Passionflower – Religious Sentimentality

23-passionflowerName: Purple Passionflower – Passiflora Edulis

Meaning: Religious superstition

The most striking thing about the passionflower apart from its stylised and slightly alien appearance, is the extent to which it has been co-opted as a metaphor to explain a wide number of religious and cultural ideas.

First, 10 points for you if you knew that in Christian theology the ‘Passion’ in Passionflower refers not to garden variety lust, but to the Passion of Christ, that short and traumatic period between Christ’s entry to Jerusalem and his betrayal and crucifixion.

15th and 16th century Spanish Christian missionaries used the parts of the flower to illustrate the passion story as follows, (thanks Wikipedia!):

In India, it is also used to illustrate a religious idea as it colloquially called “Paanch Paandav”. The five anthers are interpreted as the five Pandavas, the divine Krishna is at the centre.

In less religiously charged interpretations, the distinctive shape of the flower leads to it being called some version of Clock Flower in such disparate cultures as Israel, Greece and Japan. In Turkey, the shape of the flowers have reminded people of Rota Fortunae, or the Wheel of Fortune.




Sage – Long life

9 sageName: Sage – Salvia Officinalis

Meaning – Long Life

Sage was very big player in the middle ages.  Officinalis, refers to the plant’s importance in medicinal use—the officina was the traditional herb and medicine storeroom of a monastery.

Sge was sometimes also called S. salvatrix (sage the saviour).  It has some of the best ancient testimonials, many referring to its miraculous healing properties. An Anglo-Saxon manuscript read “Why should man die when he has sage?”

John Gerard‘s Herball (1597) states that sage “is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickeneth the senses and memory, strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members.”  After all, who wants a trembly member?


Made from scratch: everyday pleasures

Homemade._SX260_Every now and again I get very excited by a new recipe.  But it’s never one of those Cuisine Magazine extravaganzas with 27 ingredients.  Instead, the recipes which float my boat are those which show how to make something I’d ordinarily be obliged to buy such as crackers, pasta, biscuits, jam and …marshmallows you know, just the essentials.

With this approach to cooking, the pleasure comes from a feeling of self sufficiency, a smidgen of frugality and a soupcon of sticking it to ‘big food’.  In going back to the way our grandmothers used to cook, there’s something of the pioneering spirit about it. If you have relied on preprepared or processed foods (and let’s face it there can’t be too many families with two parents working outside the home who haven’t) is can feel empowering to get back to basics and demystify food. For me it’s satisfying to circumvent the commercial powers that be, and I enjoy knowing what goes in to what we eat.  Some say growing your own food is a political act.  I’d say cooking it is too.

My favourite recipes are based around pantry staples, with the considerable benefit that you don’t need to get dressed to make them (no special trip out for pomegranate molasses!). Generally staples can be bought in bulk, meaning that otherwise pricy Lavosh crackers for example cost virtually nothing to make, and you can make a lot at once.

If a recipe is to make it on to the regular rota of things made in my kitchen they also need to be more delicious than ‘shop bought’. Putting some spectacular failures aside for a moment, this is often shockingly easy.  A wise gardening rule is only to grow what you really like to eat.  This rule applies to cooking and baking as well.  If the kids eat them, and they store or freeze well, consider me sold.

There are certain reliable guides I have found, and I highly recommend them.

Everyday-109x150Sophie Gray of Destitute Gourmet is my go-to for all basic household cooking.  My top five most cooked items, including birthday cakes and everyday baking come from her stable.  These are the cookbooks I wished to replace first after an unfortunate incident with a rogue watermelon.

Sophie is remarkable for her down to earth approach, her sense of humour and her understanding of the pressures involved in feeding a family well and healthily on a budget.


One indicator of long term value in a cookbook for me is the number of times I have had it out from the library before I buy it.  I just couldn’t let this one go.   Homemade is a gorgeous book by Yvette Van Boven, a Dutch chef with a lot of heart and a fearless ‘why not’ attitude to making hearty, delicious satisfying food, including the mucho moreish Lavosh crackers mentioned above.


Homemade pantry TopRight,1,0_SH20_

3. Another reliable indicator is the number of post it notes you stick into a book as you read through it for the first time.  This book, Homemade pantry – 101 foods you can stop buying and start making  looked like a little yellow 3M sponsored hedgehog by the time I had finished with it.  In fact, I’m still not finished with it.

Do you have a go-to cookbook for everyday or do you rely on friends and family for recipes? And what do you find you tend to make over and over again?

Appliance love

Rice CookerNo, not that sort of appliance.  This is a G rated post!

Ever had the experience where you encounter an item you had never considered buying, and then discovered that you can’t live without it?

