The first Alphonso mangoes of the year

"There's little you can do to improve on the perfection of the deep yellowy-orange flesh of a ripe Alphonso mango. Its sweetly fragrant and deeply exotic flavour - you can detect notes of coconut and lime - tells stories of yellow sands and warm winds, tropical palms and beating sunshine..."

That's Joanna Weinberg, writing in The Times. And oh, she is so correct. They are utterly utterly sublime. I like mangoes; preferably the huge ones they sell at the market for 75p each, but even then a rock-hard Sainsburys specimen can sometimes ripen into something pleasing. However, there is always a gamble: 50% or more of times, these fruits end up ripening into a mass of stringiness lacking in real flavour and tasting slightly chalky. They are good in smoothies, though, and ripe ones are lovely mixed with avocado, coriander, basil, mint, chilli and lime juice to make a salsa for grilled tuna steaks. But generally, I avoid recipes that involve mango as it is too hard to find ripe ones. I cook with mangoes when I happen to have bought some a week ago and find them soft and edible in the fruit bowl; more coincidence cooking than premeditated cooking. 
However, the Alphonso mango is another thing altogether. It's hard to describe just how different they are to your average supermarket, year-round mango, but the main difference lies in the fact that they are imported (from Mumbai, usually) ripe (sometimes overripe - last year I bought a box of 12 that had gone a bit too ripe to eat...and they made a beautiful mango and lime sorbet), rather than solid, so you are guaranteed mango heaven. They have a short season of only a few weeks, which means they must be bought in abundance and gorged on, naturally. They are so juicy that eating them in the bath might not be a bad idea, and they have a very sweet and perfumed flavour unlike most mangoes. I had one today and the fragrance was almost lavender-esque.

I found them at the Pakistani deli (£7 for six), and I'm hoping they'll go down in price as the season goes on so I can cook with them - I want to make mango ice cream, mango smoothies, a mango and chickpea salad (more Ottolenghi), a mango fool...but primarily, I just want to sit and savour them until all that is left is the skin and stone, sucked of every last bit of delicious mango flesh. Yum yum. And then I will spend the rest of the year contemplating the sad solid specimens in Sainsburys and lusting for next year's Alphonso season.