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Three Baskets of Memory

Spicy Kumara Salad 2

By Tim Hazell

Captain James Cook was met by Maori when he reached the island of Aotearoa, or New Zealand, in October 1796. Maori are part of the Polynesian cultures that colonized many island chains, forming necklaces for thousands of miles across the South Pacific. Their sophisticated artistic traditions include elaborate carvings on magnificent seagoing canoes and meeting houses. As members of professional classes in the mixed populations of modern New Zealand, Maori have a reputation for intelligence, national pride, and refusal to yield their heritage to pressures of technological change.

The waiata, or song, has influenced Maori cultural development from its beginning, serving as a conduit for oral traditions. Their history is preserved through forms of chant that contain the whakapapa or genealogical table and waiata oriori, portraying legends and customs. These narratives serve as entertainment and to record specific events. The following waiata oriori is the story of how people gained their earthly and spiritual knowledge from the gods (te ira atua).


The Three Baskets of Memory

Tenei au, tenei au

Te hokai nei i taku tapuwae

Ko te hokai-nuku

Ko te hokai-rangi…

Here am I, here am I…

Swiftly moving by the power of my karakia

Swiftly moving over the earth

Tane-nui-a-rangi climbed up to the isolated realms of

The summit of Manono and there found Io-the-Parentless alone

He brought back down three Baskets of Memory;

the Basket called Tuauri

the Basket called Tuatea

the Basket called Aronui.


I sneeze, there is life!

- Tauparapara Chant


Present-day Maori cuisine is a mixture of their heritage, old-fashioned English cookery, and contemporary influences. Ancient foods included whitebait fish, karengo seaweed, huhu grubs, pikopiko (fern shoots), karaka berries and toroi—a dish of fresh mussels with puha (sow thistle) juice. When Pakeha (foreign) settlers arrived in New Zealand, Maori began cultivating wheat, potatoes, maize, carrots, cabbage, and other vegetables, as well as raising sheep, pigs, goats, and poultry. Maori ingredients have been prepared and presented in new ways to suit modern palates and continue to be enjoyed internationally.

This enticing spicy kumara (sweet potato) salad is delicious as is, or dressed up with lime juice, olive oil, mustard, honey and a little garlic!


Spicy Kumara and Orange Salad



1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 oranges, peeled, pith and seeds removed and cubed

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

Juice of 1/2 lime

Handful of chopped coriander

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted with chili and lime

Salt and pepper to taste


Bring a saucepan of water to the boil; add the sweet potato and pinch of salt. Boil for 8-10 minutes until just tender. Drain, put into a salad bowl, and leave to cool. Prepare oranges, spring onions, and red pepper, and add to bowl. Toss with lime juice, coriander, and chili/lemon sunflower seeds just before serving and additional dressing, if desired.



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