Mango and coconut is such an evocative combination. For me personally, it conjures up two delicious holiday memories. The first: setting foot outside a hotel in Saigon for my very first experience of Vietnam, walking fifty yards down a street pervaded by the kind of chaos you only get in south east Asian capitals to find a little stall down a side alley serving up the most magnificent smoothies. Forget smoothie, actually – this was a meal in a cup: ambrosial marigold mango pureed with glorious ice, thick coconut cream and scattered with the glistening pulp of a passion fruit. With my hair and clothes already sticking to my damp, humid skin, this was like nectar.
The second was a year later. Similarly, on a first exploration of a south east Asian destination. This time it was Bali; specifically Ubud, the ‘cultural capital’ of the island. I’d arrived exhausted after three weeks of manic solo travelling, and upon entering the gorgeous tranquillity of my new accommodation – complete with private porch looking out onto an exquisite tropical garden – my first action was to cancel my mad plans to leave at 5am the next morning by speedboat, and to settle in for three nights. I rewarded myself for this wise decision by entering the first vegan, organic, earth-and-love-and-all-that-jazz café I could find (the first? you ask. How many such cafes are there in Ubud?! Answer: a lot), sitting down on a cushion and tucking into a glorious piece of vegan mango and coconut pie. Soft, silky coconut topped with a bold layer of mango puree. Pie, a fork, and a steaming pot of green tea. Hello Bali, I think we should be friends.
You probably have your own evocative interpretations of mango and coconut. Caribbean islands, perhaps (whether you’ve been there in real life or only in your imagination). Indian sweets and curries. That famous Thai dessert of coconut sticky rice and gorgeously juicy ripe mango. It’s one of my all-time flavour combinations, both in sweet and savoury food. Although there are few things in this world better than a truly ripe, sweet mango, one of them is anything that puts said mango together with coconut.
But life is hard, and we can’t be lucky enough to have our hands on fabulous ripe mangoes all the time, nor fresh coconut. Luckily, both these ingredients are also excellent when dried. Of course, they take on entirely different characteristics, but are no less pleasing for that. The sweet toastiness of burnished flaked coconut is a wonderful thing, as is a chewy, toffee-scented piece of moist dried mango. Here, I’ve combined the two to make a luscious tropical granola, flecked with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds for added nutty crunchiness. It’s lightly scented with cinnamon and vanilla and strewn with coconut pieces and dried mango for a blast of Caribbean deliciousness.
This is great on its own, but I like to serve it with chunks of fresh mango and slices of kiwi. It’s also lovely with some tinned grapefruit and its juice, and if you like milk on your granola, try coconut milk instead to make it even more deliciously tropical.
Mango, coconut and toasted seed granola (makes around 1.5kg):
- 330g apple puree*
- 120g runny honey
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1kg muesli base mix (I get mine from Holland & Barrett, in the UK)
- 100g flaked coconut
- 60g sunflower seeds
- 40g pumpkin seeds
- 100g dried mango, roughly chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
In a large bowl, whisk together the apple puree, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Stir in the muesli base and mix well to coat.
Spread evenly over two large baking sheets, then bake for 10 minutes. Remove and stir well with a spoon, then bake for another 10 minutes. Distribute the coconut and seeds evenly between the two trays, stir well, then bake for 10 minutes. Stir again, then bake for another 10 minutes. Remove and leave to cool before dividing the mango between both trays. Mix well, then store in an airtight jar or container.
* Make by simmering a couple of large peeled, cored, chopped cooking apples with a splash of water until they turn to mush then putting in a blender. Any extra can be used in baking or as a compote for porridge or muesli.