Well the pandemic wasn’t a big pile of craic was it?
Now that things have hopefully calmed down a bit, the supper club is back.
If you haven’t been to one before, we have a max of 8-9 diners and past guests have been a mix of couples, friends catching up on “mate dates” and solo diners who love food but who’s friends just aren’t into eating out. It’s all very laid back and a chance to have dinner people from different walks of life while enjoying some great food (After lock down aren’t you fed up looking at the same people) .
You’ll be greeted with a welcome drink (people are welcome to bring their own beer or wine, with no corkage), and then everyone eats the same 3 courses (we’re happy to cater for vegans/vegetarians, just let us know in advance).
The theme of the supper club scheduled just as lock down hit was decided by a vote. So, I’m putting it to the vote again (in case our taste buds have changed over lockdown). I’m sticking with French Vs Italian.
So check out the menus and vote for your favourite, and we’ll maybe see you at the next supper club.
Traditional lasagne is pretty epic, but it does no harm try new versions of things and this is pretty amazing. This was a giant lasagna, but you can reduce the recipe if you need to make a smaller one.
1Kg Chicken Breast (cut into 2-3cm chunks)
500 Grams Mushrooms (roughly chopped)
50 Grams Dried Mushrooms
200 Grams Spinach
750 Mil Milk
75 Grams Butter
75 Grams Plain flour
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Oil
250 Grams Cheese (grated, I used a mix of mozzarella and Cheddar)
1 Tbsp Rosemary (chopped)
4-5 Cloves of garlic (crushed or finely chopped)
12 – 14 Lasagna dried sheets (the type that don’t need pre-cooked)
Before doing anything else, place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with 350 mil of warm water
Add 1 table spoon of oil to a large high sided pan and heat over a medium heat. Add the chopped chicken and colour on all sides before removing from the heat and setting to one side
Add a second table spoon of oil to the pan and add the roughly chopped mushrooms, cook for around 10 minutes (don’t stir too often or they will start to release water)
Drain the dried mushrooms (keep the water they were soaked into one side as it will go into your sauce later)
Stir in the dried mushrooms and spinach to the pan with mushrooms (it will look like it won’t fit, but it quickly wilts down
To make the sauce, melt the butter, and add the crushed garlic to let it infuse and flavour the butter. Add the flour and stir well to make a loose paste
Over a medium heat, gradually whisk in the milk and a water the dried mushrooms were soaked in as this will be packed with flavour.
As the sauce starts to thicken, stir in the rosemary and salt and pepper (you can adjust the seasoning to your own taste). Cook the sauce out for a further 10 minutes, stir regularly until the sauce no longer tastes floury. The sauce should not be especially thick, so add more milk if you think it needs it.
Pre-heat you over to 180 degrees (Celsius)
In a lasagna dish, ladle in enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish add about a third of the chicken and mushroom mix before topping with lasgna sheets. Repeat this on two more layers, making sure you ladle in liberal amounts of the sauce over the lasagna sheets
Top with grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes until deep golden brown Enjoy with salad and garlic bread
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven: heaven being copied after Mauritius”, Mark Twain
As much as I loved relaxing at a resort, old habits die hard and I wanted to explore a bit more of the island.
You can rent a car relatively cheaply, and as Mauritius is a former British colony they drive on the left hand side of the road, and road signs are in English (speed signs are in kilometers). However, rather than having all the stress of getting lost and driving unfamiliar roads we hired a local driver for a day. Rajesh was super helpful and knowledgeable and brought us to the North of the island. Not slowing down at intersections and tail gating seem to be common practice, so I was glad we had a local to help out.
Our first stop was the capital, Port Louis. This was a bit of a culture shock after the laid back vibe of a resort. Full of hustle and bustle the city is loud and frenetic with epic traffic jams during rush hour. Once there you’ll find busy markets selling everything imaginable, with traders barking out their bargains in French/Creole.
You can shop for souvenirs (haggling is expected) or head to the exotic food markets to stock up on spices. I would recommend asking for prices before buying spices (I think ended up paying some unofficial tourist tax due to not checking first).
Mauritius was an important stopping off point in the spice route and local food is fragrant and highly spiced.
If you are frazzled after Port Louis and want to get in touch with your inner history nerd, then visit the Sugar Museum (L’Aventure de Sucre). A short drive from the city, the museum is fascinating. It was a former sugar refinery and shows how sugar cane growth and production totally shaped the history of the island. Less then 300 years ago there were just 200 people living on the island, the population is now over 1.2 million. Sugar cane production, completely changed the eco system of the island, with new species of plants and animals being introduced. Mauritius is probably best remembered as being the home of the now extinct dodo.
Like most museums you’ll exit through the gift shop, but this is worth doing for the rum tasting that’s included in the entrance fee.
Private companies like the East India Company and then colonial powers from the Portuguese, French and British exploited the island and its inhabitants to make obscene amounts of money. Slaves were transported from Bengal and Africa, as well as indentured servants from India and traders from China all led to the multicultural nation Mauritius is today. The museum is honest about the legacy of the slave trade and the immense wealth created by sugar plantations. While the country is seen now as a tropical paradise, it has a much darker history.
