The Indian Ocean will always hold very special memories for my husband and me; we spent our honeymoon (quite a long time ago now) in Mauritius and I’ve never wanted to go back, in case it spoils our perfect memories. The food was sensational I recall, and maybe we’ll go to another part of the Indian Ocean one day, but in the meantime, I’ve seen the most fabulous cookbook which has definitely whet my appetite to return to the area. The Island Kitchen: Recipes from Mauritius and the Indian Ocean by Selina Periampillai is published by Bloomsbury on 2 May. At £26, it is a beautiful hardback book with lovely colour photography by Yugi Sigiura. It takes one on a journey around the colourful markets of Mauritius, the aromatic spice gardens of the Seychelles, the fishing coasts of the Maldives, the lagoons of Mayotte and the forests of Madagascar.
Selina, born in London but of Mauritian descent, celebrates the vibrant home-cooking of the islands, with dishes such as Creamy Sweet Potato Soup and Smoked Fish Salad (both of which are featured here below).
Creamy Sweet Potato Soup Comoros & Mayotte
The flavours in this heartwarming soup are a match made in the tropics. The cayenne pepper offers a pleasing heat, the ginger adds a note of spice and the coconut milk lends a mellow creaminess, but it is the sweet potato that’s the star of the show. This starchy tuber is a particularly important crop in Comoros; the island’s native potatoes are ʻKatuna’ (with red skin and yellow flesh) and ʻZora’ (with yellow skin and white flesh). They are boiled, mashed, fried and ground into a flour to make cakes and even used to breakfasting during the religious month of Ramadan.
Don’t miss out the lime wheel at the end; this flash of sharp citrus complements the natural sweetness of the potato.
SERVES: 4 AS A STARTER, 2 AS A MAIN
PREP: 10 MINS, COOK: 25 MINS
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks (550g)
1 large ripe tomato, roughly chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
200ml coconut milk
1 lime, cut into thin wheels or wedges
Mint and coriander leaves
Heat the coconut oil in a deep saucepan over a medium heat and fry the diced onion and garlic together in the pan for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom.
Add the grated ginger, sweet potato, tomato, cayenne pepper, salt, and some black pepper. Give it a good stir to ensure everything is mixed well. Pour in 500ml water, bring to the boil, then cover with the lid and let this simmer for 15–20 minutes until the sweet potato is soft and tender.
Place the contents of the saucepan in a blender and whiz until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan on a low simmer, add in 150ml of the coconut milk and stir gently. Check for seasoning to see if more salt or pepper is needed.
Smoked Fish Salad with Peppers & Green Mango
A delicacy in the Seychelles, this dish is simple and endlessly adaptable. The star of the show is the smoked fish. Typically swordfish, sailfish or marlin are used, but I love it with smoked mackerel. Green mangoes can be found in most Asian grocers and add a sour, crunchy tang and a pleasant contrast to the sweet peppers. If you can’t source them, it’s fine to use green papaya or a slightly under-ripe mango you might find in the supermarket.
This dish reminds me of summer picnics on the island, sitting with bare feet nestled in the warm sand, and a Tupperware full of this refreshing salad. All it calls for is some crusty buttered bread and something chilled to drink alongside.
A handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, peel the skin off the mackerel, scrape away any dark brown flesh, then flake into a large mixing bowl. Add in the pepper, tomato, onion, and mango, drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, scatter over the chopped herbs and squeeze over the lemon juice. Give the ingredients a good mix until everything is combined and serve piled onto a plate with buttered crusty bread.
Maybe see you on Sunday for Selina’s demonstration!