Tag Archives: spring

It’s (not) easy being green: Burmese green mango salad

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It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.

This song could have been written for young mangoes, as they slowly grow on mango trees, nestled in the mango flowers (!), blending in with the leaves and other ordin’ry things.

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As we go into late summer, mangoes ripen, and take on the colours of red, or yellow or gold. They become such a luscious fruit, the essence of summer, humidity, sun, and heat like a warm blanket.

But each year, part of me looks back nostalgically on the green mangoes, appearing in the markets so briefly, like that moment between spring and summer. Green mangoes that are fresh and cool, rather than heady-tropical. As Kermit might have said:

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green’s the color of green mangoes.
And green can be crunchy and sweet-sour-like.*

* with apologies for the textual travesty

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This year’s green mango season, I made the green mango salad from Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

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Post-election goat cheese and pistachio loaf

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Australia has a new Prime Minister-elect. Before the election, some people planned to move overseas (unil the next election) if one political party won; and some others planned to leave the country if either of the main political parties won – guess they must be somewhere far away by now.

Political ‘stuff’ aside, if I was choosing a place to live for the next three years, where would I go? Would I be able to find goats cheese, fresh mozzarella, figs and quince in season? How far is a good vendor of xiao long bao, or pho, or green papaya salad or hor mok? What about crusty sourdoughs? And would I miss Clive Palmer’s Titanic II?

I probably would take an extravagant round-the-world trip instead.

The first stop? France. All that cheese, wine, and women who don’t get fat (what about the men?), and all that kuign amann.

After France, the possibilities are (almost) endless – Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, India, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Spain, Portugal, Russia (with a ride on the Trans-Siberian railway), Iceland, some corner of the Middle East (Syria, I wonder if I could go back to Syria), Japan, and let’s not forget that blogger feast in a Medieval feasting tent I’ve been planning with Laura.

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In the meantime, I’ll bask in the sunlight, clear sky, reading at the beach and riot-of-colours flowers that come with a Sydney spring. And bake things with a French accent. Such as this savoury goat cheese loaf (still working on that kuign amman…).

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Finding Spring: tu b’shvat cake

Yes, other parts of the world are moving into winter. But we are the Antipodes, and we are on the cusp of summer.

Our neighbourhood has new colour, from the sun, re-painted verandas, and the flowers that have sprung up in unexpected places. My favourite harbinger of Spring is still the jacaranda tree – for the rest of the year, I hardly notice the trees that line the streets or the nearby university. Then, come November, every street corner has a tree sporting heavy clumps of purple flowers. When a road is lined with jacarandas that reach over the cars, pedestrians and bitumen towards each other, it can be a magnificent sight. (When still at university, the jacaranda was the much more terrifying harbinger of end-of-year exams and thesis. Nowadays, I can sit under the jacaranda near the Philosophy department and barely notice students run to and from the library. Ah, post-university adulthood.)

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I particularly like the jacarandas on an overcast day, when the purple flowers become poignant, somehow, lending a mauve hue to the sky. Even the fallen flowers on the grass become more piercing to the eye. One rainy day, I saw a girl with a purple umbrella walking under a heavy canopy of purple flowers.

It was an instagram moment (if I used instagram).

With the temperatures rising, we are turning to pasta with lemony ricotta and basil instead of long braises. Likewise, slow holiday baking has taken a back seat to coconut-y lemon curd tarts. But for the past week, one particular cake on the list has been weaving its spell in my mind.

It’s the Tu B’shvat cake.

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