As you drive along you’ll see vibrantly coloured, Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, Mosques and Christian churches scattered through out the countryside. By all accounts Mauritians live in relative harmony and differences are respected and celebrated.
The botanical gardens are really impressive. Because of its climate and fertile soil probably anything could grow here. You can explore on your own or pay for a guide. Unless you’re seriously into horticulture I’d recommend just pottering about on your own. You can also see brightly coloured wildfowl, giant tortoises and deer.
Before heading back to our resort, our driver, Rajesh brought us to Cap Malheureux (Unhappy Cape), so called because of ships who ran aground in the past. The views were breathing taking and the area is most commonly known for the little red roof church that sits on the bay.
Just as the evening was drawing in we headed back to Bel Ombre across the mountain route. The Pitons are a range of jagged volcanic mountains that wouldn’t look out of place in Jurassic Park (the light was dropping so sorry no photos).
Due to an unusual piece of luck I was fortunate enough to stay in the Outrigger Resort in Bel Ombre, in the south western coast of Mauritius.
I’m usually a city break type of person, but if all resorts could be as heavenly as this place then I’m a convert.
The resort has large airy bedrooms, with luxurious bathrooms and dressing area (we had the largest bathtub I’ve ever seen). A well stocked mini bar and complementary snacks and fancy coffee machine make sure you want for nothing while in your room.
Accommodation either has views of the lush tropical gardens with banyan, and frangipani trees, as well as coconut and date palms throughout, or ocean views of the pristine lagoon with a coral reef about 100 yards from the beautiful sandy beach dotted with black volcanic rock. You can wander along the beach and watch the sea change from bright turquoise to dark lapiz blues as the sun moves throughout the day. (Top tip: aqua shoes are a good choice as the beach has lots of coral and can be uncomfortable to walk on in parts). The resort also has two large pools as well as a reflection pool for those who love an Instagram post. Although there isn’t a single view in the place that isn’t fabulous.
I went in early July which is the Mauritian winter, but it was still in the mid 20s (Celsius) everyday and was very pleasant. If you prefer it really hot then from August onwards is the time to go.
Other visitors were made up of a fairly cosmopolitan mix of European, Indian and Middle Eastern and this is reflected in the food offered.
There are several eating areas. The Mercado serves breakfast and dinner and served international buffet style food. Breakfast in the morning ranges from curries, a large selection of topical fruits and juices, omelette stations, cereals, cooked items and french breads and patisserie. For dinner there is a theme of a different country’s cuisine each evening (Mauritian night was my favourite, but all the food was excellent). There are always plenty of options for children, vegans and halal diners.
If you prefer a la carte dining the Edge Water restaurant is right on the beach, and Le Bleu is a beach front bar serving freshly made pizzas and panninis and is a good call for lunch. There are also plenty of sun loungers and comfortable seating areas along the beach and pools.
We had one afternoon with rain, and the ever helpful staff (thank you Sephora) arranged for me to be taught some Mauritian dishes with the very lovely Chef Matthieu. He is a great teacher, and showed me how to make apple chutney, yam fritters, Mauritian chicken curry and roti (flat bread). His enthusiasm and passion for his local cuisine really shone through, and to paraphrase Julia Childs, “people who love food are always the best people”
The Plantation Club provides a fine dining option offering old world luxury. You can opt to visit for afternoon tea or to dine a la carte. However, my suggestion would be to try one of their tasting menu evenings. We opted for lobster night, and having met Chef Matthieu the day before we knew we would be in for a treat. He is passionate about fusion cooking, and because Mauritius is such a melting pot who’s population is a mix of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, African and French heritage, the range of flavours in Mauritian food is something else.
Everything on the menu was delicious but my two stand out dishes were the makki roll and lobster with arbarica sauce (coffee sauce with lobster might sound really strange but it was so well balanced, it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted).
You could spend your entire day just chilling and listening to the roar of the sea against the coral reef and the rustling of the palms (I can highly recommend spending at least one afternoon doing this to find your happy place). If you prefer to be a bit more active there are gorgeous beach walks and the resort offers free activities like snorkeling, tours of the lagoon in a glass bottom boat (we had a sea turtle come and swim along side us), and on set days there are activities such as aquafit, volleyball, and yoga.
The concierges at the resort are an excellent source of information if you’d like to get out and about and see more of the island. They can help arrange visits to see capital Port Louis if you like to shop and see the local markets, historic areas on the island or activities like swimming with dolphins or sea turtles, visiting the impressive botanical gardens or sailing out to neighbouring islands on a catamaran.
If you want something to do in the evenings the resort has live music every night which was always really good. My favourite was the Mauritian night which had local artists play traditional Sega music and display local dances, which are based on the African music played by slaves in the sugar cane plantations and made the colonial owners the equivalent of modern billionaires.
Staff at the resort are multi lingual (French is the most widely spoken language on the island), and were incredibly warm and helpful. Mauritius is developing quickly, but tourism is still the largest employer on the island, and it was hit badly due to Covid and also the global rise in the cost of living. You will always receive excellent service from the well trained staff at the resort, but the average monthly salary in Mauritius is around £600 per month. So if you do get a chance to visit this little slice of paradise, try to tip as well as you can afford to (and like most places cash is always preferable).