Monday, April 16, 2012

LADIES WHO LUNCH: Aisha's mango creations

This post is long overdue! Apologise for that to all the Ladies and especially to Aisha, who dared to host our second lunch, and set the bar even higher, creating several amazing starters, drinks and dishes around a single fruit - the mango! She also had almost 100% attendance (except our two overseas members, and two Bombay-based members, EVERYONE was there!).

Me and everyone else thought that her idea was amazing, as the mango season was just starting, and who doesn't like mango?? But I NEVER thought Aisha would manage to create such an amazing spread, and that the dishes would taste so distinctly different, despite boasting of the same core ingredient.

I arrived a bit early to help out, and found Aisha completely composed in the kitchen, with her two helpers. They were doing some prep work, and several other dishes that she had started working on the previous day, were coming together. Scattered around the kitchen counter were ingredients as diverse as mint leaves, seaweed sushi wraps, chicken and mozzarella. A quick glance at her menu and recipe printouts revealed that she had planned several starters and drinks, a whole array of dishes, and a deliciously sounding dessert, all made from scratch by her. Wow! I was ready to eat, but not before we spent the next couple of hours rolling sushi (my first ever attempt!), mixing, decorating, chopping, and even barbecuing:

.... a very rare experience in the midst of a city as cramped and as chaotic as Bombay!

Gosh, I was already starving by the time the chicken was ready... But it was worth the wait.


Mango Mint Iced Tea
Spicy Mango Champagne Cocktail

Mango Salsa with organic blue corn tortillas
Crab, Mango & Mint Nori Rolls
Mango Baked Brie (courtesy Deepa Navani)

Mango-Radicchio Caprese with Basil Vinaigrette
Curried Quinoa Salad with Mango
Jerk Rubbed Chicken with Homemade Mango Hot Sauce
Prawn and Raw Mango Curry with rice (courtesy our new member Shireen Vanderwala - her grandmother's recipe!)

Mango Ice with Tequila and Lime

Why Aisha chose to do a mango lunch, in her own words:

I look forward to mango season every year, as I am sure many of you do.  There is nothing like the Indian mangos and I used to love getting to come to Bombay in the summer just before the season ended to gobble up as many as possible.  My great-grandfather used to eat nothing but mangos during the season, consuming several at each meal and making an art out of sucking skin and stone to leave nothing wasted. I was instructed from an early age in the science of cutting, eating and sucking a mango and take great pleasure in teaching my daughter how to get the last drops.

However, cooking with mangos is something I have hardly done. So I thought, why not experiment with you!  I have tried to combine some sweet, spicy and savory preparations to avoid overdoing the mango, but forgive me you need to take a break from mangos after today!  Thank you to Shireen for providing the raw mango and prawn curry for something a bit different! One thing I have learned is that our Alphonso mangos tend to be soft and luscious which is great for devouring, but not so easy for cutting into clean slices and cubes, so I have adapted the textures a bit from the intentions of the recipes.

Here are some things I have learned about mangos:

* More than 1/3 of the world’s mangos are cultivated in India, however India only accounts for 1% of world trade… we consume our own mangos.
* Mangos can make you feel better! Mangos contain an enzyme with stomach soothing properties similar to papain found in papayas. These comforting enzymes act as a digestive aid and can be held partially responsible for that feeling of contentment we experience during and after eating mangos.
* Mango, both in its green and ripe form is a very good tenderizing agent due to these same enzymes, therefore ideal to include in any marinade.
* An average sized mango can contain up to 40% of your daily fiber requirement.
* Mangos are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of Potassium and contain Beta-carotene.
* Mangos are high in fiber, but low in calories (approx. 110 per average sized mango), fat (only 1 gram) and sodium.


Well, reading all the above probably alleviated the guilt of attacking such an amazing lunch and cleaning out our plates. But what was totally amazing about this meal was that everything tasted so fresh and light, I really didn't feel heavy and lethargic afterwards. On the contrary, I was happy and energetic. Without a doubt, what is said above about the properties of mangos, is entirely true!

The mix of flavours was incredible - the freshness, sweetness and acidity of the mangos cut through the heavier tasting ingredients, to create an amazing combination of hot and cool sensations. And I can't stress enough on the fact how generous and varied the spread was, yet the "food coma" feeling that pins you down after a heavy meal, never reared it's ugly head.

The gorgeous decor of Aisha's home created a unique ambience, and wow - it really was our second lunch together as a club - I really hope we will persist.


