Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cooking up a Curry

Most people have not ever heard of Mauritius before, but it is definitely an African island nation that should not be ignored. Located in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is made up of the main island of Mauritius and several outlying islands. It's location made it an important trade route between Europe and Asia before the Suez Canal. Historically it was uninhabited. The Arabs and Portuguese both visited, but it was the Dutch who first settled in Mauritius. Later the French and then the English had control over the island until 1968 when it became an independent nation under the commonwealth. Today over 1.2 million people live in Mauritius and represent a wide gamut of different ethnicities and races. English, French, Mauritian Creole, and Bhojpuri (an Indian language) are all spoken, but none hold the status of official language.

Mauritius cuisine carries a lot of influences from India, hence the curry, chickpeas, and flatbread. Being an island throws a whole new flare to the cuisine, allowing for fresh fish and other seafoods. I decided to try something new for this meal and prepare an octopus curry. Chinese, French, and English cuisines are also common and seafood is super popular. Before the dodo bird became extinct, it was a popular dish for Portuguese sailors who stopped by on their way to trade in the east. They were easy targets because they could not fly.

Octopus? Yes, please. Indian spices and cooking methods are combined with Mauritian ingredients to make a lovely meal.

Cari Ourite
serves 2-3
8 ounces cleaned octopus, cut into bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ tsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp oil
1-2 red chili peppers, chopped
½ cup reserved octopus juice
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
dash of cinnamon
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro, to garnish

Cook the octopus in its own juice until pink and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, chilies, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, curry powder, cinnamon, and cilantro. Bring the mixture to a simmer and smash the tomatoes into a thick paste. Add the octopus. Cook for 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

Farate is Mauritius' version of paratha. Meals in Mauritius are almost always served with some type of bread, whether it be a French baguette or an Indian flatbread. To make farate, an unleavened wheat dough is rolled out, spread with butter, folded up, and rolled out again several times to create a flaky bread. The more layers the better!

makes 2
1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
6 to 8 tablespoons of hot water
softened butter, as needed

Mix together the flour and salt. Knead in enough water to make a soft dough. Continue kneading for 10 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough in half and roll them into disks. Brush the disks with butter, fold in half, and roll out again. Continue this process until the dough has a bunch of layers. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Cook each side of the bread for about 2 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.


Chickpeas are a common side dish or could be a great vegetarian main. They round out a good meal served alongside some rice and bread.

Gram Bouilli Mauricien
serves 2-3
1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red chilies, chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 tomato, cubed
½ cup reserved chickpea water
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp cumin
dash of ground ginger
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro, to garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the chickpeas until just tender. Drain and run under cool water, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, chilies, and garlic. Cook until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the seasonings to toast them for one minute. Pour in the water and add the tomato. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, adding more water if the sauce gets too thick. Mash up the tomatoes into a thick paste. Add the chickpeas and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro. | DSC_0484[1]

Coming to Spain has really allowed me to taste the world. Where would I have found octopus to make a Mauritius curry in Tennessee? My Kroger that doesn't even have fresh salmon half the time surely does not carry octopus. Thankfully every grocery shop in Spain does. I didn't think I would like it. I had heard that octopus was chewy and frankly the thought of eating Ursula freaked me out. Plus the suckers are just weird. Thankfully my curry turned out well. I enjoyed the chewy texture of the octopus and it really didn't have a taste at all. The chickpeas were nicely spiced and not too hard or too mushy. I had some difficulties rolling the bread without a rolling pen. It was a little but of a mess and the bread did not yield the flaky layers I had hoped for. Oh well, the rest of food was delicious. I give Mauritius two thumbs up.

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