This bright and cheery mango salad is a colourful party in a bowl. It’s fresh and fruity, crunchy and light – the perfect accompaniment to a spring or summer meal outside. Loaded with tangy, silky diced mango, sweet red pepper, and crunchy cucumber, it packs a variety of textures and flavours, dressed in a light lime vinaigrette with just a touch of heat. (Skip to recipe.)
Whenever I need a spot of cheer, I think back to our Antiguan sailing holiday earlier this year. Just remembering that colourful tropical island with its sparkling blue waters brings a smile to my face and helps momentarily chase away the stresses of this crazy life we’re living right now.
The sailing part was a memorable experience, as I shared in this Blackened Red Snapper with Mango Salsa post. But we also had some great experiences before and after the sailing adventure. During our first four days we rented a house with a swimming pool near Jolly Harbour. We had a rental van and the six of us explored this tiny Caribbean island (only 14 miles long and 11 miles wide).
The highlight was an afternoon where we three ladies took in a cooking class and rum tasting at the lovely hilltop home of Nicole and Adam of Nicole’s Table Cooking Classes.
The vista over St. John’s Harbour was spectacular and the cooking experience was a whole lotta delicious fun. The lively and entertaining Nicole gave us some interesting background tidbits on the island cuisine of Antigua while we prepared the rum and brown sugar marinade for the grilled chicken.
We learned how to make a whole variety of delicious Antiguan dishes: fresh roasted coconut crisps and plantain chips, sweet potato soup with rum, rum marinated chicken with caramelized onions, red beans and rice, rainbow garden salad, and the famous Antiguan Rum Cake (using 1¼ cups of rum!). And we enjoyed it all with bottomless pitchers of Nicole’s famous traditional rum punch.
Only half of our time was spent cooking, as the rest of the time we got a rum education and tasting session from Nicole’s husband, Adam. Lots of fun learning (and sipping) there!
After our amazing sailing trip was over, we all headed off to different corners of the island for little adventures of our own. Raymond and I found an absolute gem of a beach cottage right at the ocean’s edge; a little whitewashed cottage with the breezes blowing through it and a large screened porch looking out over the waves, which provided a continuous soothing backdrop of crashing rhythm to our days there. I felt like I was in a Hemmingway novel, living a writing life on a tropical island (though very little writing did I do there).
Breakfast every morning was in this breezy screened porch to the tune of the ceaseless crashing of the waves, just a few steps away.
Raymond and I rented a car and had some more fun adventures driving around the island (on the left side of the road!). I loved how brightly coloured all the houses and buildings are in Antigua – full of joy.
The friendly people are just as colourful.
On of our highlights was an afternoon spent swimming and snorkeling with stingrays. A boat took us a 10 minute ride out to a shallow spot in a bay where tons of curious (and hungry) stingrays (30 to 40 of them!) came to check us out and eat the squid we brought along to feed them. They are known as the ‘felines of the sea’ and really did swim right around us, stroking their soft fins against our bodies as they brushed by, just like cats. It was a most memorable experience!
Another highlight was a food walking tour we did around St. John’s. The indominitable Heather of Eat n Lime Food Tours, lead us on a four-hour walk through the streets of the capital city to find hidden culinary gems of fantastic local food, peppered with stories and anecdotes of Antiguan history and culture. We learned that ‘liming’ is the local term for ‘hanging out’. An absolutely worthwhile and delicious experience!
We also had some great walks around Turtle Cove, where our little beach cottage was.
Antigua, you are beautiful and I hope to come back again some day.
After we got home, my cooking was inspired by the fresh island produce we enjoyed in Antigua. Mangoes there are particularly sweet and ripe, and this bright mango salad reminds me of the Caribbean sunshine.
Fun Mango Fact
You can eat the skin of a mango! Yes, you can. It’s really no different than eating an apple with the skin on. And like with many fruits, most of the nutrients are hanging out just below the skin. The mango skin is really not tough at all. I first learned this years ago from our son’s friend who grew up in Sierra Leone – he just bit into a mango, skin and all, and ate it like a juicy apple. Try it next time you have a nice ripe mango. More fiber and more nutrients, great texture! Why throw out some of that tropical fruit goodness?
A good way to enjoy the mango skin is by leaving it on in this bright fresh mango salad (it’s quite similar in texture to the cucumber skin). Cubes of golden sunshiny mango, silky and sweet, contrast deliciously with crunchy cucumber and juicy red bell pepper. It’s all dressed with a light lime vinaigrette, with just a hint of heat from a few bright chili flakes – a fantastic fruity salad to serve with summer grilling meals.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: If you’d like more of a spicy hit, increase the amount of chili flakes in the salad.
See this post for how to cut up a mango – but disregard the peeling bit – that was before I learned how easy it is to eat the mango peel. In this crunchy mango salad the peel isn’t even noticeable.
- 2 mangoes, cubed, with skin on (about 2½ cups)
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cups diced English cucumber, with skin on (about 300 grams)
- a handful of chopped cilantro (¼ to ½ cup)
- ¼ cup finely chopped red onion (or 2 green onions, sliced)
- zest of 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1½ limes)
- 3 tablespoons oil (I like avocado oil)
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Wash the mangoes, no need to peel – the peel is edible. Then slice off the ‘cheeks’ (the rounded sides of the fruit on each side of the flat pit. Cut that into ½-inch (1cm) cubes. Cut off the ripe fruit around the pit and cube that, too.
Place the diced mangoes, bell pepper, cucumber, cilantro, and red onion in a bowl.
In a small bowl or cup, whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, oil, red pepper flakes, and salt. Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients.
Toss everything gently to combine.
Serves 4 to 6.
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