Mango Mint Iced Tea
(serves 4-6)
2 liters cold water
8 high quality black tea bags
2 cups mango nectar or juice
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Mango slices or mint sprigs
Bring the water to a boil, then pour over the tea bags in a large heatproof pitcher.  Steep until the tea is dark, about 5 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and add the mango nectar.  Add sugar to taste and stir until it is dissolved.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 8 hours. Just before serving, stir in the mint leaves.  Pour over ice and garnish with mango slice or mint sprig.  Serve immediately.

Spicy Mango Champagne Cocktail
(the whiff of spices hits you right in the nose, and the very first sip fills you with a warm, comforting feeling, while the bubbles keep it fresh) 
(serves 8)
1 (12-ounce) can mango nectar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
12 black peppercorns
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bottle Champagne or sparkling wine
Bring the nectar to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add all of the spices. Let the mixture cool, then strain and refrigerate.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the spicy mango mixture into a Champagne flute and top with chilled Champagne.

Potent, without a doubt, as proven by the topics discussed two flutes later, during lunch:
- living together before marriage
- to have or not to have a common bathroom with your husband
- whose kids still sneak into their parents' bed during the night
- a possible Vodoo themed lunch in the future, with unpredictable consequences
- the totally bizarre double life of a member's cousin's husband

Crab, Mango & Mint Nori Rolls
(60 small portions)
1 firm-ripe mango
½ kg jumbo lump crab meat
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons wasabi powder or wasabi paste
ten 8 x 7½-inch sheets toasted nori
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
Cut skin from mango and cut flesh into julienne strips. Pick over crab meat to remove any bits of cartilage and shell and in a bowl stir together with lime juice, brown sugar, and salt to taste.
If using wasabi powder, in a small bowl stir together with 2 teaspoons water and let stand, covered, 10 minutes to make wasabi paste. Cut nori sheets in half lengthwise. On a work surface put a sushi mat with bamboo strips of mat parallel to front of work surface. (Alternatively, use a 9-inch square of heavy-duty foil as a mat.) Put 1 nori piece on mat with a short side lined up with edge of mat that is closest to you. Spread ¼ teaspoon wasabi paste across bottom edge of nori and top with 5 or 6 mint leaves so that some stick out on each side. Top mint leaves evenly with a heaping tablespoon crab mixture and 2 or 3 mango strips. Beginning with a short side and using mat as a guide, roll up nori tightly (use mat to help tighten roll). Seal seam with a little water and with a sharp knife cut roll crosswise into 3 pieces. Make more rolls in same manner. Nori rolls may be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

Chutney Baked Brie
A wheel of brie dusted with curry powder, then spread with a mango chutney, studded with chopped cashews, and baked until the cheese inside the rind is melted. The sweet/savory combination is creamy and delicious!
For the chutney:
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup sugar
small finely chopped onion
handful raisins (optional)
1/4 cup white vinegar
small piece finely chopped peeled gingerroot
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste
Combine apples, mangoes, sugar, onion, raisins, vinegar, and gingerroot in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until fruit is tender and mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, curry powder, cinnamon, and salt; boil gently for 5 minutes.

1 (2.2 pound) wheel Brie cheese
2 teaspoons ground curry powder
1 to 1 ½ cup mango chutney (thickened)
1 cup chopped cashews
1 French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Preheat oven to 350º F (175º C).
Sprinkle curry powder over top and sides of Brie; rub the curry powder into the rind to thoroughly coat the surface. Place the Brie wheel in a large pie plate or oven proof dish. Spread a generous layer of chutney over the top, and evenly sprinkle with cashews.
Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cashews are slightly golden and cheese inside the rind is melted. Serve with slices of baguette or crackers.
Deepa’s version:  wrap the cashew/chutney crusted brie in a layer of puff pastry and bake. I brushed an even layer of egg white onto the unbaked dough just before popping it into the oven for that nice crusty golden brown color.  Also, I baked 3 small-sized brie wheels rather than the large 1 kilo one for ease of serving.

Along with the mango sushi rolls, this was one of the most innovative and delicious starters I had ever tasted in my life. It was hard to believe that Deepa had made this at home - it looked so professional and tasted divine - we kept reaching out for seconds, despite this being one of the heavier preparations. The dish started an entire discussion where to get puff pastry in Bombay and for how much. So our lovely Mauritian member Rubeena Vaid shared her little secret address:

278, Dr C.H. Street, Our Lady of Dolours Church Lane, Dhobi Talao, Mumbai 400002
Tel: 2208 6619
(you have to call them in the morning to order the pastry, and collect it at 5 pm. Supremely well made, and it does not burn a hole in your wallet!)

