The Proven Platter – India, June 2024

If there is one ingredient that is summer personified in India, it’s the mango. The mighty mango, the King of fruits, is to an Indian less a fruit and more “an emotion” or so they like to declare tongue-in-cheek, as they attempt to get a sampling of every variety they love in the specific timeframe that each variety is picked. With over 1,500 varities of mango cultivated in India, each with a distinct flavor, there’s a lot to sample. Some more expensive and difficult to source and being harvested for a very short period than others.

The last time I was in India over the summer, my sister called in favors to have Malda, Kesar, and Alphonso varieties delivered straight from an organic farm! Three varieties that melt in your mouth, each with a distinctly different flavor profile, but challenging to source. Mangoes aren’t just savored as a fruit. Depending on the flavor profile and texture (some varieties are more pulpy, some more fibrous, and some very firm) they are used in everything from salads to lassi/smoothies, dessert, curries, pickles, chips, and chutneys.

With this being summer and the chosen grantee from India, the Proven Platter this month is an ode to the mango. I spent some time thinking of what form I wanted to present the mango in. My girls suggested that I make mango lassis. But I wanted to share something more complex, so here’s a mango chutney, the way my amma (mother) makes it. Savory, sweet, and gingery, this mango chutney is versatile. You can use it with any protein. I am using it here over pan seared salmon. As a bonus I’m also sharing South Indian style coconut rice (in Tamil, Thengai Sadam; Thengai = Coconut, Sadam = Rice) which makes the perfect flavor accompaniment to the mango chutney glazed salmon.

Mango Chutney

2 cups mangoes, ripe, cubed (from about 3 mangoes)
¼ cup finely diced shallots
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated garlic
6 dates, pitted and chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (reduce if you’d like less heat)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon neutral oil
¼ – ½ cup water

Sauce pan

Add oil to the sauce pan and heat on medium until oil is hot. Add mustard seeds. When it sputters, reduce heat to low and add shallots. When shallots turn golden, add crushed garlic and ginger and sauté for about 2 minutes. Be careful to not let the aromatics burn, else it will impart a bitter taste to the chutney.

Add cumin powder and cardamom powder and stir to mix. Now mix in the chopped mango and sauté. Add in the apple cider vinegar and stir until the mango breaks down and becomes jammy. Sprinkle in the crushed red pepper flakes and salt and stir. Add in water and mix. The consistency of the chutney should be like preserves with some chunky bits of mango.

The chutney can now be used in any way you choose: as a sweet and savory preserve with cheese and crackers, as a glaze on cooked protein, on toast over whipped cream or cottage cheese, mixed into plain yogurt…the possibilities are endless. I served it as a glaze over pan seared salmon along with coconut rice and sauteed green beans. Store in airtight container and keep refrigerated.

Thengai Sadam (Coconut Rice)

2 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
½ teaspoon Urad dal (split black lentils)
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
2 dried red chilies
10 – 12 toasted cashews
1 tablespoon curry leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon neutral oil or ghee
½ teaspoon salt

Fry pan

Set the pan on medium and when hot, add the ghee/oil. To the hot oil, add the mustard seeds, urad dal, cumin seeds, black peppercorn, chopped ginger, dried red chilies, and curry leaves and stir quickly. This is just a quick stir to allow them to toast and perfume the oil but to not burn.

Reduce heat and add the grated coconut. Stir until it is combined with the spices and lightly toasted. Add in the cooked rice and mix well. Add salt and taste. Serve hot.

Recipes and photo credit: Vinola V. Munyon