I have been royally stumped by this post. Countless are the times I have sat in front of this screen, fingers bashing away at the keyboards. Within half an hour, I end up grunting with dissatisfaction while deleting all my efforts. It’s been going on for days. The longer I leave it, the worse it becomes. The heart of the issue is not that I can’t come up with anything to say, it’s that I have too much!
I could tell you, about two little sneaky girls, cousins in fact, lying sprawled and half drunk over a mountain of luscious, sticky sweet mangos. In the upstairs store room of their grandmother’s house, piles of sucked out skins and seeds of fruit are lying on the tiled floor, like fallen soldiers after a massacre. Their cotton dresses were soaked and stained with the juice, every limb was sticky and their half asleep faces were streaked with pulp. Even their irate grandmother’s ear tweaking combined with verbal leathering couldn’t bring down the high, or elicit any remorse. The cold bucket of water dumped over their heads by the well, did something to dissipate the sugar driven haze. However, through the day of much scathing, dark looks and muttered breaths of the grown-ups, these two imps chalked it down as one of the best days of summer. Ever. And I, still do.
I could write about how while living in the midst of the cold air and rolling green hills of Aberdeenshire, I searched for edible sunshine in every grocery store and supermarket for the ‘right’ kind of Mango. How the harvest from Brazil, Israel, Kenya and Australia were but poor imitators of the genuine article I was after. How, when I unexpectedly found a box of them at the back of a tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Indian grocers, made me shriek with crazy happiness and drew worried glances from the storekeeper. The fact too, that I felt a wave of longing for my mother and sister, when I bit into the orange flesh after three years without. How I loved cutting it up and giving my daughter her first taste of my home.
And more, so much more. These are not recollections thats given to any old fruit. It’s reserved for the Alphonso. India is the largest producer of mangos and the Alphonso season in short. During the dry, burning heat of the Indian ‘summer’ months of April to June, these Mangos start appearing. When ripe, they almost seem to absorb and reflect the intensity of the tropical sun in its colour and taste. They are very sweet, with avocado like flesh but slightly fibrous, juicy, deeply fruity in flavour with honeyed notes, a slight acidic back note, means that there is no comparison to be drawn with any other variety. This is not a mango that you chuck into a salad, or use in a curry when it’s ripe. It will dominate the dish and to my mind, it’s a sacrilegious waste of a good fruit. Treat an Alphonso with care, keep it simple.
Which will make you wonder why I blitzed it with coconut milk to make an ice-cream? Besides the fact that this is one of the few ice creams I like, it was an issue of management. My greed compelled me to buy more than we, a family of four, could possibly consume before they rotted. Not only are these the more expensive variety, the thought of them spoiling had my gizzards in a twist. So, with a can opener and some sugar in hand, I turned the juicy pulp, into a creamy, rich but not heavy, sun kissed yellow, lick worthy treat.
I chose not to go with a cooked egg custard base. One, is because I am commitedly lazy and second, I justified such slothful ways by convincing myself that this is the healthier option. Plus I didn’t want any eggy backnotes to this ice cream. So in the end, this is a simple, rather quick to make ice-cream, that does not lack any creaminess of texture for having taken the easy way out.
Now there are two ways of going about making this. One time, I set aside the chopped fruit with the sugar to steep and then cooked it gently, to melt the sugar and soften the fruit. That was when I had several mango varieties at different stages of ‘ripe’. The other time, I had perfectly ripe Alphonso (which tend to be quite soft fleshed), and I just went ahead and blitzed that with the sugar and added in the coconut milk. All that was left to do was churn. Simples. Adding some toasted coconut shavings/flakes would up the ante, but my kids are not fans of ‘bits’, so I left them out.
The only real point to note is that, the quality of coconut milk in this ice cream will determine the outcome. You might just end up with mango and no real coconut coming through, so please, do taste your coconut milk before chucking it into the pureed mangos. I opened up three different brands of cans before I found the one with the best coconut flavour. One was vile which was poured down the sink, the other was good for a curry, so promptly frozen in freezer bags, and the third was used for the ice cream. Don’t even consider the low fat, watered down, barely nutty version. Full- fat or nothing is the way to go. Powdered coconut milk, mixed with water or preferably, cream (single / half and half etc) would be excellent too.
In short, this is just a bare bones base of a recipe, for you to take and conform to the demands of your own tastes.The thick, pulpiness of the fruit ensures that it can stand up to whatever proportions you prefer. Stem ginger syrup might be a good addition, with or without the coconut milk. Controversially, a sweet chilli syrup (made with water , sugar and chopped up red chillies) drizzled over fat scoops would be sensational. Trust me. I quite like bringing this out at the end of a curry based meal. It’s still in keeping with the cuisine, but much more soothingly refreshing.
My mind is flooded with so many memory snapshots when I lick at this ice cream and for me, that’s the wonder of food. Something so basic, necessary and utilitarian at heart, can command such a stronghold on your senses. And this ice cream, with it’s rich mango fruit flavour, creamy, smooth and nutty taste, does, and does it well.
Finally, there remains nothing left to say. Enjoy!