Amba sauce. When I think about it, I feel utter love because it’s such a beautiful thing. I think so highly of it that, if Amba were a man, I would run away with him. My first experience of this Iraqi sweet and sour mango condiment was sitting on a harbour wall in the Crusader town of Akko (Acre) in northern Israel en route to Mount Carmel. It was so hot within the narrow winding alleys that I was compelled to stop to buy a glass of freshly pressed pomegranate juice and a sabich sandwich which is comprised of warm pillowy pitta wrapped around juicy slices of aubergine fried in olive oil, a hard-boiled egg, a generous layer of garlicky hummus, lots of crunchy pickles and lashings of amba sauce, As you might imagine it was absolutely heavenly and quite a lot sexy. There once was a time that I would have forsaken all the jewels in the world just for a taste of it. Luckily I learned how to make it.
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small mangoes (choose Alphonso if in season), cut into small cubes
1 tsp amba spice mix (mango powder, ground mustard seeds, dried lime powder, turmeric, cayenne and ground fenugreek seeds)
A generous pinch of sea salt
60ml cold water
Half lemon, juiced
1 very large lime, juiced
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
How I make it
Place a medium pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté on a low heat for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
Add the spices to the pan followed by the mango and the salt. Stir everything around for a few minutes until the mango begins to soften smashing it with the back of your spoon as it does so.
Then add the citrusy juices, water and mustard (if using). Simmer for around three minutes stirring all the time. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Blend to a smooth sauce – as I have done here – or leave it chunky if you prefer. Add a splash or two of cyder vinegar to balance out the sweet with the sour. Pour into a sealed jar and store in the fridge for up to a week.
Use it as a condiment to highlight falafel, kebabs, roasted vegetables. salads and shawarma. And, of course, with a classic sabich sandwich.