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Today we commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Mauritius after 182 long years of this horribly inhuman practice introduced under colonial rule of the Dutch, followed by the French and the British. Slaves, mainly of African descent, were brought to Mauritius to work in fields and construction sites where heavy manual labour was sought. In spite of its official abolition by the British government in 1807, it was not until 1835 that the shoddy business of human trade and exploitation was abandoned in favour of recruitment of indentured labourers from India. The post abolition period was also a time of considerable struggle for those given freedom but no support or resources to start life afresh and consequently fell back into poverty and deprivation.

On this special day many chose to visit the Le Morne Slave Route which traces the footsteps of our ancestors back in time and helps us better understand their plight as maroons as they fled from their merciless master to find refuge in the wilderness of Le Morne Brabant. They were then confined to subsist on meager reserves at the cost of freedom and dignity. In the memory of all those who fought and died to make their voices heard, I dedicate this blog post and the following recipe, riz frit poisson salé/ fried rice with salted fish, a local delicacy you can find in tuck shops and roadside snacks and probably derived from Creole cuisine, fashioned by slave descendants who went on to build and empower the generations of slave-free population who enjoy a far better life than their forefathers ever did.

RIZ FRIT POISSON SALE – FRIED RICE WITH SALTED FISH

Ingredients:

80g salted fish/ snoek

150g boneless chicken

100g corn kernels

100g carrots, diced

1 small onion, diced

100g peppers, diced

150g basmati rice, soaked

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 small bunch spring onion

Method:

  • Soak rice in cold water for 15 minutes, drain and cook in a pan of boiling water until firm but not mushy.

  • Soak salted fish in water to wash away most of the salt. Place in another pan of water and bring to the boil.

  • Cook the fish for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Drain well and remove fish bones. Flake fish coarsely.

  • If using precooked salted fish, remove from packaging and use directly without prior boiling and frying it.

  • In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil and add the ginger paste. Roast lightly until fragrant then add the fish.

  • Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper. Leave it to marinate for 15 minutes.

  • While chicken marinates, prepare vegetables by dicing the carrots, onion and assorted bell peppers finely.

  • Beat eggs lightly and fry as for an omelette, cut it into strips and set aside. Now cook chicken in same pan.

  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or a deep heavy based pan. Add the cooked rice, sauté for a minute or two.

  • Stir in chicken, salted fish, carrot, onion, corn kernels, peppers and eggs. Add the dark soy and fish sauce.

  • Stir fry for about 5-7 minutes, stirring at regular intervals, to prevent rice sticking at the bottom of the pan.

  • Cover pan for 2 minutes, then sprinkle with chopped spring onions and serve immediately. For 4 persons.

Fried Rice with Salted Fish

Rice pudding is a well known comfort food all over the world. We know it here as ‘kheer‘, a creamy milk-based dessert from India that gets prepared and eaten on auspicious occasions [or anytime you have some left over or overcooked rice that needs to be converted into something better and sweeter!] Mexico also has its own version of rice pudding which combines condensed milk and cinnamon to give arroz con leche, a thick rice pudding, though similar types of this dessert are popular throughout Central and South America with slight regional variations.

The recipe, taken from Mommy’s Home Cooking, is sweet enough without the addition of sugar I believe. My can of condensed milk has been waiting for so long in the kitchen drawer that it turned into dulce de leche on its own helped by the blazing summer we have been experiencing lately. The only way I could enjoy my arroz con leche was to let it chill for a couple of hours before topping it off with a dash of powdered cinnamon and nutmeg.

ARROZ CON LECHE

Ingredients:

5 cup whole milk, warm

1 to 2 cinnamon sticks

2 strips of lime zest

1 pinch of kitchen salt

1 cup long grain white rice

1/2 can (196g) condensed milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Ground cinnamon, to taste

Method:

  • Heat, in a medium-size heavy saucepan, over medium heat 3 cups of milk and cinnamon stick.

  • Add lime zest, and salt. Bring to a boil, uncovered. When it starts to boil reduce the heat to low.

  • Add the rice and cook for 10 to 15 more minutes or until milk is almost completely evaporated.

  • Continue adding milk, stirring constantly, 1/2 a cup at the time, until it is absorbed by the rice.

  • With the last 1/2 cup of milk, add condensed milk and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened.

  • Be aware that as the rice cools it thickens. Turn off the heat. Add butter and stir to incorporate.

  • If the cooled pudding is too thick, enough add heavy cream to achieve the desired consistency.

  • Let cool uncovered. Serve warm or cold sprinkled with ground cinnamon to taste. Serves 6-8.

Arroz con Leche

As the new moon has been sighted today, all Muslims households are busy adding finishing touches here and there for tomorrow’s grand celebration, Eid-Ul-Fitr. Though I’ll be working [on call] on this festive occasion, I would like to share this traditional recipe from Pakistan before I log off and get ready for my 31-hour shift. Zarda, a sweet dish – popularly served during Eid, weddings and large gatherings- is made by cooking long grain rice with saffron or food coloring until it turns to a rich golden yellow hue. The mixture is then combined with hot sugar syrup and topped with raisins, almond flakes, pistachios, cashew nuts, candied fruit peel or crumbled khoya before serving. The following recipe, from Fatima Cooks, makes enough for a large family of 8 to 10 people but I guess you’ll need to double the ratio as everyone will probably be asking for second helpings for dessert.

ZARDA

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

5 green cardamom pods

1 teaspoon yellow food coloring

1/4 cup chopped nuts

1/4 cup raisins or sultanas

1 tablespoon pure ghee

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

Method:

  • Wash and drain rice till the water no longer runs cloudy. Then, soak rice in water for at least 30 minutes.

  • In a large pan, add rice, cardamom pods, food coloring, ghee and enough water to cover everything well.

  • Bring everything to a boil. In a separate pan, add chopped nuts and raisins with 1tsp sugar and 1tsp ghee.

  • Heat this on medium heat, stirring often to roast the nuts well. Keep this roasting until they are needed.

  • Once the rice is 80% done, drain everything into a colander. Now start layering the Zarda as for Biryani.

  • First, take 1/3 of rice and layer it at the bottom of the pan. Add 1/3 sugar and 1/3 of the nuts and raisins.

  • Repeat layering till the rice, sugar, nuts and raisins are used up, ending with the nuts and raisins on top.

  • Cover the pot and turn the heat to the lowest setting possible. Allow the Zarda to steam for 20 minutes.

  • Once it is done, uncover pan and carefully stir the rice to mix in the sugar, preferably with slotted spoon.

  • Be careful not to break the rice. Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving warm in small dessert cups.

Eid Mubarak

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