Years ago I started a recipe blog. It was 2011 and I was living in a beautiful, cave-like dwelling surrounded by trees at the fringe of the Melbourne suburbs and the foot of the Yarra Valley. I was among artists and salt-of-the-earth types, and it was one of the few places of the many I have lived where I felt comfortably at home. The bush smells, wooden floors and Tasmanian Oak kitchen agreed with me. As a newly self-declared freelance editor, fresh to the joys and perils of working for myself, I wanted a side project while I waited for the work to come in. I had long scrawled-out rough recipes for family and friends of dishes I had brought along to celebrations or made at home, and thought I could use recipe writing as a catalyst to write in a public forum, gradually building confidence and a ‘voice’ with each push of the publish button.
I hadn’t intended to start the blog with a recipe for mango chutney. It was something I rarely ate and didn’t quite represent my style of cooking. However, I found myself with a bounty of mangoes and had decided to try it. Such was its tastiness that I deemed it my first culinary exploit, and proceeded to spend an entire day in my pyjamas photographing a jar on my kitchen bench and trying to create a blog. With the help of my expert blogger friend and then boyfriend, a blog was born sometime that evening. I was still in my pyjamas when it happened and there had been some tears of frustration, but I had created something that was live and public, and my mango chutney was immortalised.
The blog since morphed into a website and was then superseded by this very site when I realised I was writing more about travel than food. I have decided to resurrect this recipe here, given I wrote this at the same time of year all those years ago, and mangoes are once again in season and very reasonable in these times of expensive produce. I’ve also had a dear follower ask for the recipe (she sampled it in the home in the trees all those years ago), and given some of what I’m reflecting on during these twilight zone days leading to the new year, it feels extra fitting. I’ve added a couple of spices, because palettes mature and these additions give it some depth, but otherwise it’s the same recipe.
My recipe blog, although now defunct, taught me that I didn’t want to enter the business of food writing as I had once thought I might, but it did keep me writing. In a world where we are taught we must produce en masse and self-publicise incessantly in order to achieve ‘success’ and visibility, I am now at ease with the idea that certain pursuits, perhaps those closest to my heart, have had to be gently nurtured over time. As I come into a new stage of my life, I feel more at odds with the ubiquity of achieving much quickly, a concept I had fallen prey to somewhere in my 20s that is not only unrealistic, but also exhausting and destabilising.
It is strange that I have come to this now in some ways. As a young multi-passionate type, I was criticised for not choosing one career, or one person for that matter, and sticking with these until kingdom come. I couldn’t then contain myself to one label or one endeavour, and I still can’t. However, I now find myself in an era of slashies and the affront (beyond some if its conveniences) that is social media, in which the many faces encountered are multi-faceted humans on an extreme scale, promoting brands they do not work for in the traditional sense and selling some vaguery, accounts begetting accounts of the same nature. And all of this largely accepted as being the reality of our times. It’s strange, when I sit back and ponder this, and also that I may never have what is considered real success without complete immersion in its absurdity.
I don’t know if the making of mango chutney all these years later appropriately symbolises my writing ‘vocation’ or my yogic quest, or the deeply enduring love I should like to have. I will say that I now find there to be more potency in that which takes time for me, and in that which I can give my full attention to, even if for one solitary hour at a time. At present, these dreams I hold dear are actively simmering away; form, characteristics and ideas maturing and developing. At some point, when what I have created feels most authentic, flavourful and with heart, I shall turn off the heat, content and ready to share.
4–5 ripe mangoes, roughly chopped*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 small knob ginger, finely diced (approx. 1 heaped teaspoon)
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup caster sugar
good pinch chilli flakes
1 ½ cups white vinegar
Salt and pepper
Sterilise jars by washing them and the lids in hot, soapy water, then drying them in a hot oven. Be careful not to dry with a tea towel, as they will no longer be sterile.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, then add the onion, garlic and ginger, and sauté on a medium heat until fragrant. Add the spices and stir for a couple of minutes to release their wonderful fragrance. Stir in the mango, coating well with the onion and spice mixture. Add the sugar and stir to absorb, then the chilli flakes and vinegar, as well as a pinch of salt. Combine well and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the mixture is thick and jam-like. Add seasoning and extra chilli to taste, and remove all whole spices.
Pour the chutney into the hot jars and seal tightly. Allow to cool, then store away in a dark, cool spot to preserve for around 3 or 4 months, less if you use less sugar. Refrigerate after opening.
*The quantity of mangoes and chutney produced largely depends on the types of mangoes being used. I used five small mangoes, which yielded two and half medium-sized jars of chutney. You could also use larger Kensington Pride mangoes (also sweeter), and either use only three or use five and increase the quantities of other ingredients.