Monday, October 17, 2011

Rodriguan cooking lesson at Villa mon Trésor

After a few delicious Rodriguan meals at Coralie la Difference and Bambou Restou, as well as the Pointe Venus hotel restaurant, I am curious to learn a few local cooking secrets. So Marie-Louise from Villa mon Trésor in Anse aux Anglais kindly invites me into her kitchen for a cooking lesson.

On arrival at the pretty pink guesthouse Marie-Louise treats me to a cup of tea and some snacks. I am especially fond of the deep fried chili peppers stuffed with spicy white fish, an Indian inspired delicacy sold at the beach front just around the corner. We get to know each other a little better and soon Marie-Louise hands me an apron before we head over to the homely Villa mon Trésor kitchen.

She already has some red beans going in a pressure cooker and most of our ingredients are set out on the kitchen counter. It is no secret that the abundance of natural ingredients and richness of the volcanic soil on Rodrigues island make their produce some of the tastiest in the Indian Ocean region – and any cook will tell you that using good ingredients is the number one secret of any truly successful meal. Marie-Louise tells me that she gets up at 4am on market day every week in order to make sure she gets the pick of the crops. She also grows some of her own ingredients in a large garden surrounding her home.

We start with chopping up a nice fatty piece of local pork and then add it to a pan with garlic, ginger and onion. Leaving the lid on, we let the fat cook out of the pork before we brown the meat. We then add some chopped tomato, salt, pepper and curry powder and later some fresh curry leaves and a sprig of thyme from the garden. In the meantime we also fry some aubergine in a little olive oil, to be added to the pork curry just before serving, together with a sprinkle of parsley.

Some maize is cooking in a separate pot and we also grate some green papaya for a salad mixed with spring onion and freshly squeezed lime juice. Marie-Louise’s husband gets home to the smell of welcoming curry aromas. He pours us ladies some vodka mixed with chilled coconut water – a first for me and I am delighted with the invigorating drink.

Time for dinner. The pork curry is wholesome and homely with the maize and red beans, flavours carefully balanced, while the green papaya salad provides the perfect zesty balance to the rich meat dish and also helps with digestion. Marie-Louise has that true passion for cooking and an understanding of good ingredients and cooking time that only comes with experience and experimenting.

We end our meal with a dessert of fried banana topped with warm orange and passion fruit juice and served with ice cream and orange zest. I cannot think of anything more delicious when it melts in my mouth. My cooking teacher seems to be quite the expert at creating her own recipes. Marie-Louise recently won a local cooking competition with a steamed sweet potato gnocchi creation, topped with traditional Italian Napoletana sauce and some smoked fish. Sounds like another dish I will definitely have to try at home.

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