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Visit the Adelaide Botanic Gardens were on their northern entrance they have an astounding array of different chillies, many of which are not supposed to grow at our altitude. The magpies have clearly developed a taste for spice and seem to enjoy even the Habaneros, number 10 on the Scoville heat scale.

Shirl the Pearl
is the fabulous slim wasted exotic red head who ran the floor at Mistress Augustine’s for a very long time, 30 years on she still looks as gorgeous and still makes the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted.

mad about mangoes!

Sometimes I amuse myself reading old stories and letters from people who have worked with me over the years. In many ways Anthony Bourdain wrote my book when he wrote Kitchen Confidential. Kitchens are incestuous hot and steamy places, the proximity to death and killing, fire and flame and flesh is always close and the long anti–social hours make for unlikely trysts that might not otherwise exist (or at best survive beyond a night). Buddhists say live you life well because when you are old you can relive it and despite my failure to believe in any god I always find great truth in this small and wise philosophical saying. As one gets old to have so many wonderful, funny and fabulous memories connected with food and drink and friends is a constant source of entertainment. There are of course in a life hard lived, but well lived, some sad memories like our young apprentice Chris Treadwell who died at just 21 from cancer. Chris and Phillip Searle’s then apprentice Tom Claesson always had a new prank that ranged from warriors’ breast plates made from venison rib cages to massive mango tits that amused them hugely. Chris’s life was short and sweet, a good time and not a long time, a phrase that another young chef recently offered as his philosophy for life; “I’m here for a good time, not a long time!” It might have made me fearful for him, but instead it reminded me it was the mango season and mangoes more than any other fruit have the most amusing memories for me.
One of the best things about a mango is that you can choose to do nothing and they are gorgeous or you can turn them into showgirls with fabulous desserts like this wonderful dessert cake.
A friend who travels regularly to Mexico has filled pages of my journals with regaled meals and travels in the lakes district above Mexico City (and dozens of other places). She is a keen observer and an adventurous eater and a good storyteller. Restaurants, little more than huts with tiers of caged iguana (a Mexican delicacy) at the back shaded by a thatch veranda and fresh water oysters the size of my hand. A peeled mango, ripe and voluptuous speared on a stick and dipped into toffee laced with black and red chillies. The mescal toffee apple was the inspiration of a mango and chilli sorbet at my former restaurant Mistress Augustine’s that cleansed the palate with the skill of a barber’s blade scraping the richness of the last dish from the tongue, preparing it for the assault of the next.
Her stories of exotic food and places bring Frieda Karlo striding through my kitchen, alive colourful, her wonderful black arched eye brows and dazzling jewellery, colourful clothes, her straight back and slight limp. She’s so alive I briefly suspect she has run her finger through my sauce and imagine she has the faint smell of mangoes on her skin and that for a joke she has stuffed her shirt with two mangoes embellishing her breasts. It reminds me of Lew Kathreptis (formerly Mezes) sitting naked in the shallows at Maslin’s Beach with dozens of mango stones floating at his feet and tiny glittering fish lasciviously feeding from his toes and the mango stones. Of David Swain (Fino, Willunga) who used to take home mangoes to eat with his girlfriend Sarah in the bath. They are still happily together 25 years later so perhaps mangoes are, the real food of love. Of the apprentice Justin Miles (now executive chef and part owner of Windy Point Restaurant), who left a note in the cool room, “Mother I have taken two mangoes and a bottle of Roederer, I promise its love! (3 am).” Right! Of the note we found in the Philippines mango box, “nice Catholic boy seeks good virgin wife.” To which the same Justin Miles, a very quick wit, looked around the kitchen and, with complete confidence threw the note in the bin. Such are the dreams and memories of an old cook doing the million boring repetitive tasks that make a fabulous meal, but for some inexplicable reason mangoes and oysters have better memories than most.

Ann Oliver



mango recipes

  • Shirl the Pearl’s mango daiquiri
  • mango and lime bavarian raspberry jelly sponge
  • fast mango sorbet
  • fast eggless mango gelati
  • mango and chilli sorbet with glacé chillies
  • mango ice cream
  • hot poached mangoes with passionfruit sauce
  • Thai style mango, corn and prawn salad
  • mango and lime chutney
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