Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake

A wheeled cornucopia goes down our street every day, with vendors selling everything ripe and local out of the backs of their trucks. In the summer, I can step out of the gate and buy mangoes by the kilo. Until then, I have to walk a block to the nearest store for mangoes coming from further south.

Until we moved to Mexico, I never knew the aroma and taste of mangoes picked ripe and juicy. And the variety! The common Tommy Atkins, known familiarly as “Tommy” in Mexico, the luscious Ataulfo, also called the Champagne mango, the large, firm Haden, the Keitt, still green when ripe, and the Kent mango, almost fiberless. These are the common mangoes of Mexico, exported by the ton, maybe coming this summer to a supermarket near you. When you find some, eat them raw and fresh, standing over the sink — or better yet, in the surf — so as not to drip the staining juices on your shirt. If there are any left over, make Mango Coconut Tres Leches Cake.

Tres Leches cakes are the cake of Mexico. Probably of European origin, this cake is known for its high moisture level, due to its saturation with three milks — condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream. Some think it is too wet. Well, that is part of its charm. If it wasn’t wet, it wouldn’t be a tres leches cake, just another white frosted cake. My cakes are hardly ever white, nor are they overly sweet. As in many of my baking recipes, this one has whole wheat flour and decreased sugar. It also has coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk instead of dairy milk. The inspiration came from a recent recipe in the New York Times for Mango Tres Leches Cake. Its addition of Spanish brandy is a touch of genius.

This was one of those rare times when I actually had an uncommon ingredient on hand, thanks to Costco. If you don’t have Spanish brandy, cognac is fine. If you don’t have cognac, the cake will still be very good.

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Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake

  • 1  1/2 cups (6.5 oz./185 grams) sifted whole wheat flour*
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz./100 grams) plus 1/4 cup (1.75 oz./50 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3.5 grams) salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 5 tablespoons ( 2.25 oz./63 grams) melted coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 cups (17 oz./240 grams) cubed mango
  • 2 cups (473 ml.) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz./397 grams) condensed sweetened milk
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60ml.) Spanish brandy or cognac (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) very cold heavy cream (called crema para batir in Mexico)
  1. Butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch (23 cm. x 33 cm.) baking pan; heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.).
  2. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together egg yolks, melted coconut oil, 3 tablespoons coconut milk and vanilla.
  4. Beat egg whites until frothy, add cream of tartar. Before peaks form, add 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until slightly stiff.
  5. Whisk half of flour mixture into yolk mixture. Whisk in 1/4 egg whites. Carefully fold in another 1/4 egg whites with a large spatula or balloon whisk.
  6. Sift half of remaining flour mixture into batter, and fold in. Fold in 1/4 egg whites. Fold in remaining flour mixture. Fold in remaining egg white. Do not over-mix.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared pan, smooth top,  and bake 25 minutes, or until center tests dry with a wooden toothpick. Cool on a rack.
  8. In a small pan, heat coconut milk, condensed milk and brandy until hot. Pour over cake. Cover and chill cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  9. Puree mango in a food processor until smooth. Add additional sugar to taste if the mango is not sweet.
  10. At serving time, whip cream until stiff. Fold in half of mango puree.  Spread mango cream over the cake. Spoon remaining puree on top and swirl into whipped cream with a spatula.

Notes

~  * After sifting, you should have 1 1/2 cups of flour; save bran for muffins or bread.

~ When whipping cream, especially in the summertime, use very cold cream, and pre-chill the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer. This will prevent you from unexpectedly making butter instead.

~ Use organic ingredients when possible. This minimizes our exposure to pesticides and herbicides, as well as lessening contamination in water and soil. The Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake was made with organic coconut milk, organic coconut oil, organic sugar, eggs from free-range chickens and locally grown, unsprayed mangoes.

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Mango cobbler in Mexico

Mango season will come to an end any day now in our part of Mexico. When that happens, it will be a readjustment of reality for me. It is so easy to get used to having fresh, sweet mangoes whenever I want, everyday. Well, before the harvest ends, here is a very easy mango cobbler to make. Once you have sliced mangoes ready, the few ingredients for the cobbler batter are mixed up in minutes. Into the oven. Out of the oven. And on a dish in front of you, topped with a cool scoop of yogurt, maybe homemade yogurt. Its smooth and tart coolness contrasts nicely with the warm sweetness of mango cobbler.

