What do you do with pretentious mangoes that look ripe and luscious but neither smell nor taste like them? You go ahead and make a chutney out of them
By Shalini Kala
We faced a lot of difficulty in getting fresh fruit and vegetables as a result of a rather severe COVID-19 lockdown. As it continued through April with no clear signs of easing, my first thought was – are we going to get mangoes this season or not? Rumour was that they had already arrived in town but, due to breakdown of the regular supply chain, were sitting in the stores of fruit vendors.
We started trying all overt and covert ways of getting our hands on these mangoes. After shedding a few litres of sweat and some incredible cash we managed a cool dozen in the still of a dark, desolate, late evening. These were still only half ripe and heavy with the potential of sweet aroma and the distinctive royalty that belongs only to respectable mangoes.
After lovingly covering this fruit of toil in newspaper sheets to store in a quiet corner of the kitchen, I could hear the deafening sounds of several baited breaths in the house. Subsequently, significant time was lost each day in discussions on the length of time needed for ripening of these beautiful gems.
After four days of increasingly soaring expectations, I rejoiced looking at the two yellow-orange fruit pieces. I washed them, cooled them, and as I cut them, the reality that stared back at me was, to say the least, crushing. I crumbled under a wave of disappointment. These, whatever these were, couldn’t be eaten as the fruit called mango!!
The question then was what do you do with pretentious mangoes that look ripe and luscious but neither smell nor taste like them, while trying to get back some semblance of calm after this terrible betrayal? For what they wreaked on me, I was ready to boil them in chillies and oil!!! Well, nearly.
Throwing in a tempering of panch phoran and red chillies in the hot oil, I cooked the mangoes on low fire with a little water for a few minutes adding some green chillies, salt and jaggery on the way. Having lost their pretence, I enjoyed this chutney version of them, still a little warm, with my meal and later, on its own, experiencing the subtle, almost faint mangoness!!
I refrigerated the leftover chutney. It tasted even better after being cooled as I found double satisfaction in first boiling and then super cooling that pretence!! One piece of advice – don’t waste “real” ripe mangoes on this chutney, reserve this treatment only for the pretentious ones.
2 Pretentious mangoes peeled, chopped, save the pit
2 tea spoon oil – I used mustard, but any oil would be fine
Half a tea spoon panch phoran (five spices in equal measure Cumin, Mustard, Fenugreek, Nigella, Fennel)
1 whole red chilly
1 chopped green chilly
1 table spoon jaggery or thereabouts, depending on the pretentiousness of the mangoes
Salt to taste
2-3 table spoon water
Heat a heavy bottomed pan, add oil followed by the whole red chilly and panch phoran. As the spices crackle, add water, chopped green chilly, and pretentious mangoes along with the pits. After a boil let the concoction simmer till it reaches chutney consistency. Add jaggery and salt, taste and adjust, put-off the heat. Let the chutney cool. Refrigerate any leftover that you may have.
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Shalini learnt to enjoy cooking at a mature age by which time she had gained many other experiences particularly through her work in agriculture and rural development. Her writing is an attempt to mix lessons from her cooking experiments with those from life in general.