Honey mangoes start to arrive just as the Alphonso season ends. They come from Pakistan and, like Alphonso mangoes, will rarely be found in the supermarket. You’re most likely to obtain these treasures from an Indian grocery shop, where they are sold by the box. The tell-tale sign that these are something special – a far cry from the tough, green supermarket specimens – is the aroma that greets you as you stand within a 3-meter radius of them.
‘Honey’ suddenly seems a very accurate name for these fruit: the scent of them hangs thick and heavy in the air, sweet and musky, almost sickly, but in a beautiful way, with notes not only of honey but also of toffee and butterscotch. The juice is likely to dribble down your wrist as you eat one.
Should you want to elevate their deliciousness to extreme and sublime heights, try making this cheesecake: a smooth, cream cheese and coconut batter, a buttery biscuit base enriched with the heady perfume of crushed cardamom pods, and the sweet flesh of those honey-sweet mangoes (you can alternatively use Alphonsus). If good, flavorsome mangoes elude you, you can use 100g dried mango (preferably a Thai or Southeast Asian brand) instead. Place it in a bowl, pour over enough boiling water to cover, then leave for 1 hour. Drain, pat dry and chop it into 1.5cm dice. Use as the recipe directs for fresh mango.
60g butter, plus extra for greasing
200g digestive biscuits, blitzed to crumbs in a food processor
seeds from 15 cardamom pods, finely ground; or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
300g Quark or ricotta
200g full-fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lime and juice of ½
1 teaspoon coconut essence or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 gelatine leaves
1 large, ripe mango or 2 small, ripe Indian/Pakistani mangoes (in season), peeled, stoned and flesh cut into 1cm dice
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut, lightly toasted in a hot, dry pan or oven
mint leaves, to decorate.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the blitzed biscuits and cardamom. Press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of the cake tin, using the back of a spoon to flatten gently to form a crust. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until golden and aromatic. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.
Mix the Quark or ricotta, cream cheese, icing sugar, lime zest, and coconut essence or vanilla extract together in a large bowl using an electric mixer or electric hand whisk.
Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until softened (about 5 minutes).
While the gelatine soaks, put the lime juice in a small saucepan along with 2 tablespoons of water. Place the pan over medium heat until the liquid starts to steam, then turn off the heat. Squeeze the softened gelatine sheets in your hand over the sink to remove any excess water, then add to the lime juice and water mixture in the pan. Stir to melt the gelatine completely in the liquid.
Have the electric mixer or whisk ready, and pour the gelatine mixture slowly into the cheese mixture, whisking continuously to incorporate, then, using a spatula, quickly fold in the diced mango. Pour the filling over the biscuit base and place the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 6 hours to set.
When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle the cheesecake with the desiccated coconut and finish off with the mint leaves to decorate.