Mangoes, mangoes, everywhere and I can eat them all! I have tried this though and can’t recommend it! Mangoes are literally falling from the trees across the state which is actually hazardous. Some are quite hefty and unripe. Every time I step outside my little place there’s a new pile greeting me which is the perfect morning pick me up. Many however are split and covered in ants or other bizarre insects. I really want to catch each mango as it falls and give it a good home. How about a lassi? I’m in India, as you may know, and this is one of the best ways to enjoy the local glut of mg’s. Creamy, smooth and packed with fragrant fruitiness and that little twist of slightly sour yoghurt. Let’s lassi!!
I am living under several huge mango trees, in between we have coconut and banana trees. Tropical fruit salads rain on our doorstep. It’s a lovely patch of countryside with wild buffalo roaming around and a great view, the cicadas (those buzzing little insect critters) are on the go all the time, like some exotic, pulsating soundtrack.
I was wandering around the other day and was a bit startled to see a basket being lowered down from a tree, laden with mangoes. I looked up to see one of the mango men (a group of local superheroes) about 30 ft up wearing only a big smile and pair of Liverpool AFC shorts. He was nimble and fearless. I was filled with admiration, he climbed way up, maybe 50 ft, just to bring me and the family I live with our daily mango fix. How many people have you met who risk their life for fruit?!! A rare breed.
So, mangoes everywhere. What to do with them all. Helen, the Mum of the family I’m staying with, pops them all in a massive cauldron-like pan and simmers until jammy. Jam! Mango jam, thick and naturally sweet. If your mangoes are super sweet, this is a great idea. There are many varieties of mango and in India, people are mango mad! In the cities they sell for big bucks, there are many sought after varieties but ‘Alphonso’ is top of the, ahem, tree.
Goan’s are ever laid back about things. When I ask around excitedly, “what variety of mango is this?”, they look at me curiously, shake there head slowly and shrug, “it’s a mango Lee.” Basically, just chill out and eat it. I think they have pity for the way I complicated things. It’s a mango. Enjoy. Ok. (Actually, I managed to find out that one of the trees is the highly prized Mankurad variety, which explains why the family are so popular with the neighbours.)
Patrick, Helen’s husband, just knocked on the door asking if I liked brinjal (aubergine). We’re having a leaving dinner tonight. The family have a very Portugese surname, most Goan’s I meet have an affinity with their Portuguese past. They only left in the 60’s and the Euro/ Christian feel lingers. Goan’s can even get a passport for Portugal if they like and many do. Goa is like the rest of India in some ways but generally it has the feel of a different country. That’s one of the things I most love about India, the diversity on every level.
The brothers who I’m staying with (Andrew’s one of them) actually make their living from selling massive ex-petrol tanks filled with cashew feni (think moonshine but nicer) to local bars, some like little pirate speakeasy’s right on the coast. I love them. Not much bigger than a cupboard and many actually looking like driftwood cupboards. They’re packed full of rough fishermen and cheery characters and well proportioned police men (off duty I think). I like the Antique Bar (I can’t tell you where it is, it’s like buried treasure) where you expect Long John Silver to walk in at any minute with a parrot on his shoulder. They also play great blues and flamenco.
I’ve been regularly inspired and occasionally blown off my stool by the intensity of Goan cuisine and tonight will be my last taste of the real deal for a while. I love the coconut and the unique spice mixes, the dish Xacuti stands out, many locals I’ve spoken to make their own spice mixes and even use garam masala style blends more common up north. Vinegar (toddy, made from coconut trees) is used in a lot of cooking, gives a twang, mirroring many Portugese dishes. That’s what I love about Goa its a mixed up place in a good way, it’s a cocktail of cultures and influences. Of course, the hippies had a big say and many locals who live near the beaches see the inner hippy still in the Westerners they meet. Like we’re all open hearted, free seekers of something else. The reality is of course now a bit different.
It’s hard to imagine, but the Portugese were the first to introduce potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, guavas and cashews to Goa and India. This trend can be seen all over the world, the early Spanish and Portugese explorers/ conquistadors were responsible for introducing us to many of our staples that may now seem indigenous to our countries. Vindaloo is also a Portugese dish, a name derived from the Portugese for garlic and wine. Although Goan food is heavy on the seafood and now meat, I found loads of plant-based options and the delicious masalas and sauces can easily be used in vegan cooking.
One of my favourite things about riding around Goa is the generally fading Portugese architecture, so many beautiful houses, many like mini-castles. Even the towns, with their central squares and large ex-government buildings still have a whiff of the wealthy imperial gang. They were here for nearly 500 years after all and the coast line is dotted with their crumbling hill top forts. Each village has at least one imposing, brilliantly white Catholic church. Most are locked but I like wandering around the graveyards.
Elsewhere in Goa there are still big dance parties a plenty but things have quitened down quite a bit and become commercialised. You’ll find the occasional hippy playing didgeridoos and sitars, plenty of packaged tourists (mainly Russian) and people from all over India settled and taking it easy here. At weekend, Goa fills with tourists from the big cities of India looking for a little Kingfisher soaked debauchery. They find it then set fireworks off.
Patrick just said to not worry, ‘we’re all coming and going’, meaning to wait for a few minutes. I feel like that, it’s been a very Goan day. Everything has been coming and going very nicely. The sunset perfectly and the ocean was calm. Patrick also says ‘take it easy, you never know when time comes.’ as a goodbye. I think we know what that means and its true. Wherever coconut trees sway I’ve found this attitude. Take it easy before it’s too late and let things flow. So I am. You see, that’s it for me, I’m off to the Himalayas tomorrow so it’s goodbye to these…..
But back to the sweet onslaught of mangos that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. I heard that in India it is said that someone with a mango tree on their land is wealthy indeed. I agree. I had three 60 footers keeping me company. I’ve felt rich beyond imagination. But things move on, I think apples are coming into season in the Himalayas……
This lassi uses a creamy coconut base and a kick of ginger to keep things lively, but also to balance a little of the overpowering sweetness from friend mango. In the UK and other non-mango growing countries, getting a supply of ripe, non-fibrous mangoes can be tough. Try and wait until they’re nicely soft for best results. Lassi is full of tang, some lovely sourness normally coming from the yoghurt. Try to use unsweetened yoghurt if you can get your mitts on it, then you’re in charge of the sweetness.
Mango & Ginger Lassi
For 2 glasses
250ml Coconut Yoghurt or Soya Yoghurt (unsweetened is best)
1 large, ripe mango (peel, cut all the fruit off the pip and chop up roughly)
75ml coconut milk or soya milk
1 big handful ice cubes or a splash of cold water
1/2 lime (juice)
1/2 inch fresh ginger (crushed)
Sweetener – as you like (depending on the sweetness of the mango)
Optional – large pinch ground cardamom
(I know all about the pink straw, but Helen insisted that we must have a straw.)
Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz. Add lime juice, blitz again, taste for sweetness and adjust how you fancy. Served chilled in your nicest glasses.
Mangoes, super sweet and a little tart are really a ‘super fruit!’ They are very high in vitamin A and C and are also a good source of fibre. They contain minerals like potassium and copper.
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