It physically pains me to put food in the bin. So much so that I often have to recruit a willing helper (read: boyfriend) to do so, on the rare occasion that I cannot rescue whatever is languishing in my fridge or cupboards. I try and engineer my kitchen design around being able to see, clearly, what I have to use up, before it’s too late, but there are occasions when even this doesn’t quite work out. One of the most depressing moments of my life took place several months ago, when I had to throw two free-range chickens in the bin. Whole, oven-ready, uncooked chickens, for whom I had had big plans involving Thai spices and Vietnamese broth. They had been kept at a market stall in a fridge that was too overcrowded, resulting in poor cold air circulation, and had started to turn rancid, emitting a strange aroma of French cheese that warned my primitive survival instinct not to let them anywhere near my kitchen or stomach. Throwing away food is always sad, but it’s even sadder when an animal has died in vain. That said, I get upset even just having to pour the remnants of a bottle of milk down the drain, or throwing a mouldy lemon onto the compost heap – it just seems irresponsible and an insult to beautiful ingredients and the hard work of farmers and producers.
Going home to my parents’ for weekends and holidays is an undeniably lovely experience, but is always marred by the slight sense of trepidation I feel when opening their fridge. Being a fridge that feeds three people, rather than one, and being the property of people busier than I am and with less strange neurotic angst about binning a piece of fruit or some mouldy cheese, I often find all sorts of delights in there. The pomegranates I bought at Christmas, which are now bullet-hard and the faded pale pink of dead roses. Three kiwis, rivalling passionfruit for wrinkliness. Vegetables growing what my mother always charmingly calls ‘little furry jackets’. A mango purchased for the last time I came home, which had turned a beautiful marigold colour, only its puckered skin revealing that it had spent too much time in the fruit bowl.
The kiwi were actually perfectly edible, despite their external appearance, so they went in with my morning granola. The pomegranate seeds were still plump and moist, so I ate them scattered over a bowl of fruit. The overripe mango turned out to be fine inside – I was expecting a mass of sickly brown, squishy flesh – but just a little too mushy to eat au naturel. I’ve often wanted to try baking with mango, but they’re so expensive that it seems a waste to smother all of that lovely sweet flesh in cake batter or pastry. This mango, however, was fragrant, juicy, and the perfect contender for inclusion in a banana-bread style loaf cake. It also used up the remnants of a carton of buttermilk in the fridge and some languishing flaked coconut, mixed with cinnamon, brown sugar, lime zest and coconut oil to make a rich, moist batter.
The resulting loaf is deliciously moist, fragrant with the perfume of ripe mango and the lime and coconut scent of the tropics, warmed with a hint of cinnamon and held together by a luscious moist crumb. It’s similar to banana bread, but slightly juicier and sweeter, and is delicious warm from the oven or toasted for breakfast or tea. I like it spread with a little ricotta and honey, but it’s also lovely on its own – and it tastes all the better for using up neglected ingredients.
This post was written in collaboration with homify, the online platform for home and living.
Spiced mango and coconut bread (makes 1 loaf):
- 250g spelt flour or plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 75g light brown sugar
- 40g flaked coconut, plus extra for sprinkling
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1 egg
- 240ml buttermilk
- 80ml coconut oil, melted
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into small dice
Pre-heat the oven to 175C. Grease a loaf tin and line with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, coconut and lime zest. In a small jug, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Add this to the dry ingredients and fold in gently until everything just comes together into a fairly loose batter – be careful not to overmix. Fold in the mango chunks.
Pour the mix into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle with a little more flaked coconut. Bake for 50 minutes, or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Enjoy warm or toasted.