Tag Archives: Mauritius

More Indian Ocean Cusine

I thought a dip in Indian ocean would be a nice way to start 2017! I have already written about the cuisine of Mauritius and more recently. As an island, it is the perfect place to discover fish and seafood, its situation on the spice routes and the rainbow nation with Asian, Indian, South African, European and even Australian influences all add to the diversity of the cuisine here.

Willibald Reinbacher, (Willi to his friends), has been the chef at the Shanti Maurice Hotel since 2010 at about the time we discovered the Ayurveda Spa there. Originally from Austria and now married to a Mauritian, he has made the island his home.

Breakfast at the Shanti Spa

Breakfast at the Shanti Spa

I was already impressed by the way he incorporated the Ayurveda theme of healthy eating into his cuisine, using local ingredients and Indian spices to create dishes that you would never guess were part of a healthy eating programme. He has been sharing this cuisine not only in the restaurants of the hotel but also taking guests to the local markets and inviting them into the hotel herb garden and kitchen.

His skills and familiarity with the regional culture and cuisine, not just of Mauritius but also across the islands of the Indian Ocean, have increased his repertoire. So much so that he has curated his favourite recipes from across the Indian Ocean into a new book: Aquacasia.

Aquacasia, an exploration of Indian Ocean cuisine.

Aquacasia, an exploration of Indian Ocean cuisine.

The ocean theme is at its heart, hence the name. The spectacular photos, especially the underwater ones, are an inspiration. The warm Indian Ocean is teaming with fish, each island having a different variation on the same recipes for their local species. Given that you may have over indulged during the festive season, the recipes based on seafood are healthy. Langoustines with Vanilla and Prawns on Sugarcane Skewers are a couple of my favourites.

A dip in the Indian ocean or in the pages of the book?

A dip in the Indian Ocean or into the pages of the book?

It’s not only seafood though; the wonderful chapter on spices is a showcase for all the Asian influence so present on the island and given that Mauritius is tropical the local fruits and of course Rums are also featured in the desserts chapter.

It is at once a recipe book with easy to follow recipes, a coffee table book with beautiful photos and either an invitation to visit Mauritius or, if you have been lucky enough to visit, a souvenir of your stay.

He doesn’t reveal the secret to his amazing Rum Baba though; you’ll just have to join me at The Shanti for that!

Bon Appétit!

Bon Appétit!

 

 

A Penny Blue for your thoughts.

The dark, thick, treacle like molasses, fermenting in 3 large vats, fills the 1926 building of the Medine Distillery with the characteristic aromas of overripe bananas.  Medine on the West coast of Mauritius is the oldest operational rum distillery on the island.

Molasses awaiting fermentation

Molasses awaiting fermentation

The distillery building dates from 1926

The distillery building dates from 1926

However, since the 1970’s, the 6 million litres of alcohol distilled here was sold in bulk to other island bottlers but in the last few years, thanks to a collaboration with Berry Brothers and Rudd, they are now the proud owners of two successful new rum brands.

Fermentation

Fermenting Molasses

The rum distillation column

The rum distillation column

These two brands have very different profiles. Since 2010 their Pink Pigeon rum has enjoyed a run away success on the island but also in export markets as a cocktail ingredient. This is what the islanders would call a ‘rhum arrangé’; a white rum blended with other aromatic ingredients. In this case Bourbon Vanilla, orange extract and the magic ingredient orchid flower (vanilla is also a orchid).

The cask warehouse

The cask warehouse

Named after a rare bird indigenous to Mauritius, part of the proceeds from the sales go towards restoration of the birds’ natural habitat. With its funky bottle, designer driven, Pink Pigeon is a fun product aimed mainly at the cocktail market and a young urban clientele.

The new brand Penny Blue has a more serious profile. Aimed at a connoisseur market to be served as an after dinner drink, a sipping rum (to be enjoyed with a cigar perhaps) although it works really well with chocolate too!

