Or as I like to call it, taking arty pictures of fruit on a patio day. In my search for the perfect light to take a photo of sun-kissed mangoes overlooking Nan’s front yard, I neglected to remember two things. One, these mangoes weren’t sun-kissed and left most of their dewiness in the back of a tractor trailer on the long journey from Mexico. Two, they were a little out of place in Nan’s garden so they kind of ended up looking like two muppets without eyes having a chat in the sunshine. Close enough. I miss Didi’s camera. Onward and upwards. What I did have was a gorgeous big batch of fresh blueberries. Fresh-frozen really, but straight from the Newfoundland wilderness into Nan’s freezer. Sure beats hanging out in a Mexican tractor trailer for a month. Poor little mangoes from the Stephenville Dominion. They tried so hard. But this batch wasn’t quite good enough for eating with your hands over the sink like a monkey. They had to be cooked in something spicy right away before I got too sad about not living in some place hot.
I have an elephant memory, especially when it comes to food…I tasted a fresh mango for the first time in the Philippines when I was 26, and I remember being so pissed off that for 26 years no one had bothered to tell me that there was a fruit that tasted like candy. It’s hard to get remotely close to that melt in your mouth taste that’s a part of every day life in other parts of the world. But if anyone’s reading who only has access to a Sobey’s or Dominion in Newfoundland, keep your eyes peeled for the little yellow Ataulfo mangos. You can score them every once in a while and they’re the closest you’ll get to the tropics in Newfoundland in November. The flesh isn’t fibrous and soft like red mangoes sometimes are…it’s buttery sweet and firm and perfect. I saw some a few days ago at Sobey’s and cleaned the place out. The cashier gave me a funny look and to be honest, I felt a little insulted. Why wasn’t she weirded out by the guy ahead of me who’d just bought ten boxes of Bagel Bites? Right, so it could have been because my face was flushed and I looked at her and gushed, “Ataulfo mangos?! It’s like Christmas!!” But that’s besides the point.
We had the berries, Mom had some frozen pork tenderloin in the freezer, I could maybe pull off something interesting for supper. It would be a mango pork red curry and and blueberry clafoutis. An odd sort of combination, but it was an odd sort of day. I had just finished taking pictures of eyeless mango muppets, after all. Curry might be the only thing I can make without a recipe. Great for me, not so great when I’m trying to write about it little red chicken style. The list of ingredients is a little rough, but get in there and get your hands dirty and mess around, see what works for you. You can’t go wrong with curry paste and coconut milk. I’m not going to flatter myself by calling this a red Thai curry; this will get you your fix, but not like a fix in Bangkok would (that might go for most fixes).
Finely chop three or four cloves of garlic. Finely slice one onion. Saute in olive oil until slightly soft. Add two mangoes cut in medium-sized pieces and a pound or so of pork tenderloin cut into discs. Season with soya sauce (or Thai fish sauce, I didn’t have any with me). Add one teaspoon of turmeric, one tablespoon of Thai red curry paste (or more, I kept it a little on the mild side for Nan). Cook all together for a few minutes before adding one can of coconut milk. Let simmer just until pork is done, being careful not to overcook. Add the juice of half a lime. Serve with rice. And if you choose to take a photo of your finished creation, ensure that the strap from your camera is not hanging in front of the lens. Ahem.
Done. Relatively painless, and actually quite nice. Mom said things like “smashingly lovely” and “sweet honourable Jesus” while she was eating. When I told her she was just saying that because she was my mother and that I needed constructive criticism for the blog she replied, “If it was shit I’d tell you it was shit.” As far as I know my mother has never lied (except that time in 1980 when she caught me throwing juicy fruit wrappers out the window of our hippie van and told me that the police put four year olds in jail for littering), so I took her word for it.
Cherry Clafoutis (French Batter Pudding)
1 lb fresh cherries. 3/4 cup plain flour. 2 eggs, lightly beaten. 1/3 cup caster sugar. 1 cup milk. 1/4 cup thick cream. 2 oz unsalted butter, melted. Icing sugar, for dusting.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 1.5 litre ovenproof dish with melted butter. Pit the cherries and spread into the dish in a single layer. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the sugar, milk, cream and butter, whisking until just combined. Do not overbeat. Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre. Dust generously with icing sugar before serving.
The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook (Bay Books, 2005)
I’ll try this again with actual cherries next time they’re in season, or maybe with some other kind of fruit. The berries were (kind of) thawed but I hadn’t taken the time to drain them properly so what was supposed to be 30-40 minutes turned out to be more like an hour and a half. The centre just wouldn’t bake with all the water from the berries, and I had used a lot more than the recipe called for. But the middle is supposed to be a little custardy I think? I don’t know. I hardly ever have a go at French cooking, it freaks me out. I was confused by the mixing of the eggs with the flour first. A little doughy ball that then had to be whisked with the sugar and the wet ingredients. But how do you whisk something that’s already a little ball of dough? If anyone has made a clafoutis before, let me know the deal because I felt a little like a monkey in the kitchen this time around, and not a happy monkey eating a mango over the sink. Anyways, it all worked out in the end after a lot cursing and lowering the oven temperature to bake things a little more slowly, so the centre was cooked and the bottom didn’t burn. It turned out golden, chewy, custardy, and once the kettle was boiled and a slice or three was covered in homemade vanilla ice cream, there were no complaints.