The celebration of our national day is a matter of pride for every Mauritian where each one of us gets to reflect on how far our tiny paradise island has come since its independence in 1968. It is not only about flying the national flag high on our rooftops.
This year the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources held a Mauritian Festival [5th – 11th March] starting with a 24/7 in the towns of Quatre Bornes and Vacoas. The event’s objective was to bring to light the Mauritian culture in all its splendour and diversity. Tomorrow’s official celebrations are to be held in the presence of distinguished guest Koïchiro Matsuura [former Director-General of UNESCO] at Champ de Mars.
The most exciting, and possibly most significant, of all celebrations remain the one at school, traditionally held on the eve of official events. A week prior to the 11th March, rehearsals of the anthem are done in chorus in every school yard. Children are given small flags on a stick and [occasionally] caps, brooches and stationery bearing the national emblem and colours.
Following a solemn flag hoisting ceremony and listening to the PM’s message with a drowsy uninterested look, everyone runs back to their classrooms for gato pepsi/ cakes and soft drinks. The novelty this year is that the usual massepain, napolitaine, feuilleté and tarte banane have been replaced by healthier options like poudine, idli, crepes and poutou.
Fond memories of my childhood national day celebrations led me to bake a small batch of bite-size napolitaines and mauritian massepain today. Wishing Mauritians all over the world a very Happy Independence Day.
150g unsalted butter
250g all purpose flour
2 tbs jam, of your choice
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
12 tsp cold water
- Cut butter into cubes. Leave it outside fridge for at least 2 hours to soften. This may take longer if you dnt live under tropical conditions.
- Sift flour in a large bowl. Rub butter into flour with finger tips.
- Take your time to incorporate the butter until it comes together in a ball. Do NOT knead dough and do NOT add water.
- If dough is too dry, add more butter. If too sticky, adjust flour ratio.
- Dough should be soft and supple. Set it aside for some 15 mins.
- Press down gently into a disc and roll out carefully on a clean surface.
- Sprinkle sparsely with flour and roll out until about 1cm thick.
- The dough should have a little cracks as possible when doing this.
- Patch up any cracks especially around edges by pinching dough together and rolling over lightly.
- Preheat oven to 160 0C before you start cutting dough.
- Use sharp 1.5 inch cookie cutter to punch out circles out of dough.
- I have a piece of PVC tubing that works like a charm here 😉
- Transfer your circles onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 1/2 hour or until cookies are golden. Do not allow them to get brown. If you are not sure, run a test batch first.
- Remove baking tray from oven when done and cool completely.
- Make sure cookies are cooled before you attempt to remove them, else they’ll crumble. It’s a good idea to run a knife underneath than to remove the with your fingers. If you’ve got the above steps right, your cookies should be soft and super flaky, like french sablées.
- Divide cookies into 2 equal batches on separate plates.
- Drop 1/4 tsp jam in the centre of cookies of one batch. I use Bio Confiture Extra Fraises from Monoprix. Love their Bio range!
- Top each with a plain cookie from the second batch.
- Prepare your sugar icing last. For this, heat water in a double boiler or bain–marie or [like me] a large pressure cooker.
- Hang a steamer basket over boiling water in pressure cooker.
- In a small metal bowl/ katori, combine food colour and water.
- I chose to ice my napolitaines in 4 different colours as per the mauritian flag – red, blue, yellow and green – but it was hard to get the precise colour shades with liquid colouring 😦
- For each colour I required 1/2 cup icing sugar and 3 tsp water.
- Place metal bowl in steamer basket. Close pressure cooker for 5 min.
- After 5 min, check if sugar has dissolved and icing is of right consistency. It should be very thick and viscous.
- Keep your sandwiched cookies close by on a wire rack.
- When icing reaches correct consistency remove metal bowl from steamer basket and immediately drizzle over cookies with spoon.
- The icing will start to set almost instantly. Return bowl to steamer if it hardens before you are done. You may add an extra 1/2 tsp of water.
- Allow icing to set completely before removing from wire rack.
- Store in an air tight container. Do not store in fridge.
- Makes 15 napolitaines [1.5 inches diameter].
Napolitaines are a very popular form of petits fours served at almost every function. Heart shaped ones with a name or message piped on top make ideal party favours for an engagement. Avoid making them too big; the high sugar load will offset the pleasant melt-in-the-mouth feeling.
You may be fooled into believing that it’s a short simple recipe from the few basic ingredients. Well, you should expect to spend no less than 2 hours in the kitchen before sampling the napolitaine of your labour 😉
Not patient enough to make napolitaines? Give the famous mauritian massepain a shot. It’s an easy butter cake baked in a loaf pan and nicely complemented with sultanas, dried fruit or flaked almonds. You can also marble it with chocolate or pandan if you want a splash of colour. Recipe taken from the old Blédor All Purpose Flour package. The original recipe makes a cake eight times as large as the one I’m showing here!
125g self raising flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
100g butter, softened
2 eggs, at room temperature
25 g sultanas/ dried fruit/ almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 180 oC. Grease and line a 3×7 inch loaf pan.
- Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.
- Add eggs and vanilla. Whip with a wire whisk till light and frothy.
- Fold in flour carefully with a spatula. Stir in dried fruit.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan and level surface.
- Bake for 40 minutes until skewer comes out clean from centre.
- Turn out on wire rack and cool completely before serving.
- Store in an airtight container. Makes 8-10 slices.
Vive Nou Ti Zil Moris – Long Live Mauritius