Mango Salsa
(serves 4)
2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1 red pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to mingle.

During her research, Aisha realised that mango can replace tomatoes in many recipes. Like in the salsa, and this absolutely stunning caprese:

Mango-Radicchio Caprese with Basil Vinaigrette

(Serves 4)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil plus 8 whole large basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
8 radicchio leaves, thick ends trimmed
2 large mangoes, peeled, halved, thinly sliced
8 ¼ -inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese (from one 8-ounce ball)
Blend chopped basil, oil, and vinegar in mini processor until most of basil is pureed. Season with salt and pepper. Overlap radicchio, mangoes, cheese, and basil leaves on plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve, passing remaining vinaigrette.

Curried Quinoa Salad with Mango
(Serves 4)
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces)
¼ cup canola oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoon mango chutney, chopped if chunky
3 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon dry mustard (or 1½ tsp normal mustard)
1 cup chopped peeled mango plus mango spears for garnish
½ red pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped cucumber
5 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided
2 cups (packed) young spinach
Wash quinoa until the water runs clear (at least 3 washes).  Cook quinoa in medium pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until almost tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch the bottom of the sieve).  Cover with a kitchen towel and steam until tender, fluffy and dry (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Uncover and cool. Transfer to medium bowl.
Meanwhile, whisk oil and next 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Add chopped mango, red pepper, cucumber, 4 tablespoons green onions, and 1/4 cup dressing to quinoa; toss to coat. Divide spinach between plates. Spoon quinoa salad over spinach. Garnish with mango spears and 1 tablespoon green onions. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve.

Jerk Rubbed Chicken with Homemade Mango Hot Sauce
(serves 4)
For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil (e.g. canola)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ripe large mangos (or 3-4 small), peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 habanero or Serrano chiles, seeded and chopped (can substitute normal chiles)
1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
1 cup white wine vinegar, or more to taste
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes; do not brown.  Add the mangos and chiles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add the honey and vinegar and simmer until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.  Strain into a bowl.  If the mixture is too thick to pour, add a few tablespoons of warm water.  Season to taste with salt, vinegar and honey.
(The sauce can be made up to a day in advance, covered and kept refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature and mix well before serving.)
For the Jerk Rub:
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons habanero chile powder (or cayenne)
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid and mix well.
(The rub keeps well for months stored at room temperature in a jar with a tight-fitting lid)
For the Chicken:
8-10 skin-on chicken thighs (or other parts)
½ cup jerk rub
Mild vegetable oil (e.g. canola)
Mango slices
Fresh cilantro leaves

Heat grill to high.
Season chicken all over with salt. Rub the skin of the chicken with plenty of spice rub.  Drizzle with oil and place the chicken skin side down on the grate.  Grill until the skin is golden brown and crusty, 4-5 minutes.  Turn the chicken over, reduce heat to medium (or move to a cooler part of the grill), close the grill hood, and cook until just cooked through, about 4-5 minutes more.
Remove to a platter, garnish with mango and cilantro, and serve immediately.  Pass the sauce separately.

Prawn and Raw Mango Curry
Serves 4-6
½ kilo raw de-shelled prawns (or 1kg prawns with shells)
10 dried red chilis, de-seeded
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (optional)
1 large raw mango cut into six pieces
10 Curry leaves (optional)
4 cups thick coconut milk plus water to thin the curry as needed
Salt to taste
Blend/grind chilis, coriander,cumin, garlic, turmeric, onion with about 2 cups water till smooth.
Add coconut milk to curry paste and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add raw mango, salt, curry leaves and simmer till mango is soft but not falling apart.
Add prawns and simmer till cooked.
Serve with plain white rice, lime wedges and sliced onions.

This recipe passed the husband test, as a few days later Rasna made it at home and her hubby had 3 helpings, stating that it's the best prawn curry he has ever had! No wonder Shireen has such a happy marriage!

Mango Ice with Tequila and Lime
(serves 4)
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large ripe mangoes. peeled, pitted (or 3-4 small)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Cool syrup slightly.
Puree mangoes, syrup and lime juice in processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to pie plate.
Freeze, stirring occasionally until slushy, about 2 hours. Continue freezing until firm.
Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. Break up into chunks. Return mixture to processor and process until smooth. Serve.