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Envi ene bon ti salade melanz? While the average Mauritian is not a huge fruit eater, he/she will hardly ever say no to a freshly prepared fruit salad topped with tamarind sauce and disel pima/ chili salt. A colourful meli-melo of tropical fruits including mangoes and pineapple, our traditional fruit salad is not a homemade entity but derives its popularity from the road side sellers who usually extend their fares to markets and beaches on Sundays and holidays.

It will not be an uncommon sight if you come across one today on our crowded public beaches, which are always so on the eve and the day of a public holiday. And as we are celebrating our Independence Day today, there is, I’m sure, no better occasion to do a post on something we can proudly call as our ‘national’ salad. As the official celebrations unfold this afternoon in Champ de Mars in the attendance of eminent personalities, many will undoubtedly gather in more informal surroundings with the same feeling of being fier d’etre mauricien/ proud to be a Mauritian.

MAURITIAN FRUIT SALAD

Ingredients:

2 semi ripe mangoes

1 medium pineapple

1 small cucumber

10 jamalacs/ love apples

1 carambole/ star fruit

2-3 dried red chilies

1 teaspoon kitchen salt

3 tablespoons tamarind

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Method:

  • Peel mangoes, pineapple and cucumber. Cut each fruit into bite size pieces or chop into thick slices.

  • Cut the jamalacs into halves and slice the carambole thinly. Place all chopped fruit in a large bowl.

  • Crush the dried chilies and salt together in a grinder or in a mortar until it turns into a fine powder.

  • Remove any seeds from the tamarind and soak the pulp in 2 tablespoons warm water for 5 minutes.

  • Combine the tamarind pulp with 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Add more water and grind together.

  • It should form a sauce of slow dripping consistency. Toss this dressing over the bowl of fruit salad.

  • Mix till well combined and leave to stand at room temperature for at least one hour before serving.

  • Top with extra tamarind and serve in plastic cups along with extra salt and chili powder. Serves 4.

Mauritian Fruit Salad

This particular rice flour pudding was by all means the result of keeping a box of rice flour and a tin of condensed milk side by side in my kitchen drawer for weeks with no inkling that the two could be combined in a single creamy dessert. Originally from Northern parts of India, phirni is a well loved milk dish traditionally served in small earthen pots. Its preparation is somewhat similar to kheer, which is made from whole rice, whereas phirni is prepared using ground rice or rice flour. Best served after it has been chilled for a couple of hours, the traditional recipe calls for full cream milk though I wanted to go along with the condensed milk to make it thick and smooth.

Rose water and saffron are usually added to enhance flavours but please do not omit the freshly ground cardamom to maintain its authenticity. In contrast to the classic semolina pudding we always prepare for puja ceremonies, this light rice flour pudding was my offering to Lord Shiva for Maha Shivratree. Celebrated with unwavering devotion in honor of one of the main deities of Hinduism, the great night of Shiva is preceded by the pilgrimage to Ganga Talao. Every year, thousands of Mauritians undertake the journey on foot, some carrying heavily decorated kanwars and chanting the powerful Om Namah Shivaya mantra as they make their slow progress towards the sacred lake.

PHIRNI

Ingredients:

500 g fine rice flour, sifted

392g condensed milk

2 1/2 cups full cream milk

2 cups lukewarm water

1/4 cup unrefined sugar

2 teaspoons cardamom powder

1 1/2 teaspoon rose water/ gulab jal

Small pinch of saffron strands

3 tablespoon almonds, chopped

3 tablespoon pistachios, chopped

Method:

  • Sift the rice flour into a large mixing bowl to remove any large lumps. Add the condensed milk and stir.

  • Slowly add milk and water till a batter of dosa-like consistency forms and place in a heavy bottomed pan.

  • Cook on low heat, stirring continuously for 10 to 12 minutes. The texture should be coarse and little thick.

  • Add the unrefined sugar to the mixture and mix well. Continue to cook on low flame the sugar dissolves.

  • Before removing the pan from the heat, add the cardamom powder and rose water and give it a good stir.

  • Leave to cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving time.

  • Serve phirni in small bowls and garnish with chopped almonds, pistachios and saffron strands. Serves 6.

Phirni – Rice Flour Pudding

While you can make use of your good, old coffee machine to brew fresh granules for this sensational summer drink, I tried to adapt it for those who do not have or cannot be bothered with filtered coffee. For those purists who swear by the genuine stuff, go straight to the unaltered recipe on Epicurious.com. Those who are not so squeamish over instant coffee, grab your jar of regular Nescafe and start by making the coffee jelly which is the magic ingredient in this drink. I would suggest that you go for a stronger dose than you are used to as the freezing process will, to some extent, numb the intensity of the coffee flavour that comes through. Chill for a couple of hours, then stretch yourself under a beach umbrella and sip lazily through a bubble straw [ideally with a view on the beach] on a scorching summer day.

FROZEN ICED COFFEE + COFFEE JELLY

Ingredients:

For the Coffee Jelly

1 tablespoon agar agar

4 teaspoons instant coffee

2 tablespoons caster sugar

2 cups cold water

For the Whipped Cream

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frozen Iced Coffee

1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 1/2 cups cold whole milk

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Dissolve agar agar in 3 tablespoons cool water in a small bowl. Let stand till bloomed, about 2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile combine cold coffee and sugar in a large container. Gently stir agar agar mixture into coffee.

  • Do not stir too vigorously else air bubbles will appear. Chill the mixture until it is firm for about 2 hours.
  • Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed or whisk, whip cream in a large bowl till soft peaks form.

  • Add sugar and vanilla and whip to medium peaks. Chill whipped cream while preparing the iced coffee.
  • For the iced coffee, blend coffee, cocoa, milk, syrup, vanilla, and 3 cups ice into a blender until smooth.

  • To assemble, cut coffee jelly into 3/4″ cubes and fill serving glasses with 1/2 cup cubed coffee jelly each.
  • Spoon 3 tablespoons of whipped cream over each and spread it around to create a solid layer of cream.

  • Divide frozen iced coffee (about 1 cup each) among glasses and carefully pour on top of the cream layer.
  • Top glasses with more whipped cream and serve immediately with bubble tea straws. Makes 4 servings.

Frozen Iced Coffee

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