If there's any single ingredient that screams summer (and holidays), it's the glorious golden mango, with its luscious, juicy flesh and distinctive aroma. There's nothing quite like eating a chilled mango over the sink, juice running down your arms, especially after a salty swim.
Although they start to appear in September, mangoes are in full swing from November to March, with different varieties available at various times throughout the season. Each has its distinct characteristics, from sweet, silky and melt-in-the mouth to slightly tart and fibrous. The first available are Kensington Pride, followed by the blush-skinned Calypso and super-sized R2E2. Later in the season come Honey Gold, Kent and Palmer, among others.
If it's an eating mango you're after, look for deeply fragrant fruit with gently yielding flesh and no soft spots or bruises. For cooking, go for firmer, underripe mangoes that will still be slightly tart, especially for curries and salads. Again, there should be no mushy spots. Wrinkled skin and a fermented smell are definitely undesirable. Store underripe mangoes in a paper bag at room temperature to help them ripen up, and once they're at their peak for your taste, keep them in the fridge for up to a week.
Coconut rice pudding with caramelised mango
Rinse 100gm jasmine rice and place in a saucepan with 600ml milk, 400ml coconut milk, 2 tbsp each caster sugar and coconut sugar, scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to begin with and more frequently as the mixture thickens, until rice is tender (30-35 minutes). Cool to room temperature. Cut the cheeks from two firm but ripe mangoes and dust cut-sides generously with coconut sugar, then place on a tray and under a very hot grill until caramelised (1-2 minutes). When cool enough to handle, peel and slice the mango. Serve rice pudding in bowls topped with grilled mango slices, any caramel that may have pooled in the grilling tray, coconut flakes, extra coconut milk and lime wedges.
Cut 3 ripe mangoes into rough 3cm cubes, spread in a single layer on a tray then freeze until semi-frozen (2-3 hours). Meanwhile, process the pulp of 2 passionfruit in a blender, then transfer to a saucepan and stir with 110gm caster sugar and 125ml water over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook until a light syrup forms (1-2 minutes), then refrigerate until chilled. When the mango is semi-frozen, blend in a food processor with the juice of 2 limes and passionfruit syrup to taste until mixture forms a slushie consistency. Serve immediately in chilled glasses (splash of gin optional).
M**ango and Asian herb salad
**Serves 4 as a side
Thinly slice 2 firm, just-ripe mangoes and combine in a bowl with ¾ cup each mint, coriander and Thai basil, then add 2 thinly sliced red shallots and the torn flesh of 1 young coconut. Stir 1 tbsp each lime juice, fish sauce, caster sugar and hot water in a separate bowl, then stir in 1 finely chopped small red chilli and 1 finely chopped small garlic clove. Drizzle dressing over salad to taste, toss lightly to combine, scatter with fried shallots and serve alongside grilled chicken or fish.