It’s no surprise that the taste profile is reminiscent of the heady aromas of a blended malt whisky. The ageing in casks from origins as diverse as Bourbon, Cognac and Whisky means that master distiller Jean-Francois Koeing has a wonderful selection in his ageing warehouse to choose from with rums of 6, 8 and 10 years.

Master Distiller Jean-Francois Keonig

Master Distiller Jean-Francois Keonig

Wood management is crucial as, due to the local climate, the angel’s share, or the evaporation of the alcohol through the casks, is about 8% per year in Mauritius. It therefore matures four times faster than whisky in a cool Scottish climate. The link with whisky is reinforced by a collaboration with his fellow blender Doug McIvor, from Berry Brothers who is more often to be found in the Glenrothes distillery in Speyside. The rum is 100% natural, unsweetened, not chill filtered and not coloured. The colour and sweetness come uniquely from the raw material, sugar cane, and the oak casks.

Bottling

The bottling line

As with Pink Pigeon, Medine is keen to underline their link to the island. The rum is named after the Penny Blue stamp, issued here in September 1847. Among the rarest postage stamps in the world, a few surviving stamps can be seen in Mauritius museums.

Penny Blue Rum is pretty rare too. It is an XO (extra old) the same designation as used for Cognac. This means it is a blend in which the youngest spirit has been aged for at least six years. (In 2016, the minimum ageing for the youngest spirit in the XO blend will be 10 years). It is non-chill-filtered and is bottled at 44.1% abv on the estate.

Batch No 1 is running out in favour of Batch No 2

Batch No 1 is running out in favour of Batch No 2

The first batch was released at the end of last year, the 700 bottles from just 14 casks have already sold out and the second batch was just being prepared for shipping when I visited earlier this week. Jean-Francois explained that each batch is slightly different as the blend is selected from the casks that he considers ready for blending at the time. He is keen to emphasise this batch effect – not dissimilar to a vintage effect in wine, which will please enthusiasts and collectors, as the difference between the two batches was quite distinctive. The ripe tropical fruit notes underlined by oak and vanilla are present on the palate of both batches, which have a great length and finish with a delicious caramel note. However the second batch is a little smoother and feminine with a lovely sweetness from the bourbon barrels.

If you can’t make it to Mauritius,  you can find a taste of the island on the BBR web site. And with Easter upon us try it with some chocolate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Delicious Mauritius

When you think of a tropical island and what grows there, what springs to mind? Mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, papaya, vanilla….. Well, in Mauritius, there’s all of the above and so much more and local company Poivre d’Or uses them all. They produce a wonderful range of jams, spices, chutneys, honeys and teas, all beautiful packaged in locally produced, recycled packaging.

Copper pots

Copper pots ready for jam making

 

Sterilizing the mini jam pots for the hotels

Sterilizing the mini jam pots for the hotels

Everything is produced in the North of the island from all natural, local produce (no colouring agents, preservatives or flavour enhances here), complemented by specialities from other regions of the Indian Ocean. The kitchens are in an old converted hospital where a dedicated team of 30 local women hand chop, cook, decant and package up to  5000 jars a day from traditional recipes. They also produce candles perfumed with essential oils, teas, local sugars, salt and serving spoons made from Madagascan Zebu horn.

Hand labeling the pots

Hand labeling the pots

The company has been serving their traditional market, the islands luxury hotels, since 2002 but they now operate their own shops in the island so visitors can take a little local flavour home with them, in beautifully prepared gift boxes. They are also now available at  Le Marché du Moulin.

Rainbow spices ready for your Mauritian curry

Rainbow spices ready for your Mauritian curry

They also export to the USA, Germany and France so keep your eyes open for them at home.

 

 

 

 


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Learning Mauritian Cuisine.

Mauritian cuisine is a wonderful melting pot of the all the culinary traditions brought here by the people that make Mauritius the ‘rainbow island’. This culinary traditions of the island have become much better known in the UK since Shelina Permalloo won MasterChef in 2012. Check out her excellent recipe book where she has distilled her love of the local cuisine into ‘Shelina, Sunshine on a plate’. It gives you the recipes but also beautiful photos of the dishes, the local ingredients, markets and scenery – so if you can’t make it over for a cooking class, this is the next best thing.

