ALSO SEE OTHER MAURITIUS POSTS IF INTERESTED:) I’m aware that everyone’s lives are busy so if you’re skimming main points etc. I’ve put that in bold text.
We had many visits to the village/beach front of Grand-Baie near our hotel – photos below. Many people of all ages/various cultural backgrounds, both locals and tourist, walked up/down the beach as it’s a pleasant route from one end of the village to the other. At Grand-Baie there’s also a popular market/food stall area (photo below) as well as street shopping with a few upmarket shops too.
Prices vary a great deal so worth looking around – Roxy brand, which our granddaughter liked, was v well priced/good quality. I also bought a gorgeous beach towel with the map of Mauritius on it – quite large so we also used it as a picnic rug in the school holidays when our granddaughters stayed. Some had the Dodo on it…story behind this extinct flightless bird of Mauritius is interesting + also sad as many of these extinction stories are.
I recently bought Lonely Planet’s small book – “Best in Travel – 2018” and they placed Mauritius as one of 10 top countries to visit so seeing we were only there last July, I decided it was a good time to write about it.
They note that “During the colonial days, Mauritius was known as the ‘Star and Key of the Indian Ocean’ for its strategic position. These days there’s much afoot in the deep blue sky, with government establishing the island as a hub for flights to mainland Africa. New connections to Mauritius include Air Mauritius (from Perth Australia) and KLM’s service from Amsterdam. Past glories are also getting a spotlight in 2018, when the island celebrates 50 years of independence.”
We also have a few friends visiting Africa soon and it’s an easy flight from Jo’Burg so if time etc. permits, consider adding a week or so on. See map in previous post if interested.
Our island wind down after an exciting month in Africa…
After doing a lot of driving around South Africa over a few weeks, we used Mauritius as more a place to rest up…I was very tired and sore, mostly due to my spinal issues but sometimes I didn’t sleep well with anxiety related to yet another major surgery planned for 26 July. Disappointment was mixed with anxiety – I’d tried so many ways to avoid more surgery…it really is last resort and in my situation unavoidable (breakdown in mid back/join between 1969 & 2010 surgeries). Glad that’s now over – for good I hope!
Flag and Demographics of Mauritius 🇲🇺
What struck us when we stayed for a week in Mauritius (flight from Jo’Burg, Africa) was what seemed to be a very well functioning multicultural society…well that was the impression we had when speaking with staff at the hotel (often encouraged to give a positive spin of course) but also the locals…taxi drivers and people working in shops…sometimes cafes and restaurants. Most people can speak both French and English so it’s one of the easier places in which to chat with just about anyone. We also had a guide take us on a one day tour of the island.
The official symbolism of the flag 🇲🇺 is interesting…
“Flag of Mauritius. horizontally striped red-blue-yellow-green national flag. … Yellow is said to be the “light of freedom shining over the island,” while red reflects the national struggle for independence. The blue stripe is emblematic of the insular nature of the country and its position in the Indian Ocean.” From Britannica site.
Unsure if it’s anything like Australia where our population has mixed views (sometimes debate) on whether we should keep or change the flag from what is very British symbolism (see below)…however, in schools and elsewhere we often have two or in Nth Qld (where I was teaching for 4 years), 3 flags (including the Torres St Islander flag):
At some cafes, mid priced restaurants and many street food stalls we saw more Indian influence and later learnt that Indian ancestry is the most common in Mauritius. Of course being close to Africa and having had the slave trade as part of Mauritian history the influences on food are Indian/African/French with what we presume would be a strong Indigenous influence as well. At the top end restaurants the focus appears to mostly be on European food – mostly French with a tropical twist (see previous 2 posts if interested). Lots of seafood served in a variety of ways of course…
Similarities again with Australia/Canberra – we have a large Australian/Indian influence now (similar to England on a smaller scale) with Indian restaurants in every one of our main town centres in Canberra. Our closest favourite being Charlisa…lovely food + well priced in Tuggeranong Town Centre about 20 min from our apartment. Even my wonderful Dr (GP) of 20+ years is Australian/Indian/British!…sure she has at least dual citizenship here! So our multiculturalism is very similar to Mauritius as well and in Canberra, similarly harmonious – perhaps due to communities socialising and working together more than in larger cities?? When teaching we had both parents and staff with origins &/or ancestry from all parts of the world.
