Recently, a woman at the grocery store was handing out samples of mango frozen yogurt. “It’s spiced like mango lassi,” she said. And indeed, the frozen yogurt was cool and refreshing with a whisper of something unusual and sweet. It was perfect for a summer day.
Now, some people might not realize this but Indian food is quite popular in Texas. As a matter of fact, the first time I had a mango lassi was when I lived in Austin. Occasionally, my friends and I would treat ourselves to an Indian buffet, which was expensive but delicious. While we never went beyond the basic meal, one day a friend decided to splurge and also ordered a creamy drink made with yogurt, cardamom, and pureed mangos. “This is mango lassi,” he said while handing the glass around the table so we could take a sip. It was cool and refreshing, perfect for a summer day.
At the time, I was working at a children’s bookstore called Toad Hall. On the shelves were the usual array of picture books, early readers, and young adult novels. One of the owners, however, wanted to keep things interesting so she also stocked some of her favorite books, an eclectic collection that included mysteries, literary non-fiction, and cookbooks.
One day, an Indian cookbook called From Bengal to Punjab by Smita Chandra arrived. Since I loved Indian food, I thought it would be fun to try making it at home. I bought the book and began cooking my way through it making saag paneer, various curries, and other Indian treats.
A few months later, I got a job in New York. While I brought my Indian cookbook with me, I stopped cooking from it since Indian food was cheap and plentiful in my neighborhood. There may not have been Tex-Mex, but I could satisfy my craving for chile peppers and spice with a good Indian meal. That said, when I had the mango frozen yogurt sample at the store, I realized I missed cooking Indian-inspired dishes. And since mangos just happened to be on sale, I bought a few so I could make my own Indian-inspired frozen yogurt at home.
When I opened my old cookbook, I soon learned that there wasn’t a mango frozen yogurt recipe. But there was one for mango ice cream. And the recipe was super simple—you just pureed a mixture of cream, mangos, and sweetened condensed milk along with some spice. Because I was set on making a yogurt dessert, I decided to adapt the recipe for my needs.
To make my mango frozen yogurt, I threw chopped fruit into the blender along with the sweetened condensed milk and thick Greek-style yogurt. For added zest, I added a dash of sweet and tangy cardamom along with a squirt of lime juice, too. After a few whirls of the blades, I soon had a creamy puree. The frozen yogurt base came together in no time and I didn’t have to turn on my stove or my oven. It was as simple as making a smoothie.
While I froze one batch in my ice-cream maker, for another I just placed the mango-yogurt puree into the freezer overnight. Both turned out equally smooth and good. The cookbook suggested serving the frozen dessert with sliced almonds or pistachios for a crunchy contrast. But I preferred to simply scoop it into a bowl and enjoy it unadorned.
While I’m happy to be reacquainted with my old cookbook (though I sadly discovered it’s now out of print), the best thing has been learning how easy it is to make a satisfying dessert with few ingredients and time. And I look forward to using this method with other fruits as they come into season, as a bowl of something cool and refreshing is indeed perfect for a summer day.
Mango frozen yogurt
- 16 ounces frozen diced mango, thawed, or 2 1/2 pounds fresh mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 8 ounces plain Greek-style yogurt, preferably full fat
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch ground cardamom
Place the mango, sweetened condensed milk, yogurt, lime juice, salt, and cardamom in a blender and then puree until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Freeze according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions. Or you can place the puree in freezer-safe container, and allow it to freeze for 8 hours, stirring the puree a couple of times in the first 2 hours of freezing.
Cardamom can be expensive. While it has a unique and powerful flavor (which is why I call for so little), if you care to omit it the recipe will still be good. You could also replace it with ground ginger or perhaps cinnamon.