Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Colour of Summer ... and a Recipe

Hot, bright, sunny, sizzling, blazing, sweaty, sweltering, baking, scorching, roasting, glowing, shimmering shining, radiating, searing – there are any number of adjectives with connotations positive and negative to describe the nature of summer. To us in tropical countries, summer is often an unwelcome quantity of heat, dust, ants, and more irritants; it is also the season of a bounty of delights that include mangoes, watermelons, jamun (Indian blackberry), muskmelon, oranges and much more.

As children, summers are a time for fun, excursions and treats, but you also had to answer those tiresome annual exam question papers all over again. In my school, at least. Summer is the time for older relatives to summon kids and ask for some chilli powder to sprinkle on green mangoes, only to discover it is kumkum (vermilion powder used to decorate the forehead)!

Summer is the time for munjalu (tadgola/ nungu/ toddy palm fruit/ ice-apples) to be sold in baskets or brought in from relatives’ villages in a conical sack fashioned from the tree’s leaves. Summer is the time when Grandfather, with his graceful surgeon’s hands, skillfully peeled these and slipped them into our waiting hands so that they could slide down our throats like silk. A time that found him diligently cutting mangoes into a steel basin and putting it in the fridge so they could make a juicy, cool treat for us later. Yes, summer is all this and more – in terms of food, its colours are yellow, orange, grey, purple, pink, red, green.

That this could make a post hit me last week when I was landed with a pile of mango skins all golden and gleaming – I set about photographing these peels after cubing the mangoes and tucking them away in little individual containers in the fridge – they make a cool, sweet, tangy refreshing treat all by themselves. Eat them plain and succulent, the juice running down your chin greedily, squished into vanilla ice-cream or use them in a variety of desserts, they rarely fail to please. I know that’s probably a sweeping generalization, but I can’t help feeling it’s true.

Of course, I’m talking about Indian mangoes. I haven’t tried the ones found outside India but family and friends complain the ones in the US are not quite the same. The newspapers last week were full of news about how the first batch of mangoes was exported to the US after years; maybe you can taste some so you know what they mean. But that was just one variety. There are several. There are some that you can’t peel, either, the rasalu – they are so fibrous and full of pulp that the only way to eat them is squeeze them slowly but surely from the bottom so that the juice finds its way up, puncture the top and ingest it.

Want to know how to cube mangoes? It’s probably old hat but I’m allowing myself to get carried away – if it’s a firm mango, just ripe, wash it thoroughly, peel it with a peeler. Make sure it doesn’t slither out of your hands. Once you’ve peeled it, score both sides lengthwise and breadthwise with a sharp knife. Now stand the mango in a plate/dish, and use the knife to sever the scored side as one half – the cubes will separate neatly by themselves. Repeat on the other side. Do the same with the bits on the side. Scrape the remaining flesh off the stone or just eat it with abandon!

If it’s squishy, don’t bother peeling it. Cut it into slices and serve. Or cut it into two discs lengthwise, one on either side of the seed, and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Cut it into two halves around the middle, from one point round to another, through to the stone, so that it forms two cups when you twist one side against another – like an avocado? – one will stay attached to the stone (which you will have to remove), the other will be hollow – fill it with fruit or more ice-cream, dig in!

And now, to come back to the present, I have a recipe that’s quite different and unconnected. It’s for mutton fry – here’s how you go about it.

Mutton – 500 gm
Onions – 3, finely sliced, fried brown (sprinkle some salt on them, fry in two tbsp of oil, in simmer mode – takes time, but worth it)
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste
Chilli powder – 1 or 1-1/2 tsp
Garam masala/curry powder – 1-2 tbsp
Water – 1.5 cups
Oil – 1 tbsp
Coriander/cilantro – a little, chopped, for garnish

Apply salt, chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste and turmeric to the mutton, pressure cook with the water. Make sure the meat doesn’t turn mushy (for beginners, this is trial and error, I’m afraid) - this took me about 15 minutes after the cooker came to full pressure. Let the pressure drop by itself. Once you open the cooker, strain the stock and put it away – you can use this for soup later. Saute the meat in the oil, check for salt and chilli, add the curry powder and the browned onion. Fry some more, turn off the heat and add the coriander. The addition (or substitution) of fresh cracked pepper makes a nice variation. You can even use a green chilli in place of the chilli powder.

I am sending this off to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by creator Kalyn this week.


  1. how we miss indian mangoes. enjoy summer. is it also the season for custard apples and chickoos? i love those fruits and haven't eaten them for ages.

  2. Just reading first sentence scares me to death!!:D You do have AC there at home,right?
    We have 85F outside,but I am cool as cucumber at home!:))

    Mutton fry is yummy.I wish I could have some right now ,right here.Good one sra.

    I am waiting for this weekend to go and watch Spidy 3!!YAY!

