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|aubergine bringele / shrimp croquettes / gateaux piment|
The only Mauritian food I have the pleasure of devouring is
cooked by my Mum – and hats off to it, it’s pretty good. No wait – it’s
excellent (she might be reading this). All jokes aside, it is excellent.
It’s a significant enough draw for me to have entertained fleeting thoughts
throughout and post University of ‘maybe I could move back home?’.
thoughts don’t pervade my mind anymore – I’m a bit past living with the parents
now. But for Mum’s cooking, it’s almost feasible. I can genuinely smell the
spices of her beef with cloves, achard, and butter bean curry as I type. Is
there a word for that? According to Google yes. Phantosmia – the perception of
a smell in the absence of any physical odours. Alas, there is no actual
Mauritian curry where I’m sitting.
It’s not always feasible for me to drive the hour it takes
to get to my parents unannounced and exclaim that I’m hungry for some prawn
rougaille. Because if it was, my mum should be charging for the service.
an opportunity arises to eat some home cooked Mauritian fare, I’m on the case immediately. And such an occasion presented itself in the form of a Mauritian pop-up
supper club hosted by Selina Periampillai from Yummy Choo Eats. Here’s a little
about the lovely lady herself:
‘Selina Periampillai is a self-taught cook who hosts the
popular ‘Yummy Choo’ supper club at her home in Croydon, specialising in
Mauritian home cooked cuisine, and her website www.yummychooeats.com has become a ‘go
to’ page for Mauritian inspired recipes and food reviews. Specialising in
cooking up colourful, moreish dishes with a tropical flair and unique flavours,
Selina combines her passion and creative use of ingredients to transport guests
to the sunshine island and leaves them wanting more!’
I’ll have some of that.
Rather than Selina’s home, this particular event was hosted
at the Blue Mountain Cafe as part of the Pop Goes Sydenham programme seeing the town come alive with food events featuring local
chefs, suppliers and produce.
At a mere 25 minute drive from my work in Clapham
and with ample parking, it was an ideal location for a week night meal. The
venue was brightly coloured with room for around 20 guests at communal tables
to accommodate the sharing platters and bowls. At front of house we had Belinda Lester doing a sterling job of greeting everyone warmly and swiftly planting welcomed lychee rum
cocktails into our hands to help ease us into the format of the evening.
all the guests arrived, Selina stepped out from the kitchen in chef whites and
with a beaming smile to welcome all and provided a quick low-down of what to
expect for the different courses.
The large platters delivered consisted of an array
of appetising bite-sized typical Mauritian starters (or gajaks). These included
aubergine bringele (aubergine slices coated in a light chickpea batter); well
spiced and soft shrimp croquettes made from dried shrimp and potato; and
crunchy gateaux piment – a typical street food made from split peas and
To accompany these were some winning chutneys – coconut tamarind and
mint along with a vibrant cotomili satini (coriander chutney). Both lent
aromatic, light and refreshing qualities to the food – they were delightful.
|coconut, tamarind and mint chutney / coriander chutney|
There are few things that make the heart of a
hungry diner sing more than being regaled with large bowl after large bowl of
quality food leaving the kitchen and landing at your table, and so we were introduced
to the mains.
My first encounter with
these dishes was in the form of wafting cinnamon aromas penetrating my
olfactory bulb before I even caught sight of them. And what an introduction.
The sauce for the cari poulet (chicken curry) was a beautiful brown
reminding me of the curries my my mum makes housing tender morsels of meat, and
the coconut and spinach dhal was thick and creamy from the coconut milk.
The fish vindaye was not
something I had sampled before and Selina revealed it’s often the most popular
dish at her supper clubs – it’s easy to see why. Pickled mustard fish with
chilli and onion – appetisingly chewy chunks of fish coated in a dry spiced
sauce. Dozens upon dozens of freshly made and warm pooris along with very
fragrant rice were passed around the tables to help mop up all the goodness
remaining on plates.
The prawns in the rougaille were soft and appealing, a
texture that seems to pervade most cooked prawns I’ve experienced. However, I
felt the rougaille sauce itself was a little too liquid – I have previously
known it to be thicker and something that coats the meat within but this was more
akin to a soup and therefore I felt the flavour was a little diluted. No doubt
this is down to the permeations of recipes over time and from family to family;
they will always have their own unique nuances and never be identical. And they
|fish vindaye – pickled mustard fish with chillies and onion|
|cari poulet – a family recipe chicken curry|
|coconut and spinach dhal|
|freshly made pooris|
For the brave (Matt included), there were little bowls of piment
confit dotted on all the tables – hot bullet chillies with garlic and oil. When I say hot, I in no way mean that lightly. I had half a tiny one and stopped my brain melting by swiftly shoving
coconut chutney in my mouth. Matt managed to consume a total of three with other big
mouthfuls of food before getting hiccups and admitting defeat.
It reminded me of the
time my mum made achard (a Mauritian pickled vegetable salad) as part of a
Christmas dinner. It contained both green beans and big fat hot chillies. She
would always remove the chillies from the portion she dished out to me and I
would put my full trust in her ability to differentiate them from the beans and successfully
fish them all out. But this time, she missed one. I merely bit down (I didn’t even
chew), immediately spat it out and what was to follow was probably the most
violent reaction to a chilli I’ve ever had.
My breathing was cut short and
instinctive reaction put a tissue to my mouth, which I then used to dab my face
now wet with streaming eyes. This then caused the whole side of my face to burn
bright red of which a slathering of Vaseline was the only relief. Oh, and I temporarily
lost my hearing. I hear something like 1 out of every 100 chillies are off the
scale hotter than the rest of their species and you can consider yourself
the subject of any Schadenfreude taking place at that dinner table if one ends up in your mouth. A painful Christmas evening for my face that was indeed.
|piment confit – bullets of fire|
consisted of little shots of pineapple and chilli sorbet inspired by the
combination sold on the beaches of Mauritius to help cool off sweltering
bodies. It did a perfect job in cleansing the palate and cooled off our sweltering
mouths from those piment confit bullets of fire.
For dessert, individual
tropical plates of coconut sago drenched in a sticky but not too sweet spiced
syrup sitting alongside a sweet mango and pomegranate salad. Sago is a starch extracted from the spongy centre of palm stems and seemed to
behave quite like rice grains in a soft but packaged rice pudding – yet another new and successful ingredient
to check off my list of conquered consumables.
|pineapple and chilli sorbet|
|coconut sago with spiced syrup / mango and pomegranate|
The atmosphere was lively with sega music
playing in the background and conversation flowing across parties and tables as
we got to know our neighbours. For many, it was their first experience sampling
the delights of Mauritian cuisine.
I like to think of it as the Vietnamese of
the South East Asian world; in a similar vein Mauritian food is lighter and
more aromatic than the comparable but quite different food from the Asian
After grafting hard in the kitchen with her mother present for
assistance, Selina closed the evening by thanking everyone for coming and
making her way round the tables to speak to each individually. It was a truly
enjoyable few hours and I only wish I had brought some Tupper wear (if I could
get away with it).
Selina frequently hosts supper clubs and
pop-ups and there are probably few better ways to introduce yourself to this cuisine
than by letting her cook it for you. To stay up to date with her upcoming
events, follow her on Twitter (@yummychooeats) or keep an eye on her website yummychooeats.com.
Selina, a sister from another mister, you’re
doing us Mauritians proud.
My rating: 4/5