Thursday, 27 November 2008

More On Cuisine

As I mentioned on an earlier post, I am trying to make some local dishes, and make the most of local ingredients. If I can feed them to Baby JoJo, which is more and more possible as I rarely use salt and hot spices, then it is even more of an advantage. I have a couple of recipe books but these are aimed at tourists and only have a few dishes in them, many of which I wouldn't bother trying as they are either too complicated (for a particular festival for example) or I just don't like them. However, I have selected a few manageable ones and so have produced the following..,.
Gratin de christophine
Christophines are a vegetable also known as chayote, according to Wikipedia (although ours are more yellow than the ones you see here). Mamie doesn't grow any and I have rarely seen her cook with them. For this recipe you basically take out the inside and turn it into a sauce then stuff it again. Mum very kindly took these photos, hmm, mine aren't quite like the ones in the picture!

Here is the recipe if you fancy a go! I am having to get used to the french culinary terms.

Colombo de poulet

There is a significant Indian population in Guadeloupe, who came over in the mid 1800s after the abolition of slavery, to fulfil the needs of the plantation owners on the sugar cane fields. They brought lots of traditions and ingredients with them, including colombo, which is a curry powder made of various spices and is very delicious. I just learnt that the Indians were the only ones who cooked cabri (goat) until recently, when the other parts of the population took an interest. It is very tasty in this dish in any case. Often it is made with pork, but I prefer chicken. It came out splendidly, with the chicken falling off the bone, yum!

Poulet au coco

This is a pretty simple dish, where you cook the onions, garlic, carrot and white wine (I used water as didn't have any!) then cook the chicken and let it simmer in coconut milk. I have been using coconut milk in a tin but I would like to try using it from fresh as we have so many of them! I am not sure how to get the milk though. I used to have a problem with my chicken not being fully cooked but having investigated online, I discovered it is better to cook it low rather than high I was doing, and it seems to have helped.


A fish dish where you make the sauce with lime, garlic, spring onion, tomatoes, thyme and hot pepper (unless you are me!) then cook the fish in it. These ingredients are really common here, and in season they are all in Mamie's garden except the garlic. I used salmon rather than local fish. It is common locally to use oil which has roucou in it - Mamie grows these in her garden and the grain is used for the oil - have a look at wikipedia for more info here. The dish was fine, though a bit too watery and it would have been nicer with racines (sweet potato, breadfruit etc) than rice I reckon.

Gateau de patates douces

Oh, I have not had much luck with my baking recently! My loaf of bread was like a doorstop, my first bunch of cinammon rolls the same, the second lot I went to the other extreme and undercooked! My banana cake was not cooked in the middle and the biscuits I made also burnt. Sigh, I blame it on the oven...! However, this sweet potato cake came out fine, and as it is 1 kg sweet potatoes and only 100g sugar I was happy to stuff the girls on it!

If anyone has baking tips I would gladly welcome these, and I would love recipes based on wholewheat flour and honey rather than refined sugar and white flour. I am looking for a tasty carrot cake recipe too, if you hae any suggestions. At my Saturday night bible study group they passed around various tips and I learnt not to dump in my flour all at once, or mix it with the hand mixer - has to be done by hand. All very useful!

Another common practice here is to chop and freeze vegetables as soon as you get them, which is a great idea as even in the fridge they do go off quite quickly. My only problem is my tiny freezer, but I will give it a try anyway! At the moment I have five cups of shredded coconut and some courgette in there, and I have just purchased a huge bunch of parsley (whilst awaiting Bertie's!) which I will put into ice cube trays.

On a similar subject, I am sure you are eager to know how my menu went...! Well, I mostly stuck to it except when I forgot to check it and soak the beans on time (apparently you can prepare them and freeze them too, which I might start doing if I can fit them in!) which just resulted in shifting around a couple of meals. It was very unstressful in any case! I also spent a third less at Carrefour this week, as I followed my list to the letter, which I was thrilled with, and I have thrown out less. Keep it up!

This week's menu is as follows:
Monday - Chick pea curry (soak chick peas and brown rice) - very nice, unfortunately our gas bonbonne (no gas on the island so everyone has a little or not so little canister attached to their cooker and hopes it doesn't run out at an inopportune moment!) ran out half way through. We have had it for nearly three months which was good going. Anyway, Bertie dashed to the store and exchanged it for a new one, but the rice was ruined! The girls didn't like the chick peas so I squashed them all and they ate it fine!
Tea – bread and salad
Tuesday – Tuna pasta (courtesy of Gina Ford!) – you are supposed to add fromage frais to this, but I didn’t discover till I got home that the tub I had bought was vanilla flavoured! Made lovely dessert though…
Tea – Pancakes (wholewheat with cheese and ham, followed by maple syrup ones for the girls and lime and sugar for us)
Wednesday – supposed to be blaff de poisson but I realised I needed to use up my leftover Minestrone soup, so we did
Tea – supposed to be soup, became a delicious omelette courtesy of Bertie, made with eggs from Mamie’s hens
Thursday – Spaghetti Bolognese and wholewheat pasta
Tea – Potato wedges and salad
Friday – supposed to be bean burgers using the leftover brown rice, but I have just realised I haven't soaked the beans, oops!
Tea – Salad, and if I can manage it, some homemade bread that isn’t as hard as a brick!
Saturday – leftover spag bol
Tea – Bertie handles this one
Sunday – eat at church

