There is a wide, shallow dish on the kitchen counter, home to a succession of seasonal fruits that need ushering towards ripeness. Figs whose skin will tear should one brush against another; apricots with rust-coloured freckles and, in late summer, plums that will bruise and weep if piled hugger-mugger in a punnet. It is here I ripen avocados and paw paws and look after fat-bottomed pears until they reach their brief moment of perfection. During May and June, the bowl is a safe harbour for mangoes – small, smooth and heavy with juice, their skin as yellow as custard, their flesh as bright and cheerful as a bunch of marigolds. As they become ready, and against all the rules, I chill them in the fridge. A cold mango dripping with juice is an early summer treat beyond measure. Round or oval and as tender as a bruise, few fruits are as pleasing to the touch. They feel like a bar of soap worn smooth through much use, and the smell – sweet, honeyed, a little cloying – hangs on the warm summer air in the kitchen. A few come in fancy dress, festooned with tinsel the colour of Quality Street wrappings, which I leave in place. When the fruits are ripe, they might offer us a teasing bead of nectar.
I eat them as they come, sliced with a razor-sharp pocketknife, their flat stones sucked naked of its sweet flesh. I will make a purée of them, too, to stir into whipped cream or thick yoghurt as an impromptu dessert, or slice them into matchsticks and toss with crisp carrots and a hot dressing of lime juice, mint leaves and hot, crisp flecks of dried chilli.
As you serve the salad, please don’t forget to trickle a little of the lime and herb dressing over. Serves 4
For the salad:
pepper 1, small yellow or orange
sugar snap peas 50g
mango 1, medium
rice noodles 75g
cherry tomatoes 12
For the dressing:
tomatoes 175g, red, medium
olive oil 50ml
lime juice 1½ tbsp
garlic 1 small clove
salt ½ tsp
red chilli 1, small
dried oregano 1 tsp
sugar a pinch
crispy chilli in oil 3 tsp (to taste), Lao Gan Ma brand
limes juice of 2
coriander leaves a handful
mint leaves a handful
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes.
Make the salad: peel the cucumber, then slice in half lengthways. Scrape out the seeds and wet core with a teaspoon and discard. Cut the flesh into short lengths and then into thick matchsticks. Drop them into the iced water. Scrub the carrots, (peel them if they are large) then slice the carrots thickly and cut them into similar sized matchsticks and add to the cucumber. Halve the pepper, pull out the seeds and core then slice the pepper into thin strips. Trim the radishes, slice thinly, then add with the pepper to the iced water. Now thinly shred the sugar snap peas and add to the water.
Put the kettle on to boil. Peel the mango, slice the flesh from the stone, then cut into thin strips. Place them in a large mixing bowl. Put the noodles in a bowl, then pour overthe boiling water and set aside for 10 minutes. (If your noodles come with maker’s instructions that differ, then follow those.) Halve thecherry tomatoes and add to the mango.
Make the dressing: cut the tomatoes in half and place them in the jug of an electric blender. Add the olive oil and lime juice. Peel the garlic and add to the blender, then add the salt, red chilli (seeded) and the dried oregano and sugar. Blend to a thick dressing.
Stir in the Lao Gan Ma and check the seasoning – you may want to increase the chilli or add more salt or sugar to taste. The dressing should be on the spicy side, as the heat will be softened by the mango and other vegetables. Drain the vegetables and shake dry, then drain the noodles and add all to the mango and tomatoes. Pour in the dressing and toss everything gently together.If you like coriander, then add the leaves to the salad and transfer to a serving plate. To finish: put the lime juice in a small bowl. Chop the coriander and mint and stir in with a littlecrumbled sea salt. Spoon a little of the lime and herb juice over the top of each bowl.
mangoes 3, ripe
limes 2 or 3
thick yoghurt 250ml
Peel the mangoes with a small, sharpkitchen knife. Slice the flesh from the stone and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Finely grate one of the limes. Roll the limes on the work surface, pressing down firmly with the palm of your hand – it will soften the limes and you will be able to extract more juice. Halve the limes and squeeze the juice into a small bowl (you need at least 4 tbsp of juice.) Add the grated lime zest to the mango and thejuice. Process to a smooth purée, but take care not to overwork the mixture, which will send it gluey.
Tip the yoghurt into a mixing bowl and stir until smooth and thick, then add most of the purée and stir gently. The idea is to have ribbons of mango flowing through the yoghurt, rather than mixing it all in at once. Serve the mango yoghurt in glasses or small dishes with the remaining purée and a little zest and the sesame snaps below.
Makes approximately 12
golden caster sugar 60g
golden syrup 60g
dark rum 1 tsp (or brandy)
plain flour 50g
ground ginger ½ tsp
sesame seeds 2 tsp
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Warm the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a small pan over a moderate heat. As soon as the butter and sugar have melted and the mixture begins to bubble, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum, flour and ginger. Scatter in the sesame seeds. Place mounds of the mixture, about 2 heaped tsp in size, on to the baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between them. They will spread in the oven. Bake for about 7-8 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then carefully remove with a palette knife. Place on a wire cooling rack and leave to set. I like to give them a little more character by twisting them as you put them on the rack. Serve with the fool.
Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater