Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Coconut French toast with mango and blueberries

I can't get enough of these honey mangoes. The day they stop appearing in the Indian grocers is going to be a sorrowful occasion. I might hold a small mango funeral and make a mango graveyard with the stones from my last box of mangoes, wearing yellow instead of black and crooning a mournful ode to the king of fruits. Except I won't actually do that, because that would be bordering on creepy and obsessive. Until that tragic day arrives, however, I'm compulsively buying boxes of mangoes and attempting to incorporate them into every meal. I'm getting weird looks from people at the gym and the swimming pool: the mango shop is en route, so I usually arrive at the sports centre with a bottle of water and iPod in one hand, and three large boxes proclaiming themselves 'FRUITY FRESH' in the other which I then stow away secretively in a locker, with a final farewell caress, lest some common pleb get their hands on my glorious edible treasure. It's testament to how beautiful these fruits are that when I open the locker an hour later, it no longer smells of people's sweaty gym gear, but instead is fragrant with the heady perfume of golden mango flesh.

Sometimes when I am eating these mangoes, golden juice dribbling unattractively down my chin and often my forearm, I cannot quite believe that something that tastes so damn good can actually be good for you. I mean, I love fruit of all kinds, but these mangoes are almost sinfully delicious. Delicious in a kind of way that you'd normally only associate with things that clog your arteries. Delicious in a way that makes you want to suck every last drop of juice from the stone in a greedy and rather impolite fashion. Delicious in a way that means you can't help nibbling a few pieces as you slice them up for your boyfriend's breakfast, and consequently he gives you a rather intent look for a couple of seconds as he enters the kitchen before declaring accusingly, "I see evidence!" You look in the mirror, and there it is. An orange moustache. As unambiguous as fingerprints on a murder weapon. Caught in the act of mango ingestion.

After the success of my mango, coconut and cardamom cheesecake, I wanted to recreate something similar in breakfast form. A honey mango is a brilliant breakfast food: it's soft and ripe enough not to be too texturally demanding first thing in the morning, but it's also juicy and tangy enough to wake up your tastebuds, and sweet enough to feel like a real indulgence. Plus that gorgeous marigold colour makes you feel like you're getting sunshine in the morning even if it's grey and drizzly outside (which, this being England, is rather likely). Just chopping up these beautiful fruits makes the morning a little bit better. Especially because of the cook's perk that is the mango stone. The flesh that clings to its contours is impossible to extract with a knife; it has to be extracted by one's teeth, sucked clean like a carcass in a rapturous and greedy fashion. I think that when I cook with these mangoes, only about 60% of each one makes it into the finished dish. The rest ends up in my stomach. It makes sense; it would be a waste to throw the fleshy stone into the bin, with so much deliciousness surrounding it, so I'm actually being eco-friendly rather than gluttonous.

I was going to try the mangoes out in pancakes, but wasn't sure what would happen. I've never cooked a mango, and I can't really see how it would add anything. Like strawberries, I think they're probably best enjoyed as they are. Also, these honey mangoes are so juicy that I'm worried that they'd turn to mush during cooking, like strawberries - anything with a high water content like that doesn't take well to heat. I'm still tempted to try them in a coconut-scented pancake batter, but French toast seemed a safer option. One of my favourite ways of having fruit for breakfast is to place it against a fairly bland canvas of sweet bread or plain pancake batter; that way its colours and flavours get to shine. It also means you rarely need to add any sugar to your breakfast, because the flavour of the fruit is intense enough. I probably eat enough sugar during the day without having to have it for breakfast too (although I make an exception for jam, which is an excellent substance).

I've made vanilla- and almond-flavoured French toast before, to pair with rhubarb or strawberries for the former and apricots for the latter. You get the merest hint of flavour, but the fruit is complemented rather than overpowered. For coupling with mangoes, coconut was the obvious choice, especially as it had worked so well with my cheesecake. I added a little coconut essence to the milk and egg mixture for soaking the bread, and then sprinkled the bread with desiccated coconut before pan-frying. I'd normally sprinkle it with demerara sugar: it caramelises but stays crunchy in the heat, which is what I was hoping to achieve with the coconut. It just adds a nice contrast in texture and an interesting fresh, clean, slightly sweet flavour.

The dense, rich texture of the bread against the juicy mangoes is a delightful combination for breakfast. You're getting all that satisfying starch but it's balanced by the sharpness of crunchy blueberries and the fragrant juice of the golden mangoes. I'm not sure why I put blueberries with the mangoes; I think largely it was an unconscious decision based on how good the colours would look against each other, but most berries would work, or possibly banana or pineapple, or you could just use mango. The blueberries do provide a nice change in texture; these honey mangoes are so ripe that they just melt away in your mouth. You almost need the thick toast to remind you that you're actually eating something. I used wholemeal bread for vaguely health-conscious reasons, but I actually think white would be better with the coconut flavouring.

Yet another dish that I am going to have to mourn when the mangoes run out. Alas.

Coconut French toast with mango and blueberries (serves 2):

4 slices from a stale loaf of bread (or slice a fresh loaf and leave the slices out overnight to harden)
250ml milk
2 eggs
1 tsp coconut essence (or you could use vanilla)
6 tbsp desiccated coconut
Butter, for frying
2 honey mangoes, peeled and sliced
Half a punnet of blueberries

Beat the egg with the milk and coconut essence, then pour into a baking dish. Lay the bread in the mixture for 10 minutes, then turn over and leave for another 10 minutes - you want it to absorb all the liquid. If it still has dry patches and all the liquid has gone, add a bit more milk.

Heat a large knob of butter in a frying pan until foaming. Sprinkle the upward side of the bread with half the desiccated coconut, then place it coconut side down in the butter. Sprinkle the other side with the rest of the coconut while it sizzles in the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until golden, then flip over and cook for another 5 minutes or so - it should be quite firm. 

Serve the toast piled high with the fruit scattered over, and maybe a bit more desiccated coconut sprinkled on top.

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  1. Oh, these looks so great and I like the coconut essense for a change. I agree, honey mangoes are pretty wonderful, aren't they...

  2. I love mango and blueberries with French toast (also good with pancakes and doughnuts!). Have never thought of adding coconut before. Sounds great. Will have to try it. I made baked French toast at the weekend. A revelation! Obviously it takes longer than the normal variety but is really delicious. I got the recipe from here, and left out the orange juice - used zest and lots of cinnamon. 2/3 quantities, and it was done in 25 minutes. Thought it might be your kind of thing as we seem to have similar breakfast tastes :

  3. That looks amazing! I love your blog, it's beautiful - am following now!


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