Apr 032013
 

I adore alphonso mangoes.

I’ve loved them as long as I can remember and they come right at the top of my (very long) list of favourite foods. Some people suggest that all mangoes are equal but that’s definitely not the case. This king of mangoes has a heady perfume and sweet, intense flavour that is hard to match.

Mangoes originated on the Indian subcontinent and in my opinion, the varieties from this region are still the best.

Alphonso mangoes, known as haphoos in India, are to those fat red and green simulacrums that grace supermarket shelves all year round what the sun is to a 30 watt light bulb.

Alphonsos put those Tommy Atkin pretenders to shame and I hardly consider them to be the same fruit at all!

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Only in season for a couple of months, the alphonso is grown in Western India and also in Pakistan, where it is considered one of the best of the many mango cultivars. Indeed, the mango is the national fruit (who knew such a thing existed?!) of both countries.

Why the European name for this very Asian variety? The alphonso mango is named for Afonso De Albuquerque, a nobleman and Admiral who was the second governor of Portuguese colonial empire in India. Portuguese missionaries may have introduced the technique of grafting to India; certainly they were instrumental in using grafting to create new cultivars such as the alphonso and many others. The new and superior cultivar soon spread to other regions of India.

Of course, there is strong competition from other honey mangoes (the catch all name used to market Pakistani mangoes but which sometimes refers to Indian ones too). If I’m honest, I’m just as happy with a box of kesar, chaunsa, dusehri or langra mangoes as with my alphonsos! There are many more than these, but not readily available in the UK.

When I was a kid, honey mangoes were a little harder to find in the UK, though our local cash and carry and a few Asian grocers stocked them, in season. Nowadays, not only do all the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi grocers carry them, you can also find them in many local fruit and veg shops, in Chinese supermarkets and even your regular supermarket chains.

The start of the mango season is much celebrated in India, and often makes the headlines. Prices are widely discussed, boxes are sent to family, friends and colleagues and online delivery services do a roaring trade. Mango fans gorge on their favourite fruit, buying plenty to eat at home, enjoying freshly squeezed juice from street vendors and attending mango celebration events.

In the UK, the season is more quietly anticipated though greeted with no less glee by those in the know.

For those who’ve never enjoyed an alphonso mango (or any of the sister honey mango varieties) do make sure it’s the one new treat you try this year. You will surely fall as deeply in love with them as me.

 

This was written as a guest post last year for MADD, purveyors of mango drinks and sweet treats, at Rupert Street, Soho. My favourites from their menu include the mango and passionfruit smoothie, the sticky coconut rice and fresh mango and the pistachio almond mousse cake.

 

I was recently invited to a mango-themed evening meal and masterclass by Suda, a Thai restaurant just off St Martin’s Lane, near Covent Garden.

The mango dishes and demonstrations were lead by Kessuda Raiva, Executive VP of S&P (who own a number of restaurants and food businesses in Thailand as well as Patara and Suda here in the UK). She was helped by Saipin Lee, S&P’s regional manager for UK and Europe.

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We enjoyed some delicious Thai dishes including green mango salad with crispy fish, roasted duck breast red curry with mango and tomatoes and golden fried sea bass fillet in batter with mango and Thai herb salsa. These are available throughout June, on Suda’s special mango menu.

My favourite, as I expected it might be, was Mango Sticky Rice, a dish I adore.

Here is the recipe for Mango Sticky Rice. I have rewritten the instructions to make them clearer.

 

Kao Niew Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice)

Serves 5-6

Ingredients
2 cups of glutinous rice
1 cup of coconut cream
3 tablespoons coconut cream (for topping)
2 pinches of salt
1 cup of sugar
5-6 Thai mangoes
Optional: a couple of pandan leaves

Method

  • Soak the glutinous rice for 6 hours (or overnight). Drain. Wrap rice rice in a clean muslin cloth and steam for 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked. *see note.
  • Boil 3 tablespoons coconut cream. Add 1 pinch of salt over low heat. Set aside.
  • Dissolve 1 cup of sugar and 2 pinches of salt in 1 cup of coconut cream and cook on a very low heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. You may also add pandan leaves for flavour, if you like.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the cooked sticky rice and mix thoroughly, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Then mix again.
  • Peel and slice ripe mango.
  • Place sticky rice on a small plate and top with mango slices. Spoon the additional coconut cream over the rice and mango.

Note: You can also cook the sticky rice in a microwave. Pour boiling water over uncooked rice, to about an inch over the surface. Stir occasionally, during five minutes, then drain. Add clean warm water to cover the rice and microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes. Remove and stir. If the rice is still hard, microwave for a further 3 minutes.

Kavey Eats attended the Suda Thai mango dinner and master class as a guest of the restaurant.

