Weeding takes a bit of a back seat and that feels like a holiday
boysenberries and cherries, something we prefer to ice cream.
The main vegetable area is a mass of lush and vibrant green as crops bulk up before coming to maturity in another two or three months. The garlic pushes up twining, twirling flower heads, the potatoes and peppers begin their flowering, the comfrey, corn, parsnips, carrots, beetroot and zucchini race ahead while the pumpkins and melons sprawl over the ground at a rapid pace. It’s a jungle.
Weeding takes a bit of a back seat, blocked out by the surge of growth and that in itself feels like a holiday. It’s the party and festive season so I’m hoping we all have a fun and safe holiday time, and that our gardens continue to give us joy and pleasure and heaps of yummy meals.
In gardens there are tracks and paths so we can get from A to B. Around country gardens and house areas, tracks often evolve over time as the logical – that is, the quickest – way to get from the green house to the verandah, to the back door to my writing hut, across the lawn to the workshop, or out to the horses and chooks. There is the walk to the vege garden and avocado trees, the way past the south end of the greenhouse and the track through the paddock, past the line of fruit trees, down to the swing bridge. Then there are the bush and river tracks and beyond. The lawn areas are just wide laneways too because they all lead us somewhere.
Tracks around the so-called civilised areas here are mown grass, shingled vehicle roads or the proverbial beaten track, worn down by 30-odd years of boots and bare feet moving along them. These are tracks wide enough that tractors, vehicles, horses and push bikes can be used as we move about the property on a daily basis.
What delineates the tracks are the plants on either side, from grass and welcome volunteers to those purposely planted for a certain effect. The enhancement of the volunteers in many cases meant the disposal of barberry, blackberry and gorse.
Landscapers and designers talk about various effects, forms and outcomes, and it’s true that paths and tracks create long views. When they curve around corners they also add an element of surprise.
But my best tip is to go with what you like, and with what evolves in your special spaces.
Put a sliver of galangal in your mouth – if you dare – and you’ll experience a curious, sharp, sweet taste on the tongue. Then you’ll feel ‘the burn’, more powerful than ginger.
However, the flavour is more complex than ginger. Our Singaporean friend and avid cook Lilian Loh describes it as a ‘clean, peppery bite with pungent spiciness.’ Think mustard rather than ginger, with a shade of lemon, a trace of pine needles and hints of tropical fruits.
What she is describing is the flavour of greater galangal (called kha in Thai), one of four types of galangal. It’s used with great relish in Thai cuisine, almost to the exclusion of ginger, and is sometimes known as Thai or Siamese ginger.
In some Thai dishes, galangal is the star performer as in tom kha gai (see page 71) which translates as boiled galangal with chicken. More often it plays a subtle role, complementing rather than dominating the flavour. It is one of the key ingredients, along with other spices and herbs, in Tom Yum soup (my absolute personal favourite) which features the wonderful sweet, sour, salty, spicy combination of mukrat (kaffir) lime, lime juice, chilli, lemongrass and fish sauce.
Galangal is an essential ingredient of most curry pastes including Malaysian asam laksa, Cambodian samlor kor ko soup and various Indonesian dishes such as spicy beef rendang. It is often included in seafood dishes as it balances out ‘fishy’ flavours.
You can tell galangal is related to ginger by its tall stems and flag-like green leaves. Dig down a bit and you’ll find ginger-like rhizomes just below the surface.
But if you are tempted to substitute ginger for galangal in recipes, don’t! When it comes to galangal, only the real thing will do. The distinct peppery flavour is what makes Thai food so distinctive, and nothing beats fresh galangal.
But finding the real thing may not be so easy as there is a lot of confusion about what is ‘real’ galangal, and not everything sold as galangal is correct.