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Playing Mangoes With Chef Vikas Seth

The Culinary Director of Sanchez on the few ways he is having his share of mangoes – without the guilt, and in variety.

By Madhulika Dash

For most Indians, fruits, especially seasonal fruits, are a favourite indulgence. We love them and make the most of them while it lasts. Not mangoes, however. The sweet decadence is an obsession for an entire nation – and one that dates to the time when mangoes were first found, which was easily before civilisation happened.

Since then mangoes have been not only a subject of immense consumption but curiosity too. Legend has it that every dynasty added to creating new varieties of mangoes – the only fruit for which Babur is said to have stayed back in India and laid the foundation of the Mughal empire, even added his own contribution to the mango versions. Horticulturist in fact credit Dara Sikoh (the sage-like prince) to have created much of the beloved varieties to our basket. In fact, during his life, the royal mango orchards were so revered that poets like Galib choose their payment in mangoes than in gold coins.

What is about mangoes that made them such a lovable fruit – in fact, a companion for summers?

The obvious answer to this is of course the brilliant taste. Be it raw and ripe, mango has this amazing palate pleasing quality about itself, thanks to the amount of natural sugar and present in it. Factors that while made this soul-warming drupe calorie dense, it also made it a good source of instant energy. In fact, one serving of ripe mangoes doesn’t little more than supply you with the instant feel of being satiated, energised and happy – it also helps balance the nutritional requirement and warms the body enough to digest the food faster. While raw, it is the best source of soluble sodium and probiotic.

This is the reason why ripe mangoes are mostly had as it is, while raw mangoes are pickled as well. But if you, like us, often fall for the mangoes, heel and soul, and can’t reign in the lust – Chef Vikas Seth shares his current favourite ways to “having your cake and eating it too”, we meant mangoes.

MANGO GUACAMOLE

“It is my guilt free way of having mangoes. The recipe calls for the juiciest, fleshiest drupe that is smashed along with half an avocado and the regular flavourants like sour cream, chillies, dash of lime and of course the secret trick – fresh mint. The trick to enjoy it more is to keep some cubes of mango aside to go on the top. This Guacamole can stay in an airtight container for a day or two and makes for an amazing dip with all kinds of chips, especially beetroot or ragi chips. And is a wonderful base for a sweet fruit burrito.”

MANGO SOMTAM

“Nothing says refreshing like a bowl of freshly made SomTam – the dish which glamourised raw papaya, and in this case raw mango. Fascinatingly, there is no need to change the recipe except for one vital ingredient – raw mango instead of papaya. For best result, mix ones that has inching towards being ripe with those tight ones that are pickle-ready. And always add the dash of lime and salt (sea salt or pink salt) closer to service.”

FRESH MANGO SALSA WITH BEET CHIPS

“It’s essentially aam ras but savoury style – and the best part is that this preparation doesn’t call for any kind of recipes. You can start adding ingredients and flavorants as per your palate mood of the day. In my case, a good salsa is about having those layers of sweet, sour and tangy. One way I do it is by adding as many contrasting fruits like pomegranate and often playing with sweet lime instead of lemon juice. The idea is to layer the flavours by keeping one tasting note in mind. Here’s how I play the salsa:

Ingredients:
Fresh Mango 1 pc
Onion (chopped) 1 tbsp
Pomegranate Kernels 1 tbsp;
Green Chilli (finely chopped) ½ tsp
Lemon 1 pc
Salt to taste
Olive Oil 1 tbsp
Basil leaves for garnish

Method: In a glass bowl, add chopped onions and juice of one lemon. Leave aside for couple of minutes for onions to get soften. Deseed and chop the mango into a pulp. Add in chopped
mango, green chillies, salt, olive oil and mix well. Add in the basil leaves and give a final mix and keep aside in the refrigerator till required for the plating. Adjust seasoning before serving.

SPINACH LEAF WRAPPED COTTAGE CHEESE TOPPED WITH FRESH MANGO SALSA

“This is my go-to dish these days when I have had a little more than my fill of mangoes and yet I am craving for more. This lockdown recipe was made purely on whim and because of these tender baby spinaches that I could get my hands on. It is a rather Asian take on the idea of creating multi-level flavours using different condiments. And can serve both as an accompaniment as well as a mid-night indulgence. Here’s the recipe that serves at least two people, though I wouldn’t guarantee that at all.”

Ingredients:
Cottage Cheese 300g
Fresh Turmeric (grated) 1 tsp
Ginger (grated) 1 tsp
Fresh Red/Green Chilli (chopped) 1 tsp
Oyster Sauce 2 tbsp
Dark Soy 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Basil (chopped) 1 tbsp
Fresh Mint (chopped) 1 tsp
Spinach 8 leaves
Oil for grilling
Black Sesame Seeds (toasted) ½ tsp
Mango Salsa

Method: Cut cottage cheese into thick batons. Prepare marinade with fresh turmeric, ginger, fresh red/green chilli, oyster sauce, basil, dark soy, mint and salt. Soak the cottage cheese in the marinade. Wrap the cottage cheese with a spinach leaf. Grill it on a pan with little oil, till the spinach leaf is charred a bit on all sides and cottage cheese is hot enough from the center. Serve in the plate topped with fresh mango salsa and black sesame seeds. Remember to keep the cottage cheese batons thin and proportionate so they cook fast and evenly.

SPICED MANGO PALETAS

“Nothing and I mean nothing says summertime happiness like a chilled, lip-smacking paleta- the traditional Mexican style popsicle. A standard fare every year during summers in Sanchez, it was fun to recreate the same goodness this time in their respective shells. Yes, mango paletas in avocado or mango skin. So instead of suckling you can now eat it too like icecream. The best part, it can be made with very little or no sugar at all. Here’s how you go about it:

Ingredients:
Ripe Mango 1pc medium size (200g approx.)
Mango Juice (fresh) 200ml
Lime Juice 20ml
Chipotle in adobo sauce 1tsp
Green Chillies (chopped) ½ tsp
salt to taste
ugarcane skewers 4pcs

Method: Chop the mango pulp in small cubes. Place it in a glass bowl. Add mango juice, lime juice, chipotle, green chillies and salt to it. Take the popsicle molds/plastic shot glasses and pour in the mix till the top, leave about half an inch. Keep it in the freezer for half an hour and insert with the sugarcane skewers. Freezer over night or for 4 to 6 hours before taking it out from the mold. To release Paletas from molds easily, keep in a warm water for couple of seconds. Freeze again for at least 30 minutes. This second freezing helps Paletas hold their shape for long so you don’t have to eat it in a hurry.