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We're Fools for This Stewed Mango Dessert (Or Breakfast!)

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In late April, I spent some time with close family friends in Barbados; they’d been living there for the past five years so. Their house is located in St. Michael, a parish on the Southwest part of the island. Known for being an idyllic getaway for vacationers, Barbados hardly lacks picturesque resorts; but what I enjoyed best about staying at a house, as opposed to a hotel, is access to the kitchen—in other words, the ability to cook on holiday. Due to this, I learned a wonderfully simple way to cook mangoes.

My first morning in Barbados, we went to Cheapside Street Markets, frequented by locals seeking fresh produce, fish, and spices. After stopping for fresh coconut water and fruit juices, we made our way through the totally packed space, made a little more overwhelming by the intense heat. Most of the stall vendors offer very similar items, so it was helpful that my friend knew exactly which people (5 out of maybe 100) to buy from.

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We decided to make dinner that night from whatever looked beautiful at the market. In addition to buying traditional Caribbean ingredients such as fresh pigeon peas, callaloo, and bitter melon, we bought a few pounds of ripe mangoes (they are in peak season in April). As we had bought so many, my friend suggested we cook them for dessert that night. Born and raised (for five years, though I return every year) in Australia, I know of mangoes as incredibly sweet fruits where I just scoop out the flesh and then nibble around the pit, sometimes with lime juice or salt. But to warm it up? I was skeptical—but surprised by how much I liked it versus raw.

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Eat some raw, and then cook the rest!
Eat some raw, and then cook the rest! Photo by Mark Weinberg

The classic recipe for a fruit fool (stewed fruit mixed with a sweet custard) originated in Britain and spread through their colonies, such as Africa and India, with different preparations based on local ingredients. My friend—whose mother’s family is Burmese—taught me the way they always prepared mango fool where she grew up.

Top with yogurt if you prefer to eat this for breakfast.
Top with yogurt if you prefer to eat this for breakfast. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Recipes for mango fool also usually involve pureeing the fruit, however this one leaves the cut pieces whole, so there is a nice texture to the dish. My friend also pointed out that cooking them first is a good way to make them last longer, especially if they are perfectly ripe when you buy them. I also like how the pits are included in the recipe so you don’t waste any part of the fruit. Over the next few days, I found myself enjoying this one dish at all times of the day; for breakfast, I would heat a portion on the stove and eat it with cold yogurt, then put the rest in the freezer to eat for dessert later. I love how incredibly easy this is to prepare but and how perfect it is for summer’s humid days and balmy nights.

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Mango Fool

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Serves 6
  • 5 ripe mangoes (about 7 oz each), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces, save the pits
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cup water
  • fresh lime juice, to serve
  • plain yoghurt or heavy cream, to serve
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Tags: mangoes, fool, barbados