Mist, fruit and a lychee salad
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
From Keats Ode to Autumn
As the city is blanketed in morning fog and the last of the tomatoes wither on the vine, Melbournians enter a dance of not quite knowing what to wear at this time of year, making the commute to work most amusing. One young thing will be flashing the flesh in cut-off jeans, while another hides under a heavy coat. The men of late stay clad in t-shirts exposing a vast array of forearm tattoos. Yesterday I spotted a classic be-hearted “mother” on one thirty-ish lad and the stark number “29” on another. I itched to ask their stories.
The fruit that Keats so elegantly wrote of are on the turn. At the market exotic lychees and longans nestle next to apples and pears. I’ve convinced myself that fresh blueberries cost less than a glass of wine, so why not enjoy them a little bit longer?
But cooking with exotic fruit has never been my thing. I blame the toxic red “sweet and sour” sauce that clung to deep fried Chinese morsels that haunted my childhood. And let’s not get started on the 1970s Women’s Weekly curries featuring lamb, curry powder and a whole fruit salad bowl of apples, raisins and canned pineapple.
Over time my sweet 'n savoury-averse taste buds have undergone a re-education. It began with the delicious “summer rolls” at a long gone Gertrude Street Japanese kitchen. How could I guess that ice paper rolled around vegetables, nuts and mango could taste so good? Then as the diversity of Asian menus grew wider, the Chinese fluorescent sticky sauce was mercifully replaced with the tangy combo of fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar.
Time to take the leap and add fruit to the main course I reckon. This weekend I whipped up a variant on this Asian coleslaw, in the form of a rice noodle salad. The sauce remains the same – that heavenly combo of lime, fish sauce, palm sugar and a little heat from this season’s searing red chilies.
Toss together a bundle of thin rice noodles, softened in hot water, with cucumber, grated carrot and a handful of aromatic herbs (Vietnamese or ordinary mint, coriander etc). Shell some fresh lychees and rip into pieces, top with chunks of smoked trout, add dressing and mix thoroughly.
I loved the bursts of sweet fruit in this old favourite. Ripe mango, papaya or pineapple would work equally as well. Definitely one for a warm autumn’s day.
Enjoy the mellow fruits while they last!
Much nicer fresh but the packaging is cuter!