Like many of my baking recipes, this one is made with whole wheat flour, a minimum of sugar, and organic ingredients when available. I used Tommy Atkins mangoes.

Mango Cobbler

  • 3 ripe mangoes, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz./56 grams) organic butter
  • 1 cup (4 oz./115 gram)  whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ( 1.8 oz./50 grams) organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
  • 1 cup (8 0z./240 ml.) milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds plus 1 tablespoon organic sugar

Read recipe through completely. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.) Prepare and measure/weigh all ingredients.

Melt butter in a 9″x 9″ (about 22 cm. square) baking pan. Swirl to coat sides of pan with melted butter. Arrange half of mango slices in bottom of pan.

In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, cardamom and baking powder briefly with a fork. Add milk, and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon batter over mango slices. Arrange remaining slices on batter. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tests dry with a toothpick and is light brown. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm with plain yogurt.

Note:

This cobbler is extra fruity, because there are two layers of fruit, rather than the one layer found in most cobbler recipes.  Extra fruit means extra fructose, resulting in a cobbler still very sweet, even with a minimum of sugar in the recipe.

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Pompano Fish Fillets with Tropical Fruit

Fish and tropical fruit are a wonderful combination. Whether the fish fillets are pan-fried or grilled, whether you use mango, bananas, pineapple or all three — it will be a beautiful dish that delights your eyes and taste buds.

This time of year, mangoes are still plentiful in our part of Mexico. Kents, Tommy Atkins, Ataulfo, and Criollos, the small, wild mangoes, abound. Each has its own flavor and texture, and each is incredible. The dilemma I face is how many different varieties can I eat in how many different preparations before the harvest ends. As if a surplus of mangoes is not enough, our bananas are starting to ripen. We have enough fresh fruit to feed a small army.

A newly cut bunch of platano macho bananas is hanging on our back patio. When ripe, they have a slightly acid, citrus-y flavor never found in a grocery store. While still too firm for fresh eating, the plantano macho, can be cooked like a plantain. This bunch produced particularly large bananas, as if needing to live up to their macho name, weighing three quarters of a pound apiece. I can’t eat a whole one by myself. It’s a good thing our dog Chucha likes bananas. She can eat a whole one.

Pompano with Tropical Fruit serves 4

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml.) olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7 ml.) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup ( 60 ml.) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon (60 ml.) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 6-oz. (360 grams each) pompano fillets or any mild, white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml.) coconut oil or other mild oil
  • cooked rice

Tropical Fruit Sauce

  • 2 cups ( 480 ml.) sliced tropical fruit, using any combination of mangoes, banana and pineapple
  • 1 red or green Serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoon (60 ml.) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon (large pinch) each ground allspice and cinnamon
  • salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoon (60 ml.) chopped cilantro for garnish

Read recipe through  completely; assemble and prepare ingredients.

Mix marinade ingredients and marinate fish fillets for 20 minutes. Shake off excess marinade and pan fry fillets in hot coconut oil over medium heat. Allow about 8 minutes per inch of thickness (measuring thickest part of fillet), turning fillets over half-way through cooking.

While fillets are cooking, sauté fruit and serrano chile in butter about 5 minutes over medium heat. Do not allow to over-cook and become mushy. Gently stir in lime juice, allspice and cinnamon. Salt to taste.

Serve over Golden Rice cooked with turmeric. Spoon fruit over fish. Garnish with cilantro.

Notes:

A responsible seafood vendor will help you make a selection that is  environmentally sustainable. Refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Guide (see Link at top of page) or to The Pescatarian’s Dilemma for help on making an informed choice.

Use an instant-read thermometer for perfect doneness of fish.  An internal temperature of 135 F.(57 C.) assures fish that is not over-cooked. As soon as fish is done, remove from pan to prevent further cooking by the hot pan.

For how to slice and dice a mango, and how to skin and slice a pineapple, see previous posts.

Butter is hot enough for cooking when the foamy bubbles have subsided.


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Mango Lassi and Mango Fruit Flies in Mexico

Mango season continues in Mexico, as do the languid, humid days. Icy drinks help us forget the heat while we enjoy our bounty of mangoes on a tropical afternoon. Mango Lassi is a good way to enjoy these flavorful beauties and rehydrate at the same time. Lassis are cold fruit and yogurt drinks from India, reputed to aid digestion when taken with a spicy meal. They are so refreshing, so welcome on a hot afternoon, I don’t need the excuse of eating spicy food to enjoy one. Quick to whip up in the blender, they serve as one more way to enjoy the luscious, drippy, golden, succulant mangos that abound this time of year. Indulge me, please, and let me get away with an overuse of descriptive mango words. They really are that incredible.

