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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mango Fool

I was walking by Soho Street last week on one of those rare London days when the sun was beating down steadily, and in all honesty, (but who's complaining?) it was positively hot! I was headed to Frith Street to check out some lunch options that I could pick up and eat on a shady bench in Soho Square when I passed the Hare Krishna Temple and next to it (part of it?) - Govinda's Pure Vegetarian restaurant.

My first instinct was to cross the street. Somehow the sight of large groups of men in saffron robes sporting sikhas (the snaking curl of hair in the middle of an otherwise shaven head), is ho-hum if I was seeking the blessings of a priest in some temple in India. In the middle of central London, it unnerves me.

Just as I was about to leave however, my inner foodie took over and sort of compelled me to steal a naughty glance towards the large group of al fresco diners enjoying the sun and – I must admit – a rather good looking thali. Peering into the restaurant through the large glass windows, I was intrigued to see that Govinda's was full. All tables taken. And then, just as the people dining inside were beginning to stare at me, staring at them, I saw something that I simply had to have. For sitting in a row on the shelf directly in front of me were glasses of chilled Mango Lassi. Labelled neatly. Calling my name.

I hesitated merely for a second and two pounds later, held a glass of the cold, sweet, delicious beverage in my hands. I took a big sip, letting the flavour slowly sink in. Pretty good. The "mango" in the lassi was clearly from a can, but it was a really good lassi, not too sweet and just the right consistency.

Now I am a self-professed mango stalker. I don't just love them, I obsess about them. There was a point in my life where as a university student in the States, I would return to India for my summer holidays (designed, naturally, to overlap with mango season. Just kidding.) and eat three mangoes a day. Not just kidding. But jokes aside, mangoes do have several health benefits – they are a delicious self-contained bundle of beta-carotene, potassium, iron, and vitamins - A, C, E and some of the B's as well.

Anyhow, back to here and now. I've been thinking fondly about my Mango Lassi from last week – the stuff is maddeningly addictive, I warn you - and given that I actually have 8 Alphonso mangoes sitting on my kitchen counter as we speak (thanks to my husband who brought them back for me from a 2-day trip to India – told you I am obsessed...) I decide to make some for myself.

Now, if the mango is called the King of Fruit (it is), the Alphonso is certainly the King of Mangoes. It has few rivals in sweetness, scent or flavour, so if you can get your hands on Alphonso mangoes, you really should.

Merrily, I peel two mangoes and scoop out the fleshy pulp into my food processor. I suck the fruit completely off the stone before discarding it, enjoying the luscious, ambrosial fruitiness dribbling down my chin. This is truly heaven. I mean – truly!

I reach for my cardamom pods, peel them and remove the little grains. I powder them roughly with a mortar and pestle and add the powder to the blender. Right. Time for my last ingredient – natural yoghurt. Happy as Larry, I open the fridge... only to discover to my dismay, that I am out of yoghurt!

No yoghurt? Ouch. Now what? Run to the store? Too lazy. Take the fruit out of the blender? Too messy. The mark of a promising young cook? Improvisation.

So I decide to cheat a little. I replace yoghurt with milk and I call my creation - "Mango Fool." Here is what I use:

- 2 mangoes, peeled and cut
- 1 cup of milk (strike your own balance between waist line and taste, but as I always say, "wholer" = tastier)
- 2 pods worth of cardomom grains or a pinch of ready-made cardomom powder
- 3-4 cubes of ice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until the mixture reaches the consistency of custard. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios and almond slivers.

Variations:
1) Sugar - Feel free to add a tablespoon or more of sugar to your taste. I tend to like the natural sweetness of the mango enough not to miss the sugar at all, but it depends on the ripeness of the mangoes and your own taste!
2) Mango pulp - If you can't get fresh mangoes, Govinda's mango (pulp) lassi was still pretty good. Substitute 1 fresh mango for about every 1 cup of the pulp.
3) Yoghurt - Mango Lassi of course uses yoghurt instead of milk. 3 cups of plain natural yoghurt should work quite nicely for 2 mangoes worth of Lassi.

Sit back, relax and enjoy – I promise you’ll be coming back for more!

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