“It’s never been this hot at this time of the year,” said Settu, one of the farmers who is part of the Samalpatti Mango Growers Association. We were walking around a mango orchard in Samalpatti in Krishnagiri, in the heart of totapuri mango growing landscape. Raw mangoes hung temptingly from trees across the countryside. We snacked on slices of raw mangoes daubed generously with paprika, salt, and lashings of jaggery and talked about the future of this precious fruit. The relentless heat is of concern to the smallholder mango farmers when it comes to yields, but they are also hopeful. Mainly because they are no longer isolated smallholder farmers tackling problems of climate change, pest proliferation, and market fluctuations. Rather, they operate as a unit.
In 2009, 91 farmers from the region came together to form the SMGA co-operative and got themselves Fairtrade certified. Which means they get a minimum price for their mangoes, despite market fluctuations and an additional premium on what has been sold on Fairtrade terms. Their mango pulp is now being exported to European market, and it’s a source of pride for the community.
So far, the farmers have invested the premium money in fish water ponds as an additional source of income – mangos are biennial yielding crops – and a primary school in their village. It’s a story of promise, of climate adaptation, and the power of the collective.
I came back home and decided I needed to bake with mango. And not just mango, it had to be aamras, because you know, there’s nothing like pure mango pureé. So I baked a cheesecake, stirred some aamras into it, and even topped it with that. There’s also nothing like too much mango. I used The Kitchn’s recipe on my friend Aditya Raghavan’s recommendation, and adapted it slightly. I would recommend reading through their recipe because it goes into a lot of details, which comes in handy when baking a cheesecake. It’s not difficult, but it’s got short, fiddly steps.
Adapted from The Kitchn.
For the crust
170g- Ginger biscuits
For the cheesecake
900g- Cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup- Sugar
1 tbsp- Corn flour (optional)
A pinch salt
½ cup- Greek yogurt or hung curd
1 tsp- Vanilla extract
3- Large free range eggs
1- Large free range egg yolk
Pulp of 2 mangoes
For the topping
3 to 4- Mangoes
For the crust
*Grease a springform pan (10”). Now put the pan on two diagonally placed strips of aluminum foil and cover it on all sides. This is to stop water from entering the pan while baking it.
*Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
*Blitz the ginger biscuits in a mixer.
*Mix in melted butter until it clumps together.
*Spread the mixture on the bottom of the pan, use the bottom of a steel bowl to even it out.
*Bake for eight minutes until the crust starts to brown.
*Let it cool.
For the cheesecake filling
*Using a hand-held mixer, whisk the cream cheese, sugar, corn flour and salt until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Make sure all the cream cheese lumps have evened out.
*Add the yoghurt and vanilla and beat again.
*Beat in the eggs one at a time.
*Give a last stir with a spatula.
*Mix in the mango pulp.
*Pour it on top of the biscuit layer.
Baking the cheesecake
*Cheesecakes have to be baked in a water bath.
*So place your pan into a larger baking dish.
*Boil water and pour into the baking dish, making sure no water falls into the cheesecake.
*Fill an inch of the pan with the water.
*Bake at 350F/180C for an hour.
*You know the cheesecake is done when it’s slightly puffed and set and a little bit wobbly in the centre.
*If you see cracks forming, then stop immediately.
*Switch off the oven and leave the door open a crack.
*Cool for about an hour.
*Now bring the cheesecake out and remove the foil.
*Run a knife around the cake’s edge to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan.
*Cool completely and then freeze for at least five hours.
*Peel the mangoes and blitz them to a fine pureé. Top the cheesecake with the aamras and serve immediately.