Mauritian Dinner Menu of Shrimp Rougaille, Okra Fricasse and a Fruit Platter with Cardamom and Star Anise Teal Syrup. I seem to be flying from one catch-up situation to the next. Two weeks away in the mountains has seriously dented my routine. However, I still believe that it’s not the things that you DO in life that you land up regretting – it’s the things that you don’t do. The Universe offers up opportunity and if you say No well then the opportunities will stop coming. I work well under pressure in any case and I have spent some very precious time with my girlfriend Carol and little jorjus Jade!
So let me back track to the 10th April this year …. Not that long ago in real time but it feels like in another life already. Hubby, Max, Renato and Rosa (bro & sis in law) and I – boarded an Air Mauritius flight bound for the sun kissed Indian Ocean Island. Bengali, our time-share villa awaited us! I will think twice about a hotel package deal ever again. Bengali was beautiful – with her wide welcoming shady verandas leading right into the flower laden garden which lead right into our crystal swimming pool which lead right onto the white sandy beach into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Does it get any better than that? It was like heaven on earth.
It doesn’t take a bunch of Italians too long to find the nearest Super-U, a hyper store stocked with imported food mostly from France. Church organ music rang out, playing Arias for the choirs of angels that sang Gloria in Excelsis Deo as we entered this foodie heaven. Riccardo & Renato with smiles from ear to ear, were loading our trolley up with imported hams, meats, cheeses so quickly that we must have looked like we had won one of those Trolley Dash competitions.
Breakfasts were prepared by us at the villa and the rest of the meals were eaten in various local restaurants, on beaches or on the run in markets. Just like Durban – Mauritius received boat loads of indentured Labourers from India in the 1820’s to cut their sugar cane – they too were offered deals … work your fingers to the bone for 5 years and if you make it … you are free!! By the 1860’s Indian Immigrants made up 66% of the population. The Indian/ French combo is awesome. Food is highly spiced and island style. Fish – shellfish and game is high up on all restaurant menus. As this is a tropical island – the market in Port Louis closely resembled the market in Durban. Coconuts, okra, brinjals, greens – piled high. The pungent aromas of ginger, garlic, chilli and vanilla inhabit every nook and cranny of the island.
My most memorable meal was a beach braai. We hired a boat and visited all the local sights and were treated to a
beach braai of creole salads and fresh swordfish steak … local is always the lekkerste! The guys went out deep sea fishing on a very dodgy and unsophisticated wooden local fishing boat at 4.30am one morning. Riccardo was convinced that the boat was going to capsize as he fought the 22kg yellow fin tuna for an eternity. This ‘Sherman tank’ of the sea eventually got too much for him and after falling over backwards, Max had to land it. The boat owners gave us one fillet and took the rest home to feed their families. We ate sushi – seared tuna on the braai and tuna-rice salad for about 3 days! It was ridiculously delicious. Sunrises AND sunset were celebrated with cocktails and the smell of suntan lotion hung heavy in the air. Not being in a hotel is the best option – we ate in small, off the track, local restaurants and met such wonderfully interesting local people who couldn’t do enough for us.
I always buy a cook book of any country or new town that I have the good fortune to visit – and I bought a coffee table cook book jam packed with beautiful pics, called Flavours & Colours of Mauritius written by the infamous Richard Ekkebus of Royal Palm, Mauritius fame. His French culinary training has resulted in the upliftment of the local cuisine to international status. In his book, Richard celebrates local ingredients and the cultures that make up this multi-racial society.
Upon our return to Durban and home – to beat the ‘post-holiday’ blues and whilst my tan
& holiday glow were still intact, I surprised hubby with a Mauritian Seduction Meal
carefully selected from Richard Ekkebus’ fabulous cook book.
Dessert was my own recipe as I couldn’t wait to use the Cardamon Tea
that I bought there and one doesn’t want to eat too much when seducing ones lover!!
I had planned to make an ice cream but I ran out of setting time!
We had a wonderful dinner complete with my favourite Italian
and my favourite Asti Spumante!
Coconut Flavoured Okra Fricassee
Fresh Fruit Platter with a Mauritian Cardamom
& Star Anise Tea Syrup
Tres Ooh-la-la!!! Non?
To prepare the Sauce Rougaille
Take the tomatoes and remove the cores. Bring 6 Litres of water to the boil. Dip in the tomatoes, remove them after 30 seconds and dip them immediately into cold water. Peel them, cut them into two and remove the seeds. Use a knife to chop them into large pieces. Peel and slice the onions, cloves of garlic (removing the germ) and ginger.
Pour 3Tbs of olive oil into a thick bottomed pan. Heat slowly. Add the onions, garlic and sliced ginger.
Sauté gently, then add the tomato puree and the coarsely chopped tomatoes, the sprigs of thyme, the curry leaves and Cayenne pepper. Add salt.
Cook on moderate heat, stirring from time to time with a wooden spatula. When the tomato juice has evaporated, top cook and add half the thinly chopped fresh coriander. Check seasoning and keep hot.
To Prepare the Shrimps
Make a shallow incision, 0,5cm long, at each end to reach the intestinal vein.
Carefully take hold of the vein and remove it. Place in the refrigerator.
To Prepare the Okras
Wash and dry the okras. Remove the tips and cut diagonally into 2cm pieces.
Peel the onions and slice them thinly. Peel the garlic (removing the germ) and chop them up thinly.
Peel and chop up the ginger. Heat the ghee slowly in a thick bottomed pan.
Sauté the onions and then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Incorporate all the spices (except for the garam masala) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the okras, cook for another 3 minutes, and then mix in the coconut milk.
Salt and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 minutes, until the okras
are tender and soft, and then powder them with garam masala. Sprinkle with chives and keep hot.
AT THE LAST MINUTE
Season the shrimps with the table sea salt and sprinkle with the powdered turmeric.
Heat a dash of olive oil in a very hot pan on maximum heat. Add the shrimps carefully as oil may spatter from the pan. Do not stir, wait until they become slightly golden on one side, then turn them rapidly and cook on the other side.
Use a skimmer to drain and remove the shrimps. Incorporate them into the Rougaille sauce, simmer for 5 minutes and sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander. Serve at once with the okras, Basmati rice and various chutneys.
This recipe can also be used for large Mediterranean prawns (gambas) or fresh-water prawns instead of shrimps.
The Cardamom & Star Anise Tea Syrup is simply a stock syrup recipe
3/4 cup sugar
star anise, cinammon bark, cardamon, black pepper – now these are my favourites
but you can add whatever you want – and in any quantity – e.g. vanilla pod,
allspice, white pepper, cloves or juniper berries … be creative!
1 tsp cardamom tea – you your favourite tea jasmin, green, chai – you choose
Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil
and reduce by 1/3 to thicken the syrup.
Serve with a fruit platter of juicy ripe seasonal fruit!
and if you are in Durban this weekend – Take the kids to the
Durban Air Show it’s always loads of fun and who of us
can resist a hunk in a uniform!!!
Ciao for now!
Here you go Kristy, Max holding The Titanic – Tuna with his Zio Renato!