SPRING SPICE “GOLD ” ROUTE
THE NEXT BLOG FROM OUR FOOD EDITOR JP LE ROUX
Yup, it’s that time of the year again – Spring!
Flowers are blossoming, there are new fragrances in the air, the rainbow of colours is truly spectacular – and that goes for the culinary delights in my kitchen, too. To put it simply, it’s time to spice up your life…island style!
Without letting the chicken out of the cooking bag, a close friend and business partner and I have been formulating a whole new food business and brand and that has all been based on South Africa’s favourite protein – the lowly chicken. Our shared loved of fruit and spice that is so central to island style cuisine is acting as the perfect inspiration so watch this space.
Meanwhile, behind the kitchen counter and even the ever faithful braai, I am dreaming up a growing number of island style chicken and seafood dishes whilst also writing my own take on just how island style cookery made its way into our everyday lives and continues to colonise out taste buds (all puns intended).
So here goes …
A long long time ago, in an ocean far far away…there lived humble pioneers – or so my story goes. Oom Jan wanted a good curry and damn he succeeded …. He set sail in a teardrop and crossed the Tropic of Cancer to discover a whole new world. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, he had a taste bud changing moment when he encountered the warmer waters of the exotic Tropic of Capricorn.
In my first blog, we tracked the beginning of this journey as we chatted about the Asian spice route. I’d like to think that Oom Jan adventured here on camel back.
Now we are sailing the high seas in barrels on flag ships, from Madagascar all the way to Sri Lanka and more.
The best place to find oneself is in the wonderful world of CURRY – and, no, we’re not going to debate whether or not this is a colonial fable or any other historical injustice. As a chef who has enjoyed travelling the globe and investigating the very many ways of creating the ultimate curry, I confess to not really indulging in politics or philosophy when sinking into the wonderful taste sensations that can be traced back to the many wonderful cultures that I celebrate when I tuck into a curry.
In fact, I believe that curry is such a personal thing that everyone has something special to add. In fact, you can bet ya Nan makes the best curry in the world – true story.
FROM CURRY TO THE CARIBEAN
In Durban, the home of some of our best curries, we always tend to think of the traditional Indian curry.
But, there is so much more to explore – there’s a whole host of exotic spices along the ocean belt.
During my travels, I was inspired by a number of different dishes and I want to share some with you. They were created during my brief experiences on some of the islands fronting the Indian Ocean and I can only hope that I have perfectly captured the beautiful cultural references from these.
Then, I’ve added something more… using fruit to add a versatile, colourful and new age taste and twist. I like to think that this has contributed to the both the flavour and presentation.
For example, I like to serve these dishes in a banana leaf. That is not only because I am trying to create a cool island vibe but because the banana leaf has natural oils that, when heated up, preserve each of the dishes and even add an exotic flavour.
If we want to be new age, then the good thing is the good old banana leaf is also bio degradable. I mean who wants plastic and cardboard floating around our shores? We’re told this rubbish is creating whole islands out at sea and destroying marine life. I’m doing my bit to make sure that the islands of my imaginings and concoctions remain beautiful and litter free.
But back to this, I have created five dishes that will tantalize your ocean taste buds and inspire you to add your own creativity to the dishes that exit your kitchen.
Firstly, a tangy, spicy take on chicken tikka, flame grilled with masala pineapple, and a dash of coconut. To marinade some really tender wings, dunk them in buttermilk and then place them in the fridge overnight. Use a mixed tikka curry rub and grill them on an open flame until golden brown. You can drizzle them with a tad of honey to create that lovely sexy char. Construct your kebobs with your grilled pine apple and sprinkle a dash of smoked paprika. To finish, dunk your kebob in coconut milk to round off those edges.
Next, see how much fun you can have with a stick. Just adding your favourite fruit to some succulent grilled chicken. In this case, I added case litchi to drumsticks. The humble cucumber was then mixed into an awesome tzatziki for the perfect summertime feast.
I have also created a traditional Mauritian style crab creole chowder which I served in a homemade naan bread (see my previous blog for the recipe) as well as a homemade mazavaroo to tickle the senses. The crab curry is something of a secret recipe right now. But, if you read along for long enough, it just might emerge from under a piece of island style coral in another blog. Just saying …
Just when you thought bunnies don’t have purple cabbage ears! Also on my island style menu is a colourful, bunny clam chowder.
Finally, there’s my porcupine done in two different ways. You can fill a grilled, halved pineapple with pork, honey mustard dressing with poached apple and add the hero of the islands, pomegranate. Alternatively, you can be more adventurous and spice it up with pork ribs flambéed in spice gold rum and serve it in a hollowed out fresh pineapple.
SAYING CHEERS ISLAND STYLE
A brief geography lesson or quick google will tell you that most islands in the Indian Ocean were previously French colonies, so good wine is the obvious choice for a pairing with these delicious meals.
But, rum is in… yes Jan Rum, the liquid gold he also discovered,,,, Jan se skuld.
Classic island drinks such as the Ma Thai, Long Island ice tea and, the favourite classic, the Pina Colada will also go down well.
So, let’s celebrate life and spring and raise a glass to all of you East Coast dwellers. together, we can rum-ble those tail feathers, feel the cool breeze in our hair, indulge our culinary senses and enjoy Spring, island style.