TROPICAL TASTE: Mango Madness!

Filed in Gather Food Essential by on February 14, 2007 0 Comments

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What can be said about a mango that hasn’t been said before? Poems have been written and songs have been sung extolling the joys of this most wonderful fruit! There is a several thousand-year-old Hindu legend explaining the origins of the mango that goes like this;

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful sun princess that was incinerated by the evil sorceress and a mango tree grew from the ashes. The Emperor fell in love with the mango flower and then the luscious fruit. When the mango ripened and fell to the ground, the beautiful sun princess emerged and married the Emperor”.

The mango has become the symbol of love in India, where wreaths of branches and leaves decorate many doorways during the Ponggol (Hindu New Year) festival. The leaves are used at weddings to ensure the couples bear plenty of children and giving baskets of the fruit is considered a gesture of friendship.

A native of Southeast Asia and India, the mango (Mangifera indica) is a member of the Anachardiaceae family, which includes cashews, pistachios, poison ivy and poison oak. It is considered the most widely consumed fresh fruit in the world and it has been cultivated for over 6,000 years.

There are well over 50 known varieties throughout the world with Hawaii and Florida growing only 1% of the world’s production. The four best-known varieties are the Tommy Atkins, Keitt, Kent and Haden.

Mango trees and fruit were taken to Brazil, Central America and the West Indies by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 1700’s and also to Europe after the English occupied India in the 1800’s. Florida started growing them in the mid 1800’s. They were brought to Hawaii around the late 1800’s, where you can find them now almost in everyone’s backyard!

When asked, most people agree that the best way to eat a mango is to just eat them out of hand leaning over a sink with the juices running down your arm! There are recipes for butters, jams, chutneys and pickles, and there are recipes using them in desserts, entrees, salads, smoothies and soups. When I read a recipe that calls for peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots, I automatically substitute with mangoes!

I have been collecting mango information, history, legends, lore and myths along with hundreds of recipes, for many years, in the hope of someday publishing a complete mango book. Here are a few of my favorite recipes.

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MANGO BREAD PUDDING If you have only eaten plain bread puddings, you are missing great treats when combined with fruits.
Serve hot or warm with your favorite tropical fruit sauce or the Mango Sauce and Crème Frâiche.
4 eggs 2 cups milk 1/2 cup sugar 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla 3 to 4 ripe mangoes, sliced 5 to 6 cups day-old bread (*)1 Tablespoon butter, cut up small 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped small and slightly toasted (optional) 

Spray 8×13-inch pan with cooking spray. Break up bread into pan, tuck mango slices in between bread and sprinkle the chopped nuts all over.

Mix beaten eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla until all the egg breaks up and sugar is dissolved. Pour egg mixture over the bread and mangoes, dot with pieces of butter. Bake at 325 degrees for about 55 minutes.

Note: Can be assembled night before and put in the refrigerator. Let the pudding mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.

(*) For a special treat, use Portuguese or King’s Hawaiian sweet bread.

MANGO SAUCE
Try this over ice cream, angel food or pound cake. For an even greater taste explosion, try over a slice of chocolate cake! You can double or triple this recipe.

1 ripe mango
1/2 to 1 cup fresh homemade lemonade

Peel the mango and remove flesh cutting off from around the stone.

Combine mango pieces with the lemonade in a blender and process until smooth. If too thin, add more mangoes. If too thick, add a little bit more lemonade. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil, stirring with a whisk. Remove from heat and cool. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

CRÉME FRÂICHE
Crème Frâiche is a cultured heavy cream. It thickens and develops a delicate sour taste as it sits. I find it wonderful to use when making sauces or as toppings for desserts.

*Wonderful spooned over fruit desserts, hot bread puddings and fresh berries.
*Use it to add body and richness to sauces. Since it can be boiled without curdling or fear of separation, it is more versatile than dairy sour cream.
*Stir in a few spoonfuls into butter-warmed vegetables for a simple sauce.
*Whisk a dollop into salad dressing for extra thickness and creaminess.
*Since crème frâiche can keep in refrigerator for at least 2 weeks, it is convenient to have some around all the time.

CRÉME FRÂICHE
1 cup heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 cup dairy sour cream

Whisk heavy cream and sour cream together in a bowl.
Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in kitchen or other reasonably warm spot overnight or until thickened. In colder weather this may take as long as 24 hours. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, after which the crème frâiche will be really thick. The tart flavor will continue to develop as it sits in the refrigerator.
Yields 2 cups.

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Sonia Martinez, Food Correspondent

Sonia’s column “Tropical Taste” published bi-monthly at Food.Gather.com is an exciting look at the Cuisine of the Tropics.

I have been a gourmet/kitchen shop owner and cooking school teacher since the early 80’s. I have been writing food articles as a regular columnist for several newspapers and a magazine.  Some of the articles ended up compiled into a cookbook, also titled Tropical Taste, now in its second printing.  A recent convert to the blogger world and am having a lot of fun with it.  You can subscribe to Sonia Tastes Hawaii  and keep up with my Hawaiian adventure.

You can find all of my columns at http://Food.gather.comYou can keep up with all my postings and other Gather activity by joining my Gather network. 

Just click here: http://foodiesleuth.gather.com and then select the orange “Connect” button on the left-hand side of the page.You can find me and other Food Correspondents, foodie content, recipes and more food and wine articles and connect with other food buffs at Food.Gather.com

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