Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mavinakaayi Chitra Anna - Mango Rice

I hate the Indian summers for the most part, especially living in Delhi as I do. My plants dry up, my family wilts, one has no energy to do anything, especially when the temperature goes over 40 degrees C. But there are, thankfully, a few compensations which make the summer bearable. One of the things I most look forward to in the summer is mango season, in common with millions of Indians. The mango is called the King of fruit and I truly believe there is nothing to beat the tastes, as varied as there are regions and topographies in India. From Andhra comes the Banganpalli, sweet and juicy and small. Malgoas come from the west as do the overrated-in-my-opinion Alphonsos or Hapoos. In the north we get Safeda, Dussehri and the one we like best of all - the Chausa. The Chausa is a large, custardy yellow mango, little fragrance but smooth fruit with very little fibre. It comes towards July, the end of the season, and is a truly fitting end to the glorious mango season.

There are many dishes we make with the ripe mango, though I like eating it just as it is. A britisher apparently once said that the best way to eat mangoes was to climb naked into the bathtub and then bite into it. I guess we've learnt to be less messy but I love eating it without cutting it up or using forks and spoons which frankly detract from the luscious taste. Just bite into it and feel the juice dripping down your chin and running down your fist. Keep a large plate handy, that's all.

But what I set out to blog about today was a dish we make with raw mangoes. It's a rice dish, since it is from Karnataka in the south. It has an amazing mixture of flavours, textures and tastes - sour, salty, spicy, crunchy - like a good dish should and is a wonderful summer meal. It doesn't require any accompaniment though I sometimes have a bowl of yoghurt or curds on the side. It's easy to make, though as I was writing out the recipe I realised it sounds fiddly. But it actually is a breeze and makes any meal taste festive.

1 green mango, grated fine
1 tablespoon dessicated coconut, grated
4 tsp oil
Handful curry leaves
Half cup peanuts, shelled but with skins on
1 tsp mustard seeds (black)
1 pinch asafoetida (heeng)
1-2 dry red chillies
1 tsp chilli powder to taste
salt to taste
1 cup basmati rice, cooked so it looks grainy but cooked through

Make sure the mango is really unripe, i.e. hard, so it is sour. Though you can make up by adding either amchur or lime juice, it changes the taste.

1. Put 1 tsp of the oil on to heat

2. When it is hot, put in the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop.

3. When they have finished popping, add the dry red chillies and curry leaves

4. Stir till the chillies turn crisp and shiny, then add the asafoetida and wait for 2-3 seconds. Take off the stove and set aside.

5. Put 2 tsp oil on to heat. Once hot, put in the mango and stir to mix.

6. Cook for three to four minutes till the mango becomes soft and cooked through. Be careful not to cook for too long so it becomes mushy.

7. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, put the last tsp of oil into a wok and roast the peanuts till they are crisp, and the skins slightly browned. Set aside.

8. Put the mango and the dessicated coconut into the blender and grind to mix well.

9. Put the rice in a flat, wide dish. Pour the mango mix on top and add the mustard seed-curry leaves tempering. Add the peanuts as well and then the salt. Mix it well, then taste to check for salt and spiciness. If not spicy enough, add some chilli powder.

10. Serve hot or cool but not cold, i.e. out of the refrigerator.

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