Recently our 15 year old washing machine gave up the ghost. Along with the best price on the market for a Panasonic front loader, and very speedy service, the lovely folks at Magness Benrow sent us a complimentary Panasonic rice cooker (RRP$179).

Now, I’m not an appliance geek.  As far as I’m concerned, most things in the kitchen can be accomplished with a pot and a good knife.  I know how to cook rice. I’ve never considered a rice cooker.  And really, who wants another device cluttering up those valuable clear sufaces? So the unopened box sat on the table for two weeks as we considered flogging it on Trademe, before we were curious enough to try it.

And it was OK, it was rice, it was cooked, probably needed a little more water next time.  I did appreciate the lack of a big pot to clean and the absence of boiled over rice water on the stove.  Also the quantity was sufficient that we were able to save some for fried rice the next evening, always handy with three hungry boys.

The breakthough came when we noticed the ‘porridge’ setting and the very simple timer.  Our kids love porridge.  Often the first creaky words they utter in the morning re “is there porridge?”.  It’s warm, it’s satisfying, it’s low GI. It’s love in a bowl really.  The kids add their own milk and too much brown sugar (a large part of the appeal I’m sure). Sometimes we get a bit fancy and add sultanas, grated apple or a shake of cinnamon.

But who has time to stand there patiently stirring rolled oats when you need to be flapping about in your dressing gown, shrieking “you’re late, you’re late, have you brushed your teeth, what school trip? where’s your homework book?  You forgot your lunch, what is this sticky thing in your bag? Aaaaaaaarggghhhh!!!”.  And the pot, oh that pot full of cold stuck porridge which sits sullen and sticky in the sink all day because the porridge caught while you were flapping about.  Why is there never time to scrape the burned offering off the bottom?

Even assuming you’re more organised and less shouty than I am, you could still enjoy the feeling of gliding in to your kitchen to meet warm hearty porridge, perfectly timed and kept warm for you each morning.

The non-stick bowl just takes a wipe and replace.  Although convincing the family they shouldn’t be digging into it with metal spoons is something of an ongoing issue.  With the five cup model, there’s plenty for the four of us who like porridge and sufficient left over for our frequent visitors.  It’s easy enough for the seven year old to set it up with no drama.

An unexpected bonus is that Mr 12 likes to reheat porridge for a warm snack when he gets back from school.  It’s healthier, cheaper and more filling than the awful salty yellow two minute noodles he otherwise favours.  Win/Win.

Families are busy and chaotic places at the best of times (I’m reliably informed it’s not just ours). All those swirling pressures and agendas can add such a lot of tension, especially in the morning.  I’m always looking for ways to bring a little peace and ease to the fraught times, so I’m fully in favour of anything which helps us feel warm, cared for and happy in an efficient, low pressure way.  The Panasonic porridgemaker does just this. It has a permanent place on my bench. LOVE.

Is there an appliance you can’t live without?


Would a vegetable by any other name taste as sweet?

Red Capsicum Upright100 Day project #20: Capsicum

Couldn’t you just eat by name alone?  Certain foods just sound like poetry: pomegranate, artichoke, celeriac, mandarin, broccolini, coriander are music to my ears and twice as appetising as they might otherwise be.  Equally appealing is anything that sounds sumptuous in French such as mille feuille, bearnaise or creme brulee.

On the other hand ‘Kohlrabi’ sounds like a skin condition and I grow cauliflower (which sounds like some kind of  birth by-product) only because I can plant the purple one, and call it ‘Violet Queen’.  She’s very pretty too.

Despite their superfood status, their fine flavour and their glorious indigo colour, I sometimes struggle to enjoy the Maori Potato Urenika because of its other name ‘tutaekuri’, which most school children will know means ‘dog poo’.  Talk about your truth in advertising!

Consider then the simple capsicum.  How is it that we come to call it by its Latin name while most of the rest of the world simply calls it a ‘bell pepper’?  I do feel the ‘proper name’ gives a sense of dignity and history to this satisfyingly sculptural vegetable.

I appreciate the capsicum not only for that full-on burst of primary colour but also because they are so damned expensive at the moment, and one of the things I find it hardest to grow.  They take a long time in the sun to ripen, and I’m not always that strategic in my planting.  Note to self on that.

Of course the capsicum is a salad standard, either in crunchy slices or grilled with its skin removed.  Jamie Oliver blitzes a jar of chargrilled for his sausage pasta 15 minute meal.  But on dark winter nights I love to eat capsicum cut in half and roasted gently, packed with half a skinned tomato, an anchovy, some capers and a glug of olive oil.  The other day I tried them with green sicilian olives and a slug of balsamic vinegar and found myself greedily content with the result.