Shelina's Sunshine on a plate

Shelina’s Sunshine on a plate

In the hope of improving her cooking skills, Bordeaux Blonde went to Mauritian cooking school with Chef Govinden at the Awali Hotel in Bel Ombre. Starting with a very classic local dish of chicken and prawn curry (almost every restaurant on the island has a version of this dish), we used local products including garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes, aniseed, fenugreek, turmeric root, curry leaves, coriander and coconut, to create an aromatic rather than spicy curry. I prefer my curry aromatic and it makes the wine choice easier (wine and heat don’t always mix), but locals do like their spice, so there is a side of ‘puree de piments’ on every table here!

Chef Govinden teaches at the Awali Hotel

Chef Govinden teaches at the Awali Hotel

Unsurprisingly, Mauritius is also a favoured destination for international chefs to come and showcase their talents. This week it was the turn of Patrick Dang to visit The Telfair Hotel. Trained in his home town of Sydney, Australia, Patrick has worked all over the world from Asia through to North & Latin America and Europe and is about to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong. He prefers the term ‘globally inspired’ rather than fusion for his style of cuisine – perfect for Mauritius! He tried to impart some of his skills to the locals with a beach cooking class. His take on a Asian BBQ was a rib eye steak in a garlic/soy/ginger sauce accompanied by Asian Coleslaw.

Chef Patrick shows how to BBQ on the beach

Chef Patrick shows how to BBQ on the beach

The coleslaw was not a million miles from the Mauritian coleslaw in Shelina’s book (one of my favourites) and a key ingredient in the rib eye sauce was the lovely dark raw sugar they produce on the island. I can recommend learning to cook Mauritian style with the waves of the Indian ocean  lapping your ankles – quite an experience!

 

Off the beaten beach.

The beautiful sandy beaches of Mauritius are peppered with some of the most beautiful 5 star hotels in the world; I’ve mentioned several in previous posts. Many of these hotels share the islands uniqueness with you through visits and other initiatives, such as Grandmas Kitchen at The Shanti Maurice. However, if you want a more intimate impression of the island, it is worth dragging yourself away from such international luxury.

 Here are a couple of smaller ‘boutique’ hotels that might appeal if you want to get more upfront and personal with Mauritius. On the west coast, in the fishing village of La Preuneuse, the Bay Hotel is a small 16 room hotel run by a Belgium-Mauritian couple, who bring the best of both worlds to a part of the island better known by locals than tourists. The beach may not be big, but the thatched roofed restaurant and bar is right on the water overlooking the local fishing boats. The rooms are decorated in a simple island style and the large cool entrance hall is open to the sea breeze.

The view from the terrace of The Bay Hotel

The view from the terrace of The Bay Hotel

Further North in Grand Baie is another funky hotel, slightly larger but still intimate with 35 bedrooms, The 20° Sud is tucked away in an old coconut grove.  With it’s waterfront location, you can step out of your room and onto their private jetty whence you can away, on their catamaran to ‘Flat island’ for a private lunch or dinner at ‘The Governor’s House’ or for a sunset cruise. If you fancy something more old world, spend an evening on M/S Lady Lisbeth, the island’s oldest motorboat, built in 1929 and now fully restored.

The M/S Lady Lisbeth

The M/S Lady Lisbeth 

Keep travelling from Grand Bay around the most nrtherly tip of the coast, Cap Malhereux,, and then head south back down the est coast of the island, you will find another boutique hotel in Post Lafayette. La Maison d’Eté is a more modern take on the island theme, in this still undeveloped part of the island. Recently taken over by Brigitte Baranès, the 14 rooms around the pools, lounge and restaurant have a zen feeling, especially ‘La Vigie’ room, high on stilts, with it’s own terrace overlooking the Indian ocean.

