My summer holidays were often spent in a way that my parents thought best combined the two elements of being an Indian family in Australia. It was a time before the teenage years descended on me with all their accompanying awkwardness. Before that phase where the parentals were mortifyingly embarrassing, no matter what they did. Anything they did that was too typically Indian would make me want to crawl under the nearest table and any attempts on their part to be more Aussie would be met with a roll of the eyes. During those teenage years, they really couldn’t win.
But this was a time before all that adolescent angst set in, when this marrying of cultures was just part of life. We would drive to caravan parks in seaside towns, often with two or three other families from our community. We stayed in a string of mobile homes that never went anywhere and splashed around in the pool while our mothers cooked and our fathers ate Bombay bhuja mix with their beers.
The smell of barbequing meat would waft past us from the Australian families with whom we were sharing the park. Our mothers would wrinkle up their vegetarian noses in disgust and set about cooking a good Indian meal using the impressive toolkit of ingredients they had packed into the cars. Lentils were cooked, rice micro-waved and spices blended, the scents mingling with that of cooking meat, chlorine and sunscreen.
There was often some sort of South Indian bread- fluffy steamed idlis with chutney, or dosas made from batter that had fermented perfectly in the warm car. Otherwise there would be the semolina based upma or some sort of flavoured rice dish such as a puliogare, lemon rice or this green mango and coconut rice.
Luckily all the teenage angst eventually gave way. Anything else would be a real pity as there is nothing remotely embarrassing about this flavourful, slightly tart rice dish that is a favourite in this Indian family.
Mangoes are in season now and although the ripe fruit are undeniably delicious, there is much you can do with the raw green version readily available in markets and ethnic grocers. For this dish, try to choose greener, less ripe mangoes as the more tart they are, the better. The crunch of the peanuts and roasted dhal adds something special. If you are allergic to peanuts but tolerant of others, try using cashews.
Mum’s Green Mango and Coconut Rice
1 & 1/2 to 2 green mangoes, peeled and flesh finely grated (the greener the better!)
2 cups uncooked basmati rice
2 & 1/4 cups water
For the spice paste:
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 dry red chillies
Generous pinch asafoetida
1 cup fresh shredded coconut (I use frozen)
Any bits of mango that you could not grate
1-2 tbsp water
For the tempering:
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp channa dhal
1 tbsp urad dhal
1/2 tsp turmeric
Generous pinch asafoetida
10-15 curry leaves
3/4 cup small peanuts (available in Indian stores)
Salt, to taste
Cook the rice. This can be done by placing 2 cups of rice in a rice cooker with 2 1/4 cups of water and cooking according to the rice cooker instructions. Alternatively, you could place the rice and water in a large microwave dish and cook uncovered for 11 minutes, then covered for 2 minutes.
In a large non-stick saucepan, roast the fenugreek seeds until fragrant. Grind the seeds in the spice grinder or food processor, then add the other spice paste ingredients and grind to a smooth paste. Add a little more water if necessary.
In the non-stick saucepan, heat the oil and temper the mustard seeds on low heat. Once they have popped, add the dhals, turmeric and asafoetida. Fry until the dhals are a golden brown and then add the curry leaves, covering the pan immediately.
Once the curry leaves have crisped, add the peanuts. Ensure the heat is on low and fry the peanuts, stirring gently until they are a golden brown colour. This should take 5-7 minutes.
Add the spice paste and warm through for a minute or so.
In a large mixing bowl, fluff up the warm rice with a fork. Add the grated green mango, spice paste/peanut mix and about 3 tsp salt to start. Toss through gently to coat the rice in the other ingredients. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Serve on its’ own or as a side dish to curries.
Green mangoes, the spices, dhals, small peanuts and frozen shredded coconut are all available at Indian grocery stores.