Oct 032009
 

It’s always nice when friends show both imagination and an understanding of what you’re about when choosing gifts for you, so I was touched by the gift of a box of 6 fat red-green mangoes as part of an anniversary present last weekend. (Don’t worry, these friends know us both well, the present included a bottle of Port for Pete!)

The variety of mangoes seemed best suited to preserving but, having made a green tomato and raisin chutney only last week, I decided to go for the sweeter option of jam. Lime has a wonderful affinity with mango, I find. So mango and lime jam it was!

Mango & Lime Jam
Ingredients
1.5 kilos of mango flesh
1.5 kilos of sugar
Juice of 6 limes
Zest of 6 limes
1 packet pectin powder

Ingredients Notes
Even with the lime juice, the jam is very sweet. You may want to reduce the sugar by up to a third.
I use a small sharp knife, not a zester, to peel the zest from citrus, so I get virtually all of the zest off each lime. If you’re using one of a zester or grater, which leaves a lot of green behind, you may want to use the zest from more limes.

Method

  • Peel the mangoes and remove as much of the flesh as possible. Roughly dice and weigh. (Adjust the amounts of the other ingredients to match the weight of mango flesh).
  • Mix the mango and sugar in a bowl and leave in the fridge for about an hour (or longer).
    This helps draw some of the juices out of the mango flesh.
  • Zest and juice the limes.
  • Chop the zest into small pieces.
  • Place all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil.
  • Continue boiling until you achieve a set.
    (Either use a jam thermometer or the cold plate wrinkle test to check for a set).
  • Bottle into hot sterilised jam jars and sterilised lids.

Note: a few months after I made this jam, we cracked open a jar (in March) and found that the lime has given the jam a really savoury flavour! It works well as a sweet-savoury condiment with cheese and I reckon it’d be nice with popadoms too!

 

Dinner first…

Tonight I thought I’d make an effort to use up more of the contents of the mixed fruit and veg box we received from Abel & Cole last Friday.


Burgers with mushrooms and spuds

Wednesday’s dinner was simple – Waitrose fresh beef burgers served with mushrooms (chopped and fried) and royal jersey potatoes (boiled and served with butter).

For dessert I figured I’d better eat the large mango – it was feeling soft and ripe and might well be past it’s best by Friday, when we’d next have a chance.

But, as regular readers will know, I’m a mango snob. I prefer the wrinkly green-to-yellow Asian varieties of mango of which alphonso and kesar are the stars. The depth of flavour and the heady perfume of these mangoes put the fat, rounded red-green ones in the shade.

Sure enough, when I cut into the mango, which was perfectly ripe, it was neither as sweet or as flavoursome as I would like, though nice enough.

Mango – great condition, ripe but lacking flavour and sweetness

What to do?

A while ago I particularly enjoyed a salsa (served with empanadas in a South American chain restaurant) and guessed that it contained mango, tomato, red onion, mint and coriander. With that in mind I decided to combine coriander and mango into a dessert dish.

And for dessert – Kavey’s Coriander-Marinated Mango

I chopped up the flesh, threw in a few spoons of white sugar, mixed in lots of chopped fresh coriander leaves and left it in the fridge for just under an hour.

Delicious! Though you can’t see the juicy syrup that was created!

When I came to eat it the sugar had drawn some of the juices out of the mango flesh to create a delicious syrup and the coriander had imparted it’s unique taste. The combination was absolutely terrific, even better than I’d hoped, and one I’ll definitely do again.

 

I adore alphonso mangoes, I really do! I’ve loved them as long as I can remember and they come right at the very top of my (very long) list of favourite foods. They used to be harder to find in the UK when I was a kid but these days, not only does nearly every Indian grocer and cash and carry in the country sell them, so too do some of the major supermarkets.

Only in season for 2-3 months alphonso mangoes are to those fat red and green simulacrums what the sun is to a 30 watt lightbulb. They put them to shame. Alphonso Mango for president!

Having remembered that the season was here at last, my number one plan for this morning was to head out and find my own box of manna from heaven. Luckily, our small local Indian grocery didn’t disappoint.

AlphonsoMango-7993 AlphonsoMango-7990 AlphonsoMango-7994

Having bought my prize home, I managed to resist diving in until after we got back home from a (fruitless) excursion to find a small square cast iron garden table, made less disappointing by diverting for a very tasty country pub lunch.

For those who’ve never enjoyed an alphonso mango (also known as the afoos or hapoos mango) the flavour is so wonderfully sweet, so perfumed and heady that you will, on trying your first one, surely fall as deeply in love with them as me.

Be warned though that they ripen quickly and have a short shelf life. I’ll be polishing off my box of 12 pretty fast!

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