As a child growing up in a small market town in the north of England, I was obsessed with passport stamps, luggage labels and my parents’ old Bakelite radio in the dining room. I used to lie on the floor and trace my fingers across the etched dial - Rome, Paris, Cairo - it seemed impossibly exotic, almost magical, to me. My grandmother had just retired from her career as a nurse and was determined to see as much of the planet as possible. I used to gobble up her traveller’s tales from Denmark or Greece or Spain like a bowl of perfectly ripe berries.
At school, I was a studious, dreamy, often-inky-fingered kid, usually to be found gazing out of the window waiting for my life to start. On the first day of the autumn term when I was 10, Rosie Sinha came and sat next to me. She had a ripple of glossy hair, shiny and dark as just-poured molasses, and was sweet, funny, clever. She was also good at maths – something I still find amazing in anyone of any age. The kid from Delhi and the kid from County Durham became firm friends.
Once, Rosie’s uncle came to visit from India and brought a crate of mangoes. As she described them her eyes sparkled and she cupped her hands in front of her mouth, as though she were eating one. Well, I was happy for her, sure, but fruit seemed a funny sort of gift unless you were in hospital. When my Dad went on business trips, he’d bring me back comics or chocolate which I loved. That was a proper present.
What a difference a few decades make. Every May, I start stalking our local Indian grocers, waiting for the first Alphonso mangoes to arrive in their crates, little tufts of shredded paper sticking out of the sides protecting the golden fruit inside.
I found some today. I bought two cases, not just because I’m greedy - which I am - but because they were all strapped together, still with their British Airways freight sticker clinging to the sides (remember that love of passport stamps and luggage labels?) and it seemed a shame to split them up. After 4,000 miles, fruit can get friendly.
Now, the only practical way of eating an Alphonso mango is over the sink, ideally naked. This is not a perfect solution, particularly if the back of your house is almost all glass like ours is. You could always run a bubble bath, light a few candles and take your mango and a very sharp knife into the tub with you. However you eat them, you won’t be disappointed. Their spicy, honeyed perfume and intensely sweet, rich and creamy flesh is positively addictive.
Really, there’s nothing better than eating them just as they are, but even I can’t eat two crates of perfectly ripe mangoes. So here are a few other things I do with them.
- Blitz a couple in a blender with a handful of ice cubes, a big dollop of whole milk yoghurt and a squeeze of lime. It’s the breakfast of (culinary) champions.
- Slice them and serve simply with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
- Purée three or four in a blender with some lime juice and fold into about a third of their weight of lightly whipped cream to create a luxuriously perfect fool.
Lady de B is coming over this afternoon to discuss menu plans for our friend Paula’s wedding in September, so I thought I’d make a mango upside down cake to nibble on as we discuss the feast. And, ddddddddrrrrrrrrruuuuuummm roll, I want to offer a big slice of cake to my blogging friends who have visited Licked Spoon so often and left such lovely comments since I began this little adventure a couple of months ago. I’ve taken such pleasure in visiting your blogs, too, it’s only fitting that I offer cake (and awards) in return.
Ready, steady, mango…
This is based on a recipe I clipped from Olive magazine a while ago, with a few twists of my own. I added some cardamom, as I often like my sweet things balanced with a bit of spice, but you can certainly leave it out if you prefer.
4 Alphonso mangoes or 2 large mangoes
100g light Muscovado sugar
40g unsalted butter
For the batter:
170g unsalted butter, softened
170g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, 2 of them separated
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
A pinch ground cardamom (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Alphonso mango, peeled and pureed
To prepare the mangoes, peel them with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife. Stand them upright on a chopping board and cut down each cheek, as close to the stone as you can get. Put each cheek flat on the board and cut into thick slices or about 1.5cm. Be careful – they’re slippery little so-and-sos.
Butter a 24cm solid-bottomed round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Put the light Muscovado sugar in a small pan with 2tbsps of water and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to cook without stirring until the sugar is syrupy and a deep caramel colour. Stir in the butter and pour immediately into the pan, covering the bottom with an even layer of caramel. Cool then arrange the mango slices in circles over the surface.
Now, this is really a case of do as I say not as I do. I was all ready to make the cake when I realised I didn’t have a 24cm solid-bottomed cake tin. I made a half-hearted attempt to convince myself I could cheat by wrapping a loose-bottomed tin very tightly with foil. Take it from me, you can’t. You’ll lose lots of the buttery, caramelly juices which will then have to be scraped from the foil and spooned hastily onto the hot cake. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that it will drip down onto the oven floor and transform itself into some sort of volcanic gunk you’ll never, ever be able to remove without the help of explosives.
Sieve together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom if you’re using it. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the whole egg and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla, then half of the flour. Stir in the milk and puréed mango. Stir in the rest of the flour. Don’t overmix, you want it just to be well combined.
Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks then fold into the batter gently but thoroughly. Spoon over the mangoes and spread with a spatula. Bake until golden and a cake tester comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Cool for no more than five minutes then turn out onto your serving plate. If you leave it in too long, the caramel will set and you’ll be excavating the thing from the tin with a spoon. Eat warm as a pudding, with perhaps a little cream or crème fraîche, or at room temperature with a cup of tea.
Now, onto the ceremony. First, can I start by saying you all look fabulous (though if you get any Alphonso mango cake on those lovely frocks I’m not responsible for the dry cleaning bills). After receiving this award from the divine Lady P a few days ago, here’s my list of some Lovely Blogs that have me pressing F5 Refresh at a worrying rate, because I can’t wait to see if they’ve updated.
Catherine at Unconfidential Cook who, in her stylish, entertaining blog embodies all that great cooking is about – sharing a delicious plate of food with friends, with a few stories on the side.
Scarlett the Heavenly Healer because I love to see what she’s up to on her organic, biodynamic London allotment.
Fran at A Taste of Tottenham because I like to see what she’s growing too, and also what she’s rustling up in the kitchen because we share a love of Mediterranean flavours.
Dana at Eat This House is a poet from Ithaca, New York, and she writes - as you might expect - beautifully and humorously. I love her easy, tasty recipes.
This is what you’re supposed to do next. Accept the award and post it on your blog, together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link. Then pass it on to up to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. (Well, I haven’t been doing this very long, and I need to share out my favourites between two awards, so this’ll have to do!). Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
What a delightful week it’s been. Not one award but two, the second from Catherine at Unconfidential Cook, who has given me a Sisterhood Award. I’m really delighted, Catherine, and I swear I had planned to give you the Lovely Blog award before you showered me with honours!
The Sisterhood Award is given to bloggers by bloggers in recognition of attitude and/or gratitude, and I hope you’ll agree that the three I’ve nominated below do just that.
Lady P at Madly Creative because I love her style, her verve, her wit and her near-addictive ebullience.
Mariana at Through my Kitchen Window because she tells a wonderful story, writes a mouth-watering recipe and when I look at her blog, I can imagine for a little while that I live on a beautiful farm in Queensland Australia.
Wendy at A Life Twice Tasted which, despite it’s name, isn’t about food at all. It’s a fascinating insight into a writer’s daily life. Wendy Robertson’s written shelf-loads of great novels over the years and has taught creative writing to everyone from school children to prisoners. She also happens to be my wonderful, inspirational, brilliant mum.
Now, you three, please put the logo on your blog or post. And it’s your turn to nominate up to 10 blogs. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post and let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog, or sending them an email. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.