Archive for the 'spring' Category

Spring in Brissie

I’ve been a bit of a grinch about spring. It’s so easy to feel the comparison to Germany at this time of year. Winter was strictly brown, even the weeds in the pavement cracks would disappear. But the reward was a spectacular profusion of new growth when spring came at long last. It’s easy to feel here that spring doesn’t exist at all by comparison.

But it does. Spring is Jacaranda season in Brisbane. A purple canopy above the city’s head and beneath its feet. Beautiful.


Spring and secrets

I don’t remember spring having nearly such an impact in Australia. Come late August, I’d just be getting tired of the short, chilly days when suddenly a particularly warm one would make me think “Oh, sweet! Summer again!” In Germany, spring is a phenomenon. The effect of the change can be seen and felt everywhere. The bulbs appear, followed by the daisies, then the dandelions which give way to perfect hemispheres of wish-procuring fluff. Leipzig has woken from its slumber and come alive with bikes, canoes, cafes and BBQs. The market stalls are heavy with asparagus, radishes, rhubarb and strawberries. Life is very, very good, and the idea is to enjoy it now.

With all this new growth and renewal, it seems as good a time as any to let you all in on the biggest piece of news in MavisandFrank history. All things being well, baby number two will join us this September. As you’ll notice, I’ve been cooking up this particular secret for many months now. Rest assured my body is boldly displaying the fertile, fleshy joy of being not one, but two. In the process I’ve gained entry into the wonderful world of the frauenarzt and hebamme. Perhaps I’ll share these delights with you sometime soon. In the meantime, it’s time for ein eis.

Broadly speaking

Indulge me while I write yet another food post. You see, Spring is not only the time of all things rhubarb and asparagus, it’s also the only time of year to eat broad beans. A lot of people shy away from broad beans because they take a bit of extra loving. Unlike peas, where it’s a matter of ripping in and getting them out, shelling broad beans is quite an art. If you try to rip in, you’ll never get them out. They have too much self-respect. It’s a matter of squeezing the foamy, spongy pod at just the right angle, and popping them out gracefully like the cork of a good chablis. And while you’re standing there popping, take the opportunity to think about life and the cosmos.

Broad beans are another of those things that cause disharmony in the Kelly family. But this time, I’d have to side with Dad. What kind of woman isn’t thrilled by a meal of fresh broad beans? A woman spoiled by thirty years of home grown vegetables, I’d say. Dad, if you cook them this way, she will love them. Promise. The recipe I’m posting below may well be my last meal of choice. Totally worth the podding labour. By the way (if you’re in Australia) now is the time plant broad beans. If you don’t have a garden but are lucky enough to live in Wollongong, buy them from the strawberry man at the markets. They’re grown locally and (if you do feel the need) you can buy them already podded 🙂

This recipe comes from Jamie’s Kitchen. Frozen peas work just fine.

Broad Bean and Crispy Pancetta Salad with a Pea, Peccorino and Mint Dressing

1 clove of garlic, peeled and left whole
300g/10½oz podded broad beans
8 slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
a handful of whole blanched almonds
150g/5½oz podded fresh peas
70g/2½oz pecorino or Parmesan cheese, or a mixture of both, grated
a handful of fresh mint, leaves picked
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 or 2 lemons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pot to the boil, half-filled with water, but with no salt as this makes broad beans and peas toughen. Add your garlic and allow the water to boil for a couple of minutes before adding the broad beans. Cook for around 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how young the beans are. Simply taste one to check. If you feel the skins are a little tough, which they can be sometimes, let them cool a little and then you can peel them very quickly by pinching and squeezing the bean out. Throw the skins away, and keep the garlic clove to one side. Place your pancetta on a baking tray, with the almonds spread out next to it. Place in a hot oven at 250°C/475°F/gas 9 − keeping an eye on the almonds to make sure they don’t colour too much. You should be able to crisp up the pancetta at the same time as toasting the almonds, but simply remove one or the other if it is getting too far ahead.

To make the dressing, put your raw podded peas and the soft, boiled garlic clove into a pestle and mortar or a Magimix and bash or blitz until smooth. Add the cheese and most of the mint and stir or pulse to make a smooth paste. You want to turn this into a thick dressing, so add the olive oil and 4 to 5 tablespoons of lemon juice, to your preference. Season to taste − it should have an amazing flavour of sweet peas, twangy lemon, fragrant mint and a softness and roundness from the cheese. A balance is good, but you should also trust your own personal judgement. I generally like mine to be a bit more lemony, to cut through the smokiness of the pancetta.

Mix the dressing with the broad beans and sprinkle this over four plates. Crumble the pancetta over, followed by a sprinkling of the almonds, which can be crushed or bashed up a little. Tear a little mint over the top with a little shaved Parmesan if you like.

Recipe credit:

Wandering in the Forest


Someone told us recently that their favourite thing about Stuttgart is the festivals. From now into the next few months, Stuttgart hosts its fair share of fests, including a beer festival that is next to Oktoberfest in size. Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest, which began this week, is apparently the biggest Spring festival in Europe. As European-sized weekend crowds are something we’re not yet accustomed to (and try to avoid at all costs) Tony took the bold step of a day off work so we could see the blessed event for ourselves.

Frühlingsfest might best be described as a cross between Australia’s Wonderland and a day at your local German club. Rides of every acrobatic formation, a giant beer stein turning gracefully on a roof, and everywhere touches of Swabian culture at its festive best. Carnivals are bizarre places at the best of times. Wandering amongst neon signs bearing half-naked women and monstrous plastic ghosts, I had the strangest feeling of being somewhere familiar, and yet different. The exaggerated weirdness of it all dredged up memories of Bhaktin’s theory of “the carnivalesque” and Baudrillards “hyperreality” from English literature at Uni. “The carnivalesque” applies to any situation where the order of things is temporarily turned upside down (Alice in Wonderland is a classic example) and all social norms are abandoned for a short while. I couldn’t help wondering whether my sense of disorientation was because I don’t yet understand the social norms of Germany in the first place. One striking difference I did notice. While the sideshow alleys and ghost trains looked just like those I grew up with at the Camden Show, German “carnies” are much more polite than their Aussie counterparts. No jeering as you walk past, no shouts of “Come on, win your girlfriend a big teddy like a man!”

Tony and I had done some research and were in pursuit of some crispy pork knuckle, apparently the gastronomic highlight of the festival. Having found our seats, ordered our meals from a lederhosen-clad waiter and paid the princely sum of twenty Euros, imagine our dismay when we were served… chicken. Who would have thought Göckele did not mean “knuckle” but some version of “chicken”? This was a blow not easily recovered from. But as we wandered among the garish sideshow stands and strange German-themed tableau (the highlight being taxidermied animals), we couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief at being so far from home in so absurd a place. Thankfully, the chicken was thoroughly tasty!

Spring in Botnang

Rose picking daisies

View over Botnang

Spring flowers

Magnolia flowers

About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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