There are fewer things in life which warm the cockles of my heart more than a client so appreciative of my assistance that they feel the need to express their thanks with more than words.
In this case, the gift took the form of a virtual cookalong with BBC Masterchef winner and owner of Southampton’s Lakaz Maman Street Kitchen, Shelina Permalloo, broadcast from The Myers Touch luxury kitchen showrooms in Winchester. It's a pretty fabulous and thoughtful way to thank this lover of all things Mauritian.
My passion for this exquisite island began exactly ten years ago when I was invited to accompany a group of UK travel agents on a week's whistle-stop tour of some of the island’s best hotels. I’ve been twice since and will complete a hat-trick of returns in September, including celebrating my birthday at the Beachcomber Victoria Resort & Spa.
In the Shayler-Tarrant household, I (Shayler) do the meal planning, and Steve (Tarrant) does the cooking, so it was with great reluctance that he handed over the apron. Once happy that we weren't going to be under Shelina’s watchful eye on a one-to-one basis, or our results judged by John and Greg, he happily relaxed into his role as sous-chef and bartender.
There were 50 guest slots, each filled by eager pupils with wildly varying levels of Zoom competence, which initially made for some pretty hilarious moments.
Shelina and Keith decided that the best way forwards was for us to be collectively muted and swiftly guided us to the comments section for additional support during the cook. It was a good move.
First up was fragrant yellow rice, my very favourite carb and something I was eager to nail. I adhered religiously to the instructions and what do you know, it worked beautifully! It gave me such satisfaction to have finally conquered rice at the age of 50. High five, Shelina! 😉
Next was the fragrant island style chicken coconut cari for which I used butterbeans instead of chicken. I urge you to hunt down Shelina's full recipe and method for this heavenly dish. It's quick to put together, delicious and can easily be veggied/ veganised. I’ve subsequently made it using tofu, paneer, cauliflower, prawns or salmon instead of the chicken/ butterbeans. Well, I haven't, of course; Steve has. Teamwork!
The showroom kitchens hadn't been used for a while and problems with the gas supply required Shelina to make a deftly handled switch to an induction hob and pan just as we started prep to fry our butternut squash fritters. I’ve kindly been given permission to share the full recipe and method with you for these tasty 100% plant-based delights which were accompanied by a chive chilli dipping sauce. I’m going to give them a go with courgettes next time. Yum. You’ll find the ingredients and method below.
In spite of a technical hiccup or two, we managed to get everything done and still have time to enjoy the opportunity for a lengthy Q&A session at the end.
We learned that Greg and John have to taste lukewarm food in Masterchef most of the time but wield their tasting spoons throughout the cook, enabling them to make their informed judgements.
Shelina discussed her favourite Mauritius hotels with me (classified info!) and I’ll be sure to seek out her advice on the island's best street food and dining experiences before my trip later this year.
I have my eye on a table for two at Lakaz Maman in Southampton as one of the ways that I’ll be celebrating the end of social restrictions and the return to real life. As you would expect, I’ve already shortlisted the best room types at the finest hotels that Southampton can offer, so I’m ready with recommendations should you wish to celebrate with us and make a night of it!
This event was a great tonic for my heart and soul. A generous gift from thoughtful clients that enabled me to escape the UK for a couple of hours of Shelina’s culinary insight; and Steve got to take the night off from cooking.
Thank you so much to those who played a part.
Spiced butternut squash fritters with chive chilli dipping sauce
Fragrant island style chicken coconut cari
Fragrant yellow rice
Spiced butternut squash fritters - Serves 4
Large saucepan or wok for frying
100g gram flour (chickpea flour also called besan flour or garbanzo flour)
20g corn flour (also called corn starch)
1tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
1tbsp chopped coriander
1tbsp chopped mint
1 clove garlic minced
50 – 75ml warm water
100g butternut squash grated and squeezed of excess water, dried between some tissue paper to make sure the excess water is removed
1litre of vegetable oil (light rapeseed oil or similar will be fine here)
Mix together all the ingredients excluding the butternut squash to make a batter; the batter should be of dropping consistency like pancake batter
Add the grated butternut squash until thoroughly mixed together
In a large saucepan or wok, heat your oil until it reaches 170 and then fry a spoonful of the fritters and allow them to cook between 4 – 5 mins ensuring they are cooked all the way through.
Serve immediately with chive and chilli dipping sauce
For more recipe inspirations, check out Shelina's website at www.shelinacooks.com.
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