Mango Lassi       serves 2

  • 1/2 cup (240 ml.) diced mango
  • 1/2 cup (240 ml.) plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup ( 240 ml.) cold water
  • 1/2 cup (240 ml.) ice cubes
  • sugar or honey to taste, optional
  • pinch of ground cardamom, fennel or coriander
  • sliced or slivered almonds for garnish

Zizz all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into two ice cold glasses and garnish with sliced or slivered almonds. Listen to the sound of the greening bamboo leaves rustling in the moist breeze as you sip a mango lassi in Mexico. لسی

A large Kent mango, green on the outside when ripe

Are you squeamish, faint of heart and stomach, and generally a picky eater? If so, stop reading right now. If you choose to stay with me, don’t give me, “Oh, ewwww!” when you see me next. See those little tracks in the photo above, the tiny tunnels in cross section? They are most likely made by larvae of the Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens, the scourge of citrus and mangoes in Mexico. Some mangoes are so infested, they are inedible. This mango, the same one I used for the lassi, was not banished to the compost pile. It is a simple matter to trim out buggy parts, if you feel you must.

Mangoes for export are sprayed, as are many grown for domestic use. Malathion and diazinon are two of the chemical sprays used to treat mango trees. According to one source, both of these pesticides “harm children and farmworkers, poison wildlife, and taint food and drinking water”. Nice.

I know it is virtually impossible these days to be chemical-free, despite our efforts. Sprayed mangoes, the perfect ones in the super markets, can be had. The local mangoes I buy from my neighbors have evidence of fruit flies, so I will assume they are not sprayed. I don’t have a problem with eating a few bugs now and then. Years of living in Mexico has inured me to many types of other life forms: leggy spiders, winged termite clouds, six-legged tiny beings I can’t even categorize.

Indigenous people of Mexico and other countries, to this day, rely on insects for additional protein in their diet. Who am I to question the wisdom of centuries? The alternative is to continue adding to my body’s chemical cocktail accumulation. Just in case you are wondering, I also researched the safety of eating fruit flies and larvae. They are safe to ingest. Meat is meat.

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Making mango chutney in Mexico

Chutney and mangoes both originated in India, the birthplace of my mother. As a child, my mother’s second language was Urdu. She probably knew the word for chutney, چٹنی, spelled phonetically as catni. Making mango chutney connected me to that far-away country, when that part of the world was still part of the British Raj.

Chutneys in India are described by Wikipedia as “pasty sauce” made with a mortar and pestle. They can be sweet or hot, both forms containing spices. The western palate has adapted chutney to the familiar tastes of fruit, sugar and vinegar, reduced with many of the same spices found in curry. Joy of Cooking, the first cookbook I owned, inspired this recipe.

Mango Chutney can be blended with mayonnaise to dress a chicken salad, served with crackers and queso fresco (or cream cheese), and enjoyed as a condiment with curries and stir-fried dishes.

Mango Chutney

  • 6 cups (1.5 liters) chopped mangoes, either ripe or green
  • 2 cups (480 ml.) organic sugar
  • 1 seeded, finely chopped lemon or 1 large lime
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml.) finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) raisins
  • 2 cups (480 ml.) cider vinegar
  • 1/4 scant (1 ml.) teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3″ (7.5 cm.) cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml.) cayenne pepper or 1 small, whole cola de rata chile
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml.) salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about one hour.
  3. Remove chile pepper, cinnamon stick and cardamom and cloves.
  4. Spoon into sterilized half pint canning jars, cap and seal tightly.
  5. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 9 cups (about 2 liters).

Notes:

In case you are wondering why the raisins in the above photo look a little crumby, there is a perfectly good explanation. When I started to make Mango Chutney, I discovered I was out of raisins. The solution was to sort through the box of All Bran cereal, picking out every raisin I could find. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Process in a boiling water bath” means to submerge the canning jars, tightly sealed, in a pot of water and bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with tongs and cool. Store in a cool place. These instructions are for sea level. If you live at a high elevation, consult high altitude cooking directions for proper time.

So that the small cloves and smaller cardamom seeds are not lost in the chutney, tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth, or put them in a tea infuser. Whichever you use, the spices are easily removed from the chutney to be discarded after cooking.



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