When it comes to using fruit in savoury cooking, there are some combinations that just make sense. Blue cheese with figs. Pork with apple. Duck in plum sauce. These are perfect pairings because the fruit injects a surprising yet welcome sweetness to the savoury flavours. Then there are dishes where the addition of fruit produces robust debate. Pineapple on pizza, for example, continues to generate controversy, and has divided many a household, including mine. Also, if I dare to get creative with raisins to jazz up a pot of rice, my children will wearily pick out every single dried grape.
A dish from my childhood that uses fruit in a surprising way is my grandmother’s mango curry. Originating from Kerala, South India, this recipe includes ripe mangoes for sweetness, yoghurt for a touch of acidity, grated coconut for texture and mustard seeds and chillies for a hint of spice and heat. It is the perfect blend of sweet and savoury; the only debate is about who should get seconds.
As children, my sisters and I would fight over who got the last mango stone. It is the best part of the dish – a whole stone with some mango flesh still attached, dense with flavour. We would scrape the stone clean with our teeth, every extra bit of mango a triumph. Our fight was guided by how many mangoes went into the curry, and who sat down at the table first – but victory, when it came, was sweet.
Originating from Kerala, South India, this recipe includes ripe mangoes for the sweetness, yoghurt for a touch of acidity, grated coconut for texture, and mustard seeds and chillies for a hint of spice and heat.
Today, my children love mangoes in all forms. Smoothies, sorbet, salsa, even chutney. When I make my grandmother’s mango curry, there are never any leftovers. My mother tells me there is another version of the curry that uses pineapple instead of mango. Perhaps that's less controversial than pineapple on a pizza? The jury’s still out.
South Indian mango curry (Mambazha pulissery)
This sweet, sour and spicy mango curry is usually served as a side dish during traditional feasts in Kerala.
- 3 medium ripe mangoes
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup room-temperature yoghurt
- Rice, poppadoms and pickles to serve
- ½ cup grated coconut
- 1-2 green or red chillies
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 1 dried red chilli (optional)
- A few curry leaves
1. Peel the mangoes and cut into large chunks. Leave some flesh on the stones.
2. Place the mango pieces and stones in a heavy-based pan with turmeric, chilli powder, salt and 1½ cups water.
3. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat until the mangoes soften, stirring occasionally.
4. To make the coconut paste, place the coconut, chillies and cumin seeds in a blender. Grind the ingredients with enough water to form a smooth paste.
5. Once the mangoes are soft, add the blended coconut paste to the pan and mix well with the mangoes. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes.
6. Place yoghurt in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Stir the yoghurt into the pan with the mango curry, taking care to ensure the yoghurt does not curdle.
7. Remove the mango curry from heat and add salt to taste.
8 Temper the curry, heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds.
9. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the dried red chilli and the curry leaves – it's important not to let the curry leaves burn.
10. Remove the pan from heat and then pour the tempering over the curry. Serve with rice, poppadoms and pickles.
Note: Freshly grated coconut is available in Indian grocery stores. Alternatively, use desiccated coconut from the supermarket – add a little hot water to soften the coconut before blending with the cumin and chilli. This traditional mango curry uses green chillies, but my grandmother used whatever she had on hand. When making this recipe for my children, I omit the chillies in the coconut paste and use a mild chilli powder with the mango. Adjust according to your heat preference.
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