Languages of Mauritius:
The majority language is French-based Mauritian Creole. However, the language mostly used in schools is English with French also a common language of education and the dominant language of the media. According to our guide around the island, approximately 73% of Mauritians were French speakers in 2005 – “most younger people can now speak both French and English”. He grew up speaking French-based Creole and gradually learned English as his career progressed. Most menus at cafes and restaurants are in both French and English (see photo below).
Tip when with children – young children often love learning words from another language and food/menus can be an engaging way for them to learn. Choose words they’re likely to be familiar with eg. chicken/poulet; ham/jambon…Jamon in Spanish.
I sometimes wondered if I would ever use the French I learnt in high school but it is amazing how, at least the ability to read another language, does return to memory even after many decades. It’s a great feeling too – knowing that the brain is still firing ok even if the body isn’t always doing so!
Exploring in and around Grand-Baie village (a 10 min boat trip from our hotel)…see other posts if interested. One day we had street food for lunch (photo below) – the tip is to buy freshly cooked food that looks popular with the locals – as well as the tourists ie. a good turnover. Some foods we avoid but we’ve been very lucky when travelling and haven’t come down with any serious tummy upsets.
Exploring further afield (photo below) – our day trip across the island included a visit to a tea plantation and morning tea at their cafe where their own teas were served along with crepes. Later I’ll note an easy crepe recipe at end of this post to perhaps make with older children too?
We also visited their Botanic Gardens as well as a nature reserve/lookout...we had a picnic lunch there while taking in the view. More photos in next post including some of the wildlife we encountered along the way…nothing to big and scary in this part of the world!…still very interesting.
Our Mauritius inspired home cooking this cool late Autumn weekend in Canberra:
SOUTH INDIAN SEAFOOD MASALA
We took the easy option…had a busy day shopping so we visited a newish Spice store I love ( http://www.gewurzhaus.com.au ) in the Canberra Centre and bought their spice mix with exotic ingredients eg. Cardamom, fennel, cassia (herbaceous plant of pea family!…native to warm climates…I like to learn about a different herb/spice on each visit:) as well as spices I’m familiar with eg. Turmeric with many health benefits my Oz/Indian Dr says.
So the Indian meal served on the French tablecloth I love was appropriate for the multicultural Mauritian theme😉 I didn’t buy the tablecloth in France – actually from a small French shop in Manuka, Canberra. The woman there has an apartment in Paris as well and whenever I drop in encourages me to rent it from her. Maybe one year soon!
Enough of my getting sidetracked…here’s the recipe but sure there would also be an appropriate spice mix on Net you could make up for a “Marsala Seafood” curry.
Work 5 tsp spice, 3 garlic cloves, 1.2 cm ginger (finely chopped) and 1/8 cup water into a loose paste in a mortar and pestle.
Fry 1 small chopped onion in oil until golden, add paste and fry until fragrant and bubbling.
Add 1/2 cup tinned tomatoes and simmer further 5 min after liquid dissolves.
Stir in 150 ml coconut milk and 1/3 cup of water and simmer a further 5 min.
It says “Add 200 g fish and vegetables and cook until tender” – see below:
We changed the recipe a bit (and loved how it turned out)…
There seemed to be a lot of sauce for quantity of seafood they suggested so with this quantity of spice we added 200 g fish and 200 g raw prawn (you could make it veg).
We decided to keep the beans separate as you can see in our photo. Shallow fried beans in a tiny bit of olive oil (not too hot) and sprinkled with mixed/toasted seeds eg. Sesame.
We served it with a few sambals including a chutney; a turmeric pickle (I bought from Woden Indian Spice store); a Naan bread; yoghurt (sometimes we make Raita ie. yoghurt and cucumber 🥒).
We own “Rick Stein’s India” and he has a few of our favourite/simple seafood curries in that too. A particularly quick/delicious sounding one is Fish with Garlic Cumin and Kashmiri Chilli…I’ll be looking for the Kashmiri Chilli powder at the Woden spice store I mentioned above.
Another SUPER EASY fish dish we love uses an African Chermoula spice rub…either 1 or 2 tablespoons of spice with same quantity of olive oil. That spice is available from our Fyshwick market deli or we can get it from gewurzhaus in the city too. They also have stores in Sydney (Queen Victoria Building) and Melbourne.
