Food Stories: ‘Tis the season of the Mango

 

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Kathi (Tangy) Chutney

Meethi (Sweet) Chutney

Mango Achar (Pickle)

It’s that time of the year again when we find ourselves replacing meals with the indulgent sweetness of mangoes. A delicious variety of chutneys and achaars (pickle) too, become a merry accompaniment at breakfast, lunch and dinner. As quoted by the famous and incomparable Mirza Ghalib,

Who doesn’t love aam (mango), except donkeys!

The mango, commonly called the king of fruits, was first noticed and consumed some four thousand years ago. Ain-Akbari, the almost life chronicles of Akbar the great, talks about the mango:

*The Persians call this fruit Naghzak, as appears from a verse of Khusrau. This fruit is unrivalled in colour, smell, and taste; and some of the gourmands of Turan and Iran place it above muskmelons and grapes.

There are green, yellow, red, variegated, sweet, and subacid mangoes. The flower which opens in spring, resembles that of the vine, has a good smell and looks very curious. About a month after the leaves have made their appearance, the fruit is sour, and is used for preserves and pickle. The fruit is generally taken down when unripe and kept in a particular manner.

Mangoes ripened in this manner are much finer. They are fit to be eaten during the rains. Some trees bloom and yield fruit the whole year; but this is rare. Mangoes are to be found everywhere in India, especially in Bengal, Gujrat, Malwah, Khandesh, and the Dekhan. They are rarer in Panjab, where their cultivation has, however, increased since his Majesty made Lahore his capital. A young tree will bear fruit after four years. They put also milk and treacle round about the trees, which makes the fruits sweeter.*

In ancient India, the mango was used to draw a parallel to the commoner’s life; all the varying phases from birth to death, therefore the Hindi word for the king of fruits is aam, meaning common. Hence, owing to the interesting conceptualisation and wisdom of the people of the time; the king of fruits is for the common man.

A fruit resembling the mango is found among the artifacts discovered at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and the mango tree and fruits are referred to in the travelogues of Ibn Batuta and Ibn Hankal. The Chinese traveller, Huan-tsang is said to be the first to venture outside of ancient India with the mango; bringing it to the world’s notice a millennium and a half ago.

The Mughal emperors were deeply saddened about the fruit they had left behind in central Asia and foreigners were astounded to observe the large proportion the emperors and their noble courtiers were spending on fruit. The entire court was well-versed in the political language of fruit.

Akbar, the great ordered the planting of 1 lakh mango trees in Darbhanga, eastern India. It is said that Jahangir and Shah Jahan loved the Indian mango, and Jahangir famously said,

Notwithstanding the sweetness of the Kabul fruits, not one of them has, to my taste, the flavour of the mango.

Shah Jahan’s passion for the fruit was intense and it is believed that he once accused his princely son of eating mangoes from the emperor’s favourite tree in Deccan, wiping out the entire tree harvest for that season.

The subcontinent, both Pakistan and India grow the most succulent of this fruit; and I can rightly claim that no other region in the world harvests a better mango fruit than the subcontinent. Yes, other regions grow good looking mangoes, but none come close in taste to the desi aam.

Any desi on a trip back home in July ensures to get his/her taste of the Langra, Sindhre, Anwar Ratol, Chaunsa, Desheri, Himsager, Sammar Bahist; to name a few of the aams available back home.

When it came time for me to make some mango delights I turned to none other than Abida auntie, who credits her chutney and achaar recipes to her mother and sister, hence these family recipes bring the perfect side to oomph any meal.

Make, store and enjoy until come next mango season. Here it is, from my kitchen to yours.

Kathi (Tangy) Chutney

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  • 2 ½ unripe (kerrie) mangoes
  • ½ to ¾ cup freshly grated garlic
  • 5 green chillies finely chopped
  • 6 to 8 oz vinegar
  • 2 to 4 oz oil
  • 2/3 tbsp fenugeek seeds
  • 2/3 tbsp black onion seeds
  • 2/3 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 level tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Peel and de-seed the mangoes, grate garlic, mangoes and green chillies in a chopper (separately) and mix; adding vinegar, oil and spices. Mix well.
  2. Chutney is ready to be enjoyed. Pour in a jar and store in fridge. This chutney can be frozen as well.

Meethi (Sweet) Chutney

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  • 2 ½ unripe (kerrie) mangoes
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 12 to 14 oz sugar
  • ½ tsp powder red pepper
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • ¼ tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup blanched sliced almonds
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup vinegar

Method

  1. In a pan, heat water, adding chopped mango slices and salt. Once mangoes are soft, add sugar and cook for a few minutes.
  2. Now add red pepper, black pepper, coconut, vinegar and dry fruit, cook for a few more minutes. Cool; chutney is ready to be served.
  3. Pour in a jar and store in fridge.

Mango Achar (Pickle)

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  • 1 cup oil
  • ½ cup garlic 4 tbsp heaped brown mustard seeds (rai)
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 ½ chopped unripe (kerrie)
  • Mangoes with skin
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • ½ vinegar

Method

  1. Pour oil and garlic in a pan and heat, fry for a few minutes adding brown mustard seeds, red pepper, mangoes, salt and vinegar.
  2. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Pour in a jar, cool and cover.
  3. Store at room temperature for 3 to 4 days to complete the pickling process.
  4. Achar is ready to be served.

Mango Firnee (Rice Pudding)

  • ½ to ¾ gallon milk
  • 4 to 6 oz. powder milk
  • 5 tbsp rice flour
  • 4 to 5 fully ripe mangoes A few drops of rose water and kewra water
  • 8 to 12 oz. sugar
  • 6 to 8 green cardamom
  • A few strands of saffron

Method

  1. Pour milk in a pan, adding powder milk, cook together reducing to two thirds. Mix rice flour in ¼ cup cold milk and add to boiling milk on stove, stirring constantly.
  2. Add rose water, kewra water, sugar, cardamoms and cook firnee, stirring constantly. Once the consistency thickens, add strands of saffron and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Pour in to the serving platter, let cool completely, now stir three pureed mangoes, also adding remaining sliced mangoes to firnee.
  4. Store in fridge and serve chilled; decorate with fresh mango slices, sliced almonds, cashews and grated coconut.

Bisma Tirmizi

The writer is a former Dawn staffer, currently a freelance journalist. She loves food, music and simple pleasures. She can be reached at food_stories@yahoo.com.

-Photos by Fawad Ahmed

 

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