A taste of the tropics: Skye Gyngell celebrates the mango season

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The arrival of exotic, sweet Alphonso mangoes from India heralds the start of our summer. Skye Gyngell whizzes up salsas, sorbets and lassis

At this time of year, when local fresh fruit is thin on the ground, the arrival of Alphonso mangoes from India gives our desserts at the restaurant a tropical, exotic note, and a promise of the warmth to come.

Some people say that they don't like mangoes – but surely that must be because they have never really had a good one. Inexpensive and abundant throughout the summer months, mango is one of the tastes of my childhood.

I must have eaten thousands; we would have them as a simple dessert when we were children in Sydney, as well as for breakfast and sometimes as an afternoon snack too. Meltingly sweet, soft and exotically perfumed, with just a hint of limey sharpness at the end, they have a unique flavour.

Alphonso mangoes are some of the best, and are available for six weeks or so from mid-April to the end of May. They can usually be found in greengrocers and Middle Eastern food specialists. When ripe, they should be eaten as they come – a perfect end to any meal.

Or, if you're including them in a recipe, as here, try to keep it as simple as possible to showcase their beauty and fragrant sweetness.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627

Mango salsa

Simple and breathtakingly fresh, this is a good sauce to serve with fish, especially firm-fleshed white fish or tuna. At home we have made a version of this salsa for years – in Sydney we eat it on Christmas Day with cold glazed ham. It's best eaten as soon after you've made it as possible.

Serves 4, generously

2 ripe mangoes
1 red onion
1 small bunch of coriander, leaves only
1 small bunch of mint, leaves only
1/4-inch of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
1tsp brown sugar
The juice of one lime
1 medium red pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped

Peel and dice the mangoes and onion fairly finely, and place in a bowl. Add the chopped pepper. Chop the coriander and mint leaves and add along with the ginger and brown sugar. Squeeze over the lime juice and stir well to combine.

Mango jam

This jam is sweet; it reminds me of the tropics. It doesn't taste of any jam eaten here – one mouthful transports you to warmth and heat, breakfast somewhere by the beach. Delicious on home-made coconut bread, warm from the oven, or if that isn't possible, it would be just as good with a crunchy and textured white bread.

Makes four small jars

1kg/2lb ripe mangoes
250g/8oz caster sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
4 small, sterilised jars

Peel and chop the mangoes, then stir with the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed, non-reactive saucepan. Let the mixture stand for at least 30 minutes or overnight, so that the mangoes release their juices and the sugar dissolves.

Then bring the saucepan of fruit to a vigorous boil over a high heat, stirring every now and then to make sure the fruit doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. The mixture will bubble up dramatically, rising high up the sides of the pot. Skim off any light-coloured foam that rises to the surface. The jam will soon boil down, beginning to form smaller, thicker bubbles. When this happens, begin to test the jam by putting a teaspoonful of the hot mixture on to a plate. This will serve to cool off the jam quickly so you can tell what the final texture will be like.

When the jam has cooked to the consistency that you like, stir in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and carefully ladle the jam into the sterilised jars – this quantity should make approximately four – screw the tops on tight and leave to cool. When the jam is cool, store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.

The jam should last for up to a year if properly sealed.

Mango, rose-water and lime sorbet

Serves 6

4 ripe mangoes
120g/4oz caster sugar
240ml/8fl oz water
The juice of 11/2 limes
11/2 tbsp rose-water
40ml/2fl oz double cream
A small pinch of salt

To make the sorbet, peel the mango and slice the flesh off the stone. Purée in a food processor. Place the sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat for five minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Place the puréed mango into a bowl and add the lime juice, rose-water and cooled sugar syrup. Stir well to combine then add the cream and pinch of salt. Stir well and taste. It should be slightly sweeter than you would like, as once frozen it will taste less sweet. Place in an ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions or put into a plastic container, freeze and stir at 20-minute intervals until it solidifies.

Mango lassi

Makes 4 small glasses

1 ripe mango
120ml/4fl oz of plain yoghurt
1tbsp light honey, perhaps acacia
100ml/31/2fl oz water

Peel and chop the mango and place in a food processor, along with the yoghurt and honey. Purée until smooth and add the water, to thin the purée slightly. Place into glasses – ideally ones filled with crushed ice – and drink straight away.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer on where to find the freshest mangoes...

The mango is native to southern India, but is also cultivated in south-east Asia, the Americas, the Caribbean, South and central Africa, Australia and Florida

Best stockists: Fresh mangoes (as well as dried and tinned pulp) are best bought from Asian food stores. (The long-shelflife Tommy Atkins mangoes are the variety stocked by most supermarkets.)

Storage tips: The flavour of a mango transported halfway around the world can not compare with one eaten in its country of origin. However, to improve the flavour, leave them wrapped in newspaper in a basket to ripen in a warm, dry place. (They can be stored in the fridge to elongate their life but always remove and return to room temperature before eating to avoid flavour loss.)

Further reading: Latin & Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified by Linda Bladholm (Renaissance Books, 2001).

Tradewinds & Coconuts – A Reminiscence & Recipes from the Pacific Islands by Jennifer Brennan (Periplus, 2000)

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