IF YOU HAVE LEFT OVER CURRY (we did with the quantity above):
We made the curry above on Saturday night and tonight (Monday) we’ll be reheating the left-overs as a dish alongside a Spicy Cauliflower Omelete (recipe from “Vegetarian Indian” which I’ll put in next Mauritius post). An even quicker option with eggs but equally tasty if you feel like (or need!) a very casual night is an Indian style “Simple Scrambled Eggs” (from the same book)…these are so simple “soothing and satisfying but also a bit spicy or they would not be Indian”.
SPICED SCRAMBLED EGGS:
4 eggs broken into a bowl; 2 teaspoon olive or peanut oil; 2 scallions (green shallots) cut into fine rings halfway up their green sections; 2 tablespoons finely chopped tomatoes; 1 fresh green chilli (more if you like it spicy)…very finely chopped; 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro); freshly ground black pepper.
I add turmeric (either ground or fresh/finely grated) and reduce the chilli but personal taste of course…sometimes I make it even easier and just add what you have in fridge eg. If no coriander substitute parsley. To me this is one of those make it fast dishes – sometimes just a quick lunch or a bit extra to go with leftovers when it’s just me and Tony for dinner and we’ve had a busy day or don’t want to through out delicious food. Flavours of a curry often improve over a couple of days too.
A bit sidetracked again…Tony’s 50th party/Curry dinner 🎈 🎉 🎈
Talking of curries had me thinking of Tony’s 50th surprise party – almost 15 years ago!!
I put on an Indian curry dinner (after work on a Friday night!!) and cooked it all myself so it was quite a challenge getting all the food prepared for about 25 people without him knowing + my full time teaching job! I usually had a reputation for working late until about 6 pm (which I preferred to lots of weekend work teachers do) but not that week!
At that point in time Tony was travelling away a lot so I timed the party so that he was away for the week before and every night (even the weeks before) I made a different curry and froze it. A kind neighbour/good friend with a large freezer helped me store it out of his sight! He did come home a week before and commented on the aroma of curry but I served some up that night as a decoy
It was worth the effort (and last minute panic!) as it was a great night to remember. One of Tony’s best friends distracted him at work so we were sure they’d arrive home at about 7 pm. This good friend Mark sadly passed away a few years later (just 47 – cancer) so we always smile when we think of how much Mark enjoyed being part of the planning too. He loved a party and made the best mango cocktails when we all lived in Townsville – North Qld.
Reminds us all to live life to the full too and travel etc while we can!
Mark was keen to get to China even when he was diagnosed but sadly he never made it. Didn’t mean to end this blog on a sad note so will pop in something for children…being with children both in my teaching career, volunteering and just at home has been a great way to lift my spirits + drive me crazy at times as well like most parents and teachers can attest to🤪 😍😂 – gotta keep laughing!
Photo above: Tony’s 50th…eldest son Andrew (20)...a year of birthdays in our family – Tony 1953; Andrew 1983; my Dad 1923 (80); my younger sister 1963 – her husband 1953! I was still a young 40 something😉
FRENCH CREPE RECIPE – a good one to teach children although an adult needs to do the flipping until they’re about 10ish…depending on experience of child of course.
Basic Ingredients: 1 cup all purpose (plain) flour; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup milk; 1/2 cup water; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 2 tablespoons butter (melted).
Ideas for getting kids involved…
Most average cooks know the method and if not, get children involved in finding/reading instructions from the Net. I know some people are into using a blender to make batters but I think it’s an important skill for children to learn…if you use a stainless steel bowl it really only take a minute to clean up – often quicker than washing a blender. Get them involved in the cleaning up too.
Children also enjoy topping with a squeeze of lemon and a little runnTy honey (I microwave a tiny bit and show how you don’t need much at all)…top with banana slices (we have available most of year here) or a few strawberries if in season.
Teaching them how to flip…start with a thicker batter ie. a pikelet or pancake batter and close adult supervision of course – reminders about the heat etc. Watching a very quick video on net before you start would be helpful too…just a minute or so as they’ll learn more from a hands-on practice including a failure or two:)
For older teens – Crepe Suzettes are fun to make occasionally and so delicious!