Like everyone, I have friends who prefer to avoid gluten and dairy and when they come round I need to have a special think about what to serve them. This is one of the desserts I will go to when mangoes are in season; easy, tasty and lovely after an Indian or spicy Asian meal. It is based on a popular Chinese dessert we see a lot in India – simply a light mango cream with lovely gelatinous tapioca pearls, mango and freshly grated coconut. This recipe proves again that, if you have good-quality, inherently tasty ingredients, you don’t need a lot more to make a fabulous dish. This is one of my summer favourites, really refreshing. It thickens overnight, so you may want to thin it with a bit of milk (and then taste for sweetness) before serving. You can also add some chia seeds. Serves 4–5
- 60g (21⁄4oz) large tapioca pearls, soaked for 20 minutes
- 2 large ripe Alphonso (ideally) mangoes
- 125ml (1⁄2 cup) coconut cream, or to taste
- 175ml–200ml (2⁄3–5⁄6 cup) whole chilled milk, plus more if needed
- 2–3 tbsp sugar, or to taste
- 5 tbsp grated fresh or frozen and defrosted coconut, chilled
- crispy tapioca pearls (see below)
- crystallized rose petals
- flaked roasted almonds
- fresh coconut shards
- mango wedges
Soak the tapioca pearls for 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to the boil – you do need lots of water. Add the drained tapioca pearls, bring to the boil, cover and cook for 14 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to finish cooking for another 10 minutes, or until they are translucent, or almost so. You want to keep an eye on them as if they over-cooked, they become gluey. Pour straight into a sieve and place in a large bowl of cold water. Set aside
Slice the cheeks from the mangoes and scoop out the flesh, keeping all the juices as you work. Set 1 cheek aside. Put the rest into a blender with the juices. Remove the skin from the stones and try to get as much flesh and juice off it as you can; put this straight into the blender.
Add the coconut cream, the smaller amount of milk and the sugar. Blend until smooth. Add the rest of the milk if it is thick (you might even need more, it all depends on the juiciness of the fruit), until the texture is like double (heavy) cream. Add half the coconut. Taste and adjust the sugar to taste.
Add the cold pearls to the mango cream and chill until ready to eat. When you are ready to serve, chop the reserved mango into slivers. Pour the mango cream into small bowls, pile some of the mango in the middle, top with the remaining fresh coconut and crispy tapioca pearls, if you like, and serve chilled. Or, for a more graphic look, place the tapioca in the glasses, spoon over the mango cream, swirl in a little sweetened coconut cream and garnish with any of the options.
Crispy tapioca pearls
Soak an extra 1 tbsp of tapioca pearls, then dry on kitchen paper. Heat 1½ tbsp flavourless vegetable oil in a small pan, tilt the pan to collect the oil on 1 side and add the tapioca. Cover immediately with a lid as they will try and jump out. Cook for 1 minute or until crispy, drain and place on kitchen paper to blot off excess oil. Leave until ready to use (you can make this a day ahead). I leave these unsweetened, but you can candy them as well, in the same way as you would nuts.