Magic happens sometimes. Especially when spicy flavors, bold colors, varied textures, and thoughtful simplicity combine to create amazement. Add searing heat to the spiced mangoes and chilling cold to the cream and the alchemy’s complete.
I’m not kidding. I was amazed and delighted. The first time I ate this, that was me — all oohs and aahs, delightfully amazed. Because this is probably the best dessert I have ever eaten. I say probably only in fairness to the very few contenders whose glories aren’t so brightly fresh in my mind. These spiced mangoes are a total treat.
These spiced mangoes are “simply” delicious.
It’s the simplicity of highlighting the mangoes’ flavors that really struck me. Here’s how easy it is. Halved, de-stoned mangoes are rubbed with a mix of cayenne pepper, paprika, sumac, and salt. These halves, or cheeks as they’re commonly tagged, are then seared fast in a hot, hot skillet for 90 seconds. That’s it.
The salt in your rub will have pulled out the fruit’s juicy sugars. That sweetness intensifies as the sugars caramelize slightly to a dark, golden char in the searing heat. Paprika adds to the smoky flavor, and that heightened sweetness is offset by the cayenne pepper’s bite, and the gentle, lemony tang of the sumac. This is all about perfect balance. It’s mango heaven.
The next heavenly delight — yep, there is another one — is the cream that’s served with our spiced and seared mangoes.
Ours is a riff on a type of thick cream, kaymak, that’s hugely popular in Turkey where it originated. It’s often likened to England’s clotted — sometimes called Devonshire — cream. In the Middle East, richly thick similar versions are known as ashta and sarshir.
Now, getting your hands on any of these genuine dream-creams may prove tricky. No problem. Our craft-at-home solution is a well-chilled blend of whipped heavy cream, a little lime juice, and triple-thick yogurt. That’s then sweetened for this dish with a purée of the flesh that remains around the stone of each halved mango.
A little careful knife work is needed
A mango’s stone is oval-ish and fairly flat. By holding the mango with its stalk upright on a cutting board, it’s pretty easy with a large chef’s knife to slice two thick slabs — the cheeks — from either side of the flat stone.
Once that’s done, switch to a small, sharp, finely-pointed paring knife to make a crisscross pattern of cuts deep into the flesh, without piercing the skin — or yours.
You want these crisscross cuts to give you a checker-board pattern of roughly 1/3-inch squares. Each cut should reach down right to the skin — but must not cut through it. With time and care, you’ll be surprised at just how simple this is.
That’s it. Mango prep completed. The cheeks are now ready to get their spicy rub and that hot, charring sear in the skillet.
A word about the cream
Full fat dairy products only, please. There’s no place here for any pared-down versions of the heavy cream or the yoghurt. That’s because anything other than unadulterated, full fat dairy just isn’t thick enough or rich enough to tackle the job at hand.
And I salve my health-aware self with the happy fact that there’s no dreadfully dangerous sugar involved in any of this. None at all. Smile.
An unexpected bonus: the versatility of spiced mangoes.
Hold the cream, and these spiced mangoes are just grand to serve with BBQ meats — especially pork, as well as grilled fish, and, of course, all sorts of curries.
Served like that, they’re then transformed into a sort of self-contained mango chutney, each in their own little bowl that’s formed by the skins. Neat, hey?
Seared Spiced Mangoes With Turkish-Style Cream
- 2 mangoes Large-sized. This will give you four unpeeled cheeks – one per person. Cut a crisscross pattern cut into each cheek.
**The ‘rub’ to make the spiced mangoes
Making the kaymak-style cream
- Once it’s made, the cream needs to chill in your refrigerator for at least 45 mins. Why? Well, as the lime juice continues to react with the full-fat dairy, it has the effect of thickening the cream even further. And that’s just dandy.
- So, we’ll start with making the cream, and while it’s chilling, you can turn your attention to prepping the mangoes.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it’s just thick enough to start forming low peaks. Then gently stir in the yoghurt along with the lime juice. Stir just enough so that everything is just barely combined – stir too vigorously and the whipped cream will begin to lose its thickness.
- A contrasting sweetness now comes in the form of the flesh still surrounding the de-cheeked stones. Remove as much of this you can from its skin and the stones. Then chop it all into a smooth puree and stir it gently into the dairy mixture. Good. Set the cream to chill in the fridge. Time now for spicing the mango cheeks.
Adding the rub to each mango cheek
- Mix all the rub’s dry ingredients together – the cayenne, sumac, salt, and paprika.
- Rub this mix all over the crisscross cuts on each of the cheeks. Then use the back of a teaspoon to work the rub a little way into the cuts.
- Leave the cheeks to stand for 30 mins. This will give the rub’s salt enough time to pull out some of the mangoes’ juicy sugars. The cheeks are now ready to be seared.
Searing the spiced cheeks
- I used a heavy, deep sided, 12-inch skillet that’s amply big enough to sear four of the rubbed cheeks all at once.
- Set your skillet on a high heat and add the coconut oil. As soon as it starts smoking, lay the cheeks cut side down into the skillet. Take a bit of care here – there’s going to be a fair bit of sizzling, spitting oil. Keep the heat on high, but don’t be tempted to fiddle with cheeks or move them about. Just let them sear in that hot oil for 90 seconds. Turn off the heat, remove the cheeks quickly with a broad spatula, and set them skin side down on some kitchen towel.
‘Popping’ the cheeks open
- As soon as the cheeks are cool enough to handle, gently press up the middle of the skin side so that the crisscrossed flesh sort of pops up in into separate pillars. Great. They’re ready to serve.
Serving the spiced mangoes
- Now, you might find the cheeks won’t stay popped on their own. If that happens, I sit them firmly on top of a wedge of lime to make sure they stay nicely pillared on each diner’s plate.
- Serve with the chilled cream alongside and couple of lime wedges for squeezing over the cheeks.