The view of the beach from La Maison d'Eté

The view of the beach from La Maison d’Eté

If you fancy being more independent go self-catering, this allows you to shop in the local markets and vegetable stalls that seem to pop up along the roads and experiment with the local cuisine. White Oaks is a small development of twelve 2 to 4 bedroomed villas and apartments right on the beach Pointe aux Piments on the West coast. Built around it’s own swimming pool and deck. It’s peaceful but only a short drive from Grand Baie if you want the nightlife.

Patrick Mavros in Mauritius

The workshop and show room of Patrick Mavros in Mauritius is a haven of peace and elegance in the chaos and noise of the outskirts of the capital, Port Louis.

The courtyard entrance to the Workshop and Studio

The courtyard entrance to the Workshop and Studio

The wrought iron door decorated with monkeys, dodos, turtles and other sea creatures, takes you into another world. The monkey welcome theme continues with the wonderful door handles to the showroom.

The gateway to the Patrick Mavros Showroom and Workshop

The gateway to the Patrick Mavros Showroom and Workshop

Silver Sculptor Patrick Mavros established a workshop in Mauritius 6 years ago but despite his international reach his heart remains in Zimbabwe where his workshops, the family homestead, the wildlife sanctuary, the offices and reception and his sales studio, are built to form a small village on his estate in the wild hills outside Harare in Zimbabwe.

Welcoming monkeys

He started carving in ivory to make a gift for his new wife and now with his 4 sons the family runs workshops in Harare, London, Mauritius and recently the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The Mauritian Showroom

The Mauritian Showroom

 His silver sculptures reflect African wild-life in all its diversity, from hippo and elephant sculptures to crocodile belt buckles and monkey swizzle sticks for your cocktails. His Mauritian collection created for his opening here reflects the sea theme with seahorses and starfish complimented with shells, pearls and topaz.

Every silver sculpture is made using lost wax casting using ivory as the original sculpture Molten silver is poured into the plaster mould and once the silver has cooled the plaster mould is broken open to reveal the silver casting. The casting is then cleaned and checked to see that every detail of the original has been faithfully reproduced. Finally, the piece is hallmarked and polished in one of his workshops.

The lost wax casting in the Mauritian workshop

The lost wax casting in the Mauritian workshop

Silver is a by-product of gold refining in Zimbabwe. In the 60 tonnes of gold produced each year the ore contains traces of copper, silver and lead and it is during the gold refining stage that the silver is extracted.

There is an artistic theme running through his family. His sister-in-law Fée Halsted created the south African ceramics company Ardmore. Examples of their work can also be found at the Mauritian show room including the most spectacular chandelier in the form of a giant banana flower decorated with monkeys birds and other African insects.

 

The fabulous Ardmore Chadelier

The fabulous Ardmore Chandelier

Don’t worry if you can’t get to Mauritius or Africa, call in to the spectacular London Flagship Store on the Fulham road for your Christmas shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

A serene morning break from wine.

If you don’t fancy visiting the vineyards of France in the depths of winter help is at hand. Always interested to find ideas for our wine tour clients when visiting the vineyards of France is not an option, Mary Dardenne of Decanter Tours and I sacrificed ourselves to test drive the new Day Spa offer by The Shanti Maurice.

I have mentioned this fabulous Mauritian resort on previous posts, so some of you will recognise the name. Normally reserved for residents the Nira Spa is now opening it’s doors to non residents for a special offer. So should you find yourself near the south of the island here’s your chance.

Yoga at the Shanti

We arrived in time for the 8.15 Hatha yoga class given by one of the highly trained resident yogis, followed by a cleansing Jalneti session to clear the sinuses. This all worked up an appetite for the fabulous spa breakfast. Served in a private tea pavilion surrounded by the waterfalls of the spa garden we were offered a choice of hot dishes accompanied by fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, Muslei, yoghurt and freshly baked breads (including gluten free) all accompanied by their famous ginger and lemon tea.

