In our childhood, the excitement over the mango season began when the mango tree in our grandma’s garden started flowering. That was a sign of a good harvest, the promise of delicious summer meals that featured mangoes in their raw or ripe form – in curries, pickles, preserves, or even to enjoy in their green tart state with a sprinkle of salt and chilli powder.
The season for raw mangoes is fleeting, giving way to the more robust sweetness of the Alphonso (aka Hapus) or the juicy Paayri in Maharashtra, or indeed to one of the many varieties that are found across India. The kees is a raw mango preserve that lets you enjoy the tangy flavours for the rest of the year, depending on how well you are able to manage your portions of course!
Kees literally means grated or julienned. Raw mangoes are grated and cooked with liberal amounts of sugar and a few spices to make the preserve – a bit like making a raw mango marmalade.
The Gujarati Chundo is a close cousin but the spices differ as does the process. The chundo sits in the blazing sun and marinates in the spices and syrup while the kees is cooked over a flame.
So this recipe is the version that my family has made for generations and one that I have grown up eating, often just with a hot roti, and a side of more mangoes!
There is no such thing as overdoing it where this fruit is concerned.
350 grams grated raw mangoes (from about 500 grams of whole raw mango, peeled and deseeded)
300 grams sugar
seeds of 3-4 cardamom pods, pounded to a powder
a pinch of nutmeg (optional)
a generous pinch of saffron
- Weigh all ingredients. Usually the sugar is about 75% of the weight of the mangoes but this can vary depending on the tartness of the mangoes and personal preference.
- Heat a wide pan. Add in the grated mango and sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of water. Cover and steam cook for 3-4 minutes, just enough to soften the mango a bit.
- Next add sugar and stir through. Cook till the sugar has melted and the mixture has started to thicken and get a bit jammy.
- Sprinkle over with cardamom and the saffron. Stir and let sit for an hour or so.
- Taste the kees. If it is still too tart for your liking, add in some powdered sugar and give it a stir on a mild flame. Make sure the sugar doesn’t start to crystalise. The end result you are looking for is a marmalade like consistency.
- Cool and bottle.
This goes perfectly with hot rotis. But what’s to stop you from jazzing up your breakfast? Go ahead and and add it to a slice of toasted sourdough bread, if you like.
Either way, I hope this kees brings you joy for months to come!