From the market to the plate, how do you make a Creole dish? I learned how when I followed the advice of Jacky, in a fun and friendly day of learning how to cook.
There are a dozen of us apprentice cooks, this Sunday morning, joining Jacky at Chaudron market, in Saint-Denis. This is where he told us to meet him to buy all the fresh produce, before teaching us about Creole cuisine in his Bagatelle workshop, in Sainte-Suzanne.
We start to wander through this vast open-air market, full of stalls covered in fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs. The smells and colours are everywhere as we stroll around. Jacky shows us guava, delicious small red berries that grow in the wild in the island’s Highlands and paracress whose yellow flowers anaesthetise our tongues for a few minutes
Rice, grains, rougail
With our baskets nice and full, we head off to Far Far Kréol. Far far is an old Creole word, from Malagasy, which in the past described the big shelf above the fireplace where the family kept all their provisions. Traditional Reunion cuisine is prepared on a wood fire, Jacky starts by teaching us, fanning the one he has just lit in his home.
Each of us is given a task: finely chopping the onions, preparing the meat, crushing the chilli in the mortar. Jacky gives us advice all the time, explaining the basics of Creole cuisine and its unmissable dishes: samosas and “bonbons piment”, caris and rougails, always served with rice and beans or lentils, which are called “grains” here.
A fusion of flavours
Pots heat up, frying pans spit, laughter fills the air: with Jacky you feel at home straight away! It’s time to sit at the table and taste the marvellous spread prepared together: “bois de songe” gratin, duck with vanilla, and even a tasty cari with pork and “chou de coco”. Reunion cuisine is just like the island: a melting pot of flavours, where you can taste the French influence and flavours from India, Madagascar, China.
We sit round a long table, Jacky is a particularly warm and friendly host. On Reunion Island cooking together means much more than sharing recipes !