Monthly Archives: February 2014

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!

 

Bordeaux on your smart phone.

Sometimes you need to know more about the bottle of wine in front of you than the back label tells you. You can Google it of course but there are now tools that should get you the information you need even quicker. I’ve mentioned Smart Bordeaux before. It’s the official Bordeaux ‘wine finder’ app; I often ask students to download it in class and it keeps me on my toes as they all rush to identify and get information about the wine we are tasting before me!

Ready, steady, taste - keeping a step ahead of the students!

Ready, steady, taste – keeping a step ahead of the students!

It’s been around for several years now but each year more Chateaux add in and update their details. There are now some 15 000 châteaux and Bordeaux brands in the database. You can scan a wine label or type in a Chateau name and the database should find the wine and tell you all about it and the property it comes from. It is now available in 13 languages and there have been about 23 000 downloads on iPhone and iPad in 71 countries.

The Smart Bordeaux App

The Smart Bordeaux App

Bordeaux is all over the web. Bordeaux.com is the Bordeaux Wine encyclopaedia with users from France, the US, UK, Germany, China, Japan and Korea and you will also find Bordeaux on the 4 Bordeaux Facebook pages with over 85 000 fans and the 3 twitter accounts with over 8 300 followers. If you prefer visuals, there’s youtube.com/WineBordeaux, flickr.com/photos/vinbordeaux and vimeo.com/photos/bordeauxwine.

If you are in Bordeaux, there is also the Bordeaux Wine Trip app. This will help you discover Bordeaux and share your thoughts about your visit. Not quite as good as a private guide but helpful if you are lost amongst the vineyards and looking for a specific property, a tasting or a good lunch.

The Chateau Academy workforce

The Chateau Academy workforce

The real geeks can take on-line interaction a step closer to the world of wine by playing Château Academy. Should you be thinking about investing in the wine industry or are a wannabe wine maker, you can test your virtual skills here. The game designed for smart phones and tablets will allow you to invest in and build a winery, try and make a vintage managing staff, supplies, marketing and sales. Success is measured by profit but also the prestige of your wine. The idea is to help prospective employees get a better understanding of the different trades involved in the wine industry. There is also an online job search section for those who manage to make the grade!

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.