm, rosy, good-looking specimens and let them ripen slowly on your – hopefully sunny – window sill.
Mango dish #1: perfect as a light, summery dessert or as an elegant brunch dish for your health-conscious gal pals
MANGO & PASSIONFRUIT COULIS
Serve layered with toasted coconut flakes and thick, creamy Greek yoghurt
2 ripe mangoes
Puree the mango until smooth. Add the scooped-out passionfruit seeds and chill until required.
Mango dish #2: perfect with curries, on sandwiches and with cold meats
Makes 2 medium-sized jars
2 large mangoes, peeled, stoned and chopped
3 cloves white garlic
200g caster sugar
1 baking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon of grated fresh root ginger
300ml white wine vinegar
1 scant tablespoon of onion seed, or nigella
4 cardamon pods, dehusked
Pinch of good-quality Garam Masala (try Bombay Pantry’s)
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the mango slices into a bowl with the salt and leave overnight to draw out some of the liquid.
In the morning, rinse off the salt and leave to drain for a few minutes. Put everything into a large saucepan and slowly heat to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for about thirty minutes, or until the fruit has broken down, the sauce is thick and syrupy and a wooden spoon makes a trail through the mixture. Taste it and add sweet, sour, salty or spicy flavours as desired. Pour into clean, sterilised jars. Cover and seal. The chutney will keep for about six months in a cool cupboard and can be enjoyed soon after it’s finished. For a lovely, mellow flavour, leave it to rest for a week.
Mango dish #3: perfect for dessert on warm summer’s evening; wonderful with fresh fruit and toasted coconut shards. Ottolenghi serves his with Brazil nut biscuits
MANGO & CARDAMON ICE-CREAM
2 medium-sized sweet mangoes, net weight (ie, no peel, no stone) 650g
225g Greek yoghurt
200ml double cream
5-6 tablespoons of runny honey (depends on mango sweetness)
8 cardamon pods, dehusked, seeds bashed
1tbsp lemon juice
1/2 a teaspoon of good-quality vanilla extract
Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste it. If the mangoes are sweet, 5 tablespoons should be enough, but if not add another spoonful: you’re looking for a mix which is pleasantly flavoursome if not actually sweet. Bear in mind that it will taste a good bit less sweet when frozen. If you have an ice-cream maker (lucky you), pour it in and leave it to freeze for about 25 minutes and then transfer to a container and freeze. If not, simply freeze in a large container and beat it every hour or so until frozen so that large ice crystals don’t form.