Feasting for the season with Lerato’s Spicy Mango Chicken
I am blessed with food, good food especially here in Nigeria, which has inspired some of my most joyful cooking. But even so I am constantly curious, thinking, and hungry for ideas and wonderful new combinations of flavours and textures. This hunger is unlike any other, however many kinds of hunger there might be. It is an insatiable appetite for knowledge, discovery and most importantly happiness; happiness from simple pleasures, happiness from creating a lot from a little. It can be as simple as a sumptuous recipe with bread and butter. It delights me every time.
As the saying goes, “We eat first with our eyes”. I’m not at all sure who said that, but I certainly do. I am distinctly attracted to colourful food, as my brain translates the colours into a burst of flavours. Amongst other fruits and vegetables, this season is rife with bright, beautiful, sweet and succulent mangoes and they are incredibly versatile for different recipes: from drinks and salads, to sauces for meat. I find great inspiration from seasonal food and food from my immediate environment, and I’m not referring to the refrigerator.
With my mother, driving along the villages of the Gwari tribes in Niger State we stopped by a group of women sat under a bush of mango trees, selling their fruits. This was the most delightful sight, however simple, these mangoes had the world’s shortest mileage on them, probably falling straight from the trees into their baskets. It was truly a blessing to be able to buy them not long after and not far from their birth place. How could I not be inspired by this? We happily shared our baskets of sunshine with friends and neighbours, and after eating that ripened golden flesh, I could not be happier to get cooking with them.
Cooking time: 60 – 100 minutes
Feeds: 4 hungry tummies
4 medium ripe mangoes
2 tatashe / red bell peppers
2 red scotch bonnets
2 yellow scotch bonnets
1 tbs crushed or finely minced garlic (4 -5 cloves)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 medium onion
6 sprigs fresh coriander
I tsp dried thyme
2 tbs sunflower oil
2 chicken cubes (optional)
Let’s get cooking!
- Wash the chicken and place on kitchen napkins to dry. Now it’s time to get cracking with the spicy mango marinade and sauce.
- Into a blender, add the inner flesh of the mangoes, peppers, garlic, peeled and grated ginger, roughly chopped onion, leaves of three sprigs of coriander, juice of two limes, taking care to remove the seeds (using your palm to press down and roll them on the table before cutting in order to extract maximum juice), thyme, oil and four table spoons of water. Blend until smooth, take your time to stop and spoon anything stuck at the bottom of the blender and continue to blend. Add more water if the marinade is too thick, a tablespoon at a time in order to avoid a watery consistency.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt or less depending on your preference, and stock cubes if you want more flavour. This is a busy mix, so taste the marinade before adding salt and stock cube because you may find that you don’t need one or the other. It is a good tip to always add seasoning last so that you can measure and adjust your recipe correctly. Blend again and pour into a small saucepan. Your kitchen will smell amazing at this point and you will have to try very hard not to eat the mix just yet!
- Place the chicken thighs and drumsticks into a bowl and spoon some of the spicy mango marinade into it, leaving a good amount in the saucepan to make some sauce. Coat the chicken entirely with the marinade. You can also make this marinade up to 24 hours before grilling; simply cover the bowl with with cling film and refrigerate until you are ready.
- Cook the sauce on low heat for 20 minutes, frequently stirring and adding a little water, a tablespoon at a time, only if the sauce thickens more than you would like. If it is too spicy, add more blended mango flesh and if it’s too sweet, add more lime juice. This has got to be cooked low & slow otherwise it will turn into a burnt and bitter mess! Now you can prepare the grill by preheating for 10 minutes.
- Let’s get grilling! The best grilled chicken should be moist and succulent, never dry. Here’s a tip I learned from a good friend and master griller; place water in an oven tray or oven safe bowl and place below the rack with the chicken inside the oven or grill. When closed, steam from the water will create a moisture filled environment producing perfectly moist chicken beneath the grilled charred exterior. And if you are using an open fire grill, marinade the chicken for longer, as I mentioned earlier. This will allow more time for the marinade to absorb into the chicken which will leave it very moist.
- Cook for 60 to 100 minutes while basting with its leftover marinade, and turning to make sure it cooks evenly on all sides.
- Once cooked, smear the cooked thick spicy mango sauce onto the chicken. Serve with wedges of lime and a scattering of fresh coriander leaves. The tangy juice of the limes will help to develop the sweet flavours of the mangoes. It is just the most delightful combination. Eat this with a refreshing salad like a coleslaw, or with rice, baked potatoes, roasted plantain or whatever your tummy desires. A true feast for the season. Enjoy!
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Photo Credit: Lerato Umah-Shaylor