  3. Oh btw,I forgot to tell you,Indian Mangoes are coming here too.Bush made the deal when he was there!:))

  4. lovely writeup on summer and mangoes!! I don't eat meat though.
    loved reading your writeup

  5. Mango season means, one of the first things that come to my mind is the pile of huge mangoes sold in anna nagar, chennai for 15-20 per one and it used to be delicious and my mouth is watering when i write this...and what your friends have told u is true, the mangoes we get here do not come anywhere near our des mangoes :)


  6. Mangoes are my weakness.I can survive on them .Here mangoes have started but not so sweet yet.

  7. Bee, custard apples arrive in mid-Aug. Chickoo - yes, I saw them at the store yesterday, the big, round, hybrid varieties, we rarely seem to get the sweeter, country variety anymore.
    Asha, yes, I mentioned the export deal in my post. It's really, really hot, can't have the AC on throughout, though! Thanks
    Thanks, Sharmi! I did notice your blog is vegetarian!
    Shn, I don't mean to make you jealous, but we're already getting a good variety - I brought home some Sindhoora a couple of days ago, just finished some Himayats.
    Archana, I can survive on mangoes too!

  8. Mangoes!!!!!!!!!! I don't want to say anything more. This is my most fav. fruit and best thing about summer.

    Your Mutton fry looks tempting.

  9. indian mangoes??? nostalgic... i feel like crying now:(

  10. I think I was at least 40 years old when I first tasted a mango. I would love to try the Indian ones; I hope we get them here. Although I'm guessing they aren't going to taste quite as good after they've come clear from India. I love the idea of sprinkling chile powder on mango; never heard of that before but I can just imagine how it would taste. The mutton fry sounds wonderful too. Great post.

  11. evaporated milk is the milk which you find in rasmali etc. well boiled and no water content. when milk boils well it becomes thick and yellow. here in US they sell it that way. best is you can make it at home cool it and use it for fruits.


  12. Yes, isn't it? Thanks Reena.
    Sia, don't. Go on holiday to the US instead, have your fill and come back!
    Kalyn, salt and chilli powder on green (raw) mango is a classic and traditional treat. Thanks!
    Oh, ok, thanks Sharmi.

    5/02/2007 7:53 PM

  13. in mutton fry..what happens to the "browned onions" no mention of it in the recipe detail!!!!!!

  14. sure indian mangoes are lot different.
    luv the colors

  15. yes summer means mangoes, watermelon and nungu.....In chennai we get good mangoes..(hey Shn are u from annanagar... iam from Aminjikarai).... I haven't been there for summer in chennai for a long time.My sis says u are lucky as it has been very hot there from march.
    Mutton fry looks delicious.

  16. Anonymous!!!!! You're right, I've amended it now!
    Thanks Raji.
    Prema, thanks.

  17. loved the mutton fry..nice pic and wonderful writeup sra.
    we love mangoes..thanks to the farmers market here, we get good ripe mangoes in box.

  18. I miss the mangoes...I was being all nostalgic just the other day as I was peeling their poor relations here...
    ...the fry looks great

  19. sorry, sra, i have been busy. u are one lucky soul to have real mangoes around you. the heat is a big price to apy for it, though. stay cool, sra.
    yes iam one of those who complain abt the US mangoes.. wish i could lay my hands on some exports..

  20. Thank you, Maneka! Where does the farmers' market get its mangoes from? Florida?
    Sunita, that was a hilarious phrase - "peeling their poor relations"
    Why sorry, Mallugirl? Hope you sailed through your test.

  21. Hi Sra - that made me so nostalgic. We used to run around the house in our knickers as kids because of the heat, eating mangoes with the juice dribbling down our faces. Mangoes here in the Uk just don't compare...

  22. That is so cruel :( All those luscious golden mango peels and not a gutli to suck :(

    Nice writing there and the mutton fry looks good. Yesterday evenning did a chicken fry/bake with Curry patta, idea from Sumitha's blog and it turned out yummy
    So your mutton fry is next

  23. Sra,

    first time at your blog, manjulu I do miss them, so delicate and delicious and the water inside seems like ambrosia.

    Thanks for your comments on my blog

  24. Mallika, that reminds me - as kids, we were all giggles when someone said the best way to eat mangoes was stripped down to one's underwear so that our clothes wouldn't get spoiled by the juice!
    Thanks, Sandeepa! I just couldn't resist the post - the mango peels were so attractive!
    Sreelu, yes, I too miss munjalu, small-town life has its own charms!
    Thanks for this comment and your other comment on the weddings post.

  25. Oh GOD you made me miss my summer days very badly.....actually nothing has changed till now....i still love the summers.....

  26. For a long time, I had that "indian mangoes are the best" chip on my shoulder. But this year, I had Heidi mangoes grown in SA. Better than any mango I have eaten. Ever.
    But yes, summer, or rather, the months of April and May will forever mean mangoes to me.

  27. For the longest time, I had this 'Indian mangoes are the best' chip on my shoulder. Then, earlier this year, I had mangoes called Heidi grown in SA. Best mangoes I've eaten. Ever.
    The only sad part is that they are so huge that I had to cut and eat them. No softening and sucking on the mangoes.
    That said, the months of April and May will forever mean mangoes to me.


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