Daphne

It’s a cold rainy Monday morning in Melbourne and I’m sitting at my desk preparing my recipes for cooking class tomorrow.
Over the weekend, my lovely niece gave me quite a few sprigs of daphne from the bush by her front door and I am drinking in the exquisite scent of the small but strongly fragrant blooms.
A native of China and Japan, this bush, also known as winter flowering daphne,  grows well in cool climates which enables it to flourish and flower prolifically in Southern Australia. The most common varieties have pink and white flowers but there is also a white variety, often with yellow and green variegated leaves that has a more citrussy perfume…  If you can get your hands on a sprig of either variety, put it in a vase near your work space or next to your bed and enjoy it during its brief season…. definitely one of life’s little pleasures!

 


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Violet Time

Violet products

I was visiting friends in the country last week. It was a grey day and the autumn colours were rendered even more brilliant for having been washed by the rain. The rain let up just before I arrived and a quick tour of the garden before lunch had me lusting after the huge crop of violets peeking out from under heart shaped dark leaves.
Melancholy, cool days with the pigeon-breast skies and falling leaves that herald the arrival of winter winter have me  feeling like changing my summer fig perfume for Penhaligon’s Violetta and snuggle on the couch under a soft woolen throw with a good book and relaxing music. A little vase of fresh violets always makes me smile too.  It is a shame they have such a short vase life although I have found that, if they are sprayed with a light mist of water several times a day, they can last up to four or five days.
I keep a little tin of Violette flavoured “Les Anis de Flavigny” pastilles on the side table or in my handbag. These are violet flavoured sugar drops concealing a grain of  real aniseed… a wonderful pick me up and mouth freshener. (I prefer Orange Blossom and Rose flavours the rest of the year)

If a friend comes to visit, we may have an Aviation Cocktail made with Creme de Violette liqueur or, if that is too much trouble, a glass of sparkling white wine  or even plain water with a splash of Monin Violet syrup to set the mood.   This season, with all these wonderful violet products as well as a fresh supply of crystallised violets in the pantry, I may just try to make some violet icecream…. shall keep you posted.

Orange Blossoms, Mint Tea and “White Coffee”

Spring has suddenly begun making itself felt strongly in Melbourne.  Our famous elms are sporting the pale green seed pods that are so pretty on the trees and such a nuisance once they start to fly about, sticking to car duco and clogging up gutters. Wisteria is bursting into bloom and ephemeral cherry, apple and prunus blossoms scent the air, so poignantly beautiful for their all-too-brief season.
Early spring in Morocco has baskets full of Bitter Orange blossoms in the markets and copper stills for hire prompting industrious women, particularly in Fes, to prepare their annual supply of orange blossom water. As the Bitter or Seville Orange (Citrus aurantium subsp. amara) is found in most Moroccan gardens and is a common street tree, planted  for its hardiness, evergreen beauty and heady perfume, there is a ready supply of blossoms to pick during the season.

Moroccan women will often add a few orange blossoms to the pot when making mint tea. Out of season, a few drops of orange blossom water can be substituted.

For those who eschew caffeine late in the afternoon and evening, a scant teaspoon of orange blossom water  in a glass of hot water makes for a delicious and digestive after-dinner drink and is known in Lebanon as “qahwa baida” or “white coffee” –  plain or sweetened to taste with a little sugar, it will ensure a restorative night’s sleep as well!

Figs

The promise of summer’s approach has me dreaming of figs.  This week, I have seen boxes of  perfect Turkey Browns from California on the fruit shop shelves but I resist the temptation. All in good time….  Whoever has sat under a fig tree in full leaf will never forget the exquisite scent it exudes.  The immature green figs that appear early in the season are wonderful prepared as spoon sweets, boiled several times until tender, stuffed with a blanched almond then simmered in heavy syrup perfumed with lemon peel.  Here in Melbourne, we have to wait till the end of summer to enjoy the succulent ripe figs that grow in so many of my friends’ gardens, that is if the birds don’t get them first! Then we’ll gorge on them straight from the tree or stuff them with spiced, minced chicken and cook them in a pomegranate molasses sauce to be enjoyed garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Until then, I will have to be satisfied with the scent of one of those divine French Dyptique “Figuier” candles or the matching room spray that tease the senses with visions of the delectable fruit to come.
My absolute favourite summer perfume is l’Artisan Parfumeur’s “Premier Figuier “, so delicious to wear in the warm weather and so sensuous.

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