Breakfast is served

After a break for digestion lying by the pool the morning ended with the wonderful 4 handed Abhyanga Ayurvedic massage, steam and scrub. We both highly recommend this as a wonderful way to while away those wine tour free months and your liver will be in pristine condition for the start of the next season!

And to finish a swim in the spa pool.

To book the Serenity Morning call the Nira Spa +230 603 72 00 or by e mail NiraSpa@shantimaurice.com

 

Divine Maurice

The climate in Mauritius may not be perfect for growing grapes but that has not stopped them making wine. There is a history of homesick French colonists making wines from the abundance of tropical fruit on the island that has been all but forgotten. Patick Oxenham, the currently director of the eponymous family company has now revived this tradition.

After studying oenology he came upon a recipe in his grand father’s book and decided to to give it a try. After many trials the result was launched earlier this year on the island. Divine Tropical Lychee wine has met with great success in the islands supermarkets and hotels. I was introduced to Divine by Jerome Faure, Head sommelier for the Constance group. Served blind and well chilled the finished product is reminiscent of a Gewürztraminer. Packaged in an elegant 50 cl bottle the wine retails for about 5-6 euros. At 12° it is perfect for an aperitif or even as ingredient for cocktail making, which seems to be a national sport here.

Lychees for sale on the streets of the capital Port Louis

It is the lychee season now, the trees are loaded and every street corner has a stand selling bunches of the fruit in their hard pink shells. The wine is made from lychee pulp, which has to be carefully extracted after shelling and removing the stone. The pulp is fermented with selected yeast over 2 or 3 weeks and then the wine is left to settle for another couple of weeks before being bottled.

Divine from Mauritius

The production is currently limited to the Mauritian market. However given it’s success  Oxenham is investing in equipment to increase the local pulp production. There are a lot of lychees on the island but currently fruit exports are limited to only perfectly presentable fruit whereas this pulping process can be used for all shapes and sizes of fruit creating not just a great drink but another potential export for the island.

 

 

 

World Cuisine

Learning the skills of local chefs is one of Bordeaux blondes favourite pastimes. Bordeaux chefs Gaelle Benoiste and Georges Gotrand often call in at home to share their secrets with foreign guests, however this time Bordeaux blonde was the foreign guest.

Mauritius is a land of 5 star luxury beach hotels, so an authentic local cuisine experience is a rarity on an island where most visitors concentrate on their tan. The local cuisine is a wonderful melting pot of indian, european and creole and the 5 star resort Shanti Maurice, more often associated with their ultimate Ayurvedic spa, is also known for the asian fusion cuisine of chef Willibald Reinbacher.

Willibald Reinbacher BBQ’s on the beach

Situated on the unspoilt southern coast of the island their passion for sourcing local ingredients includes working with local farmers and fisherman. They have now taken a step further offering a more authentic experience of Mauritian creole cuisine in the home of a local resident, the grandma of the hotel manager’s PA. Small groups can try the local dishes with the family in their kitchen with dynamic 75-year-old Grandma Goindoo who grows most of the vegetables and herbs in her tiny back garden and then take away the book of ‘Grandma’s Secret Recipes’ to try at home – if you can find the ingredients. In the pipeline, for those who want to take things a step further than the kitchen garden, is the possibility of going out at dawn with a local fisherman to bring back the catch to prepare for a beach BBQ.

This year’s Worldwide Hospitality Awards gave ‘Grandma’s Kitchen’ from the Shanti Maurice the award for ‘Best Initiative in Clients Experience’.

Flying high

A pink pigeon is not something you see after a few too many glasses, on the contrary this once prolific bird is now a protected species in it’s home of Mauritius. In it’s honor the Medine sugar cane estate has named its vanilla and spice flavoured rum after this rare bird. Pink Pigeon original rum is easily recognized by the rubber band around its neck and the intriguing motto Peace, Freedom & Harmony.

Delicious on the rocks or as a cocktail ingredient, you can find some inspiration on their web site.

 I highly recommend this little taste of paradise.