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ok, so we are not American and I doubt I have that many American readers, but I love the Thanksgiving celebration. What an excellent thing to do, say thank you and express gratitude to God for all the good things he has given you over the past year. Definitely in line with Old Testament practice too! My two favourite passages from the OT are:

"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you...remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce weath, and so confirms his covenant." Deut 8:10,18
"There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everyhing you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you." Deut 12:7

We started "celebrating" Thanksgiving two years ago. We don't do the food (though this would be an excellent place to make sweet potato pie, fresh from Mamie's garden!) but we do make a special time to say Thank You. The first year I borrowed the idea of making a tree and sticking leaves on it with our different thank yous. Then I thought, what a pity to not keep a record, so I got a special book and stuck them all in. The girls were little so we did it on our own.

The next year we drew around our hands and each person had to say something they were thankful for regarding that particular person, which we wrote on their handprint. LissaLou came up with her own ideas but we guessed at what CassCass would be thankful for!

At that point it struck me that we didn't need to stick to being thankful as a family once a year, so we decided to do it more often. The idea was to sit down together each Sunday afternoon and record our thanks from that week, but it has ended up being more like once a month. Here Sundays are full of family visiting so I have come to the conclusion that weekday lunchtimes will be better. LissaLou loves the time together and often asks for it, and we have also tried to learn a bible verse each time (usually as a song) but that has fallen by the wayside somewhat!
We try and get the girls involved as much as possible, so they suggest things (LissaLou always mentions her forthcoming birthday!) and maybe draw in the book. CassCass still tends to lose interest quite quickly.

Today, I hadn't really planned anything, but then all of a sudden got a creative urge this morning and decided rather than make a Thanksgiving Oak Tree (a bit like here, which is what we did previously) we should be a bit more West Indian and make a Thanksgiving Coconut Tree! After studying the one growing up by our balcony, I used some brown paper for the trunk and got CassCass to paint the leaves green. The balcony is a great place for painting, she can make all the mess she likes. Now I am waiting for the rain to come and wash it away! Then I used the spare bits of brown paper to cut out coconuts, though in all accuracy they should be green if they are still on the tree.

As the girls are still not writing themselves, I thought it would be nice to cut out pictures of things and people we are thankful for. I love the tripleprint photos for this purpose, as I just cut out the small ones I had. I also used some magazines. Bertie and I wrote on the coconuts. Then after our lunch (yummy spaghetti bolognese, using up the last of the parmesan cheese Mum brought us, sniff!) we got discussing and sticking. LissaLou had a great time, and CassCass did a few before she started playing with Happyland! It was interesting seeing how many people's names from back home she had forgotten. We have now used up all our acid free sticky stuff, so if anyone has some lying around....?! To end, LissaLou said a thank you prayer, using the pictures as a guide, and it was great to hear how many things she included. I love hearing small children pray, they are so genuine!

Our verse this year was "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

A Vos Ordres!

Now that I have finally finished blogging Mum's stay and my selection of her many hundreds of photos, we can get back to current life!

Today we postponed our beach trip to go to Gosier and watch Bertie's nephew receive his gallons. He joined the army a month or two back in order to do a training programme (it is free in the army!) and today was celebrating his official welcome into the fold, having completed his initial training.

It was great fun and very interesting to watch the ceremony - outdoors, by the beach and open to full public viewing. The soldiers looked very impressive in their uniforms and I love watching them in action, perfect synchronisation, obedience, unity etc. Bertie was able to advise on some aspects from his year's military service in France, but there were many aspects we wondered at, such as the meaning behind their different uniforms and whilst some stood at "repos" whilst others didn't.
We were told to stand for La Marseillaise which I debated over, being a British citizen and all, but I did so in the end, though I nearly didn't as I didn't recognise the clip they played!

Four veterans were holding flags which had to be hoisted quite regularly. We were very concerned about one particularly frail looking one, and were quite relieved when he made it to the end without collapsing.

After the ceremony, which the girls managed to sit through, we watched them parade through the town then followed them to the Hotel de Ville where they enjoyed a drink (of coke mainly). We caught up with our Main Man and his mum kindly forwarded me these photos from the occasion.
He is the one with glasses in this photo. I was a bit concerned about being surrounded by all these guns, but Bertie assured me they weren't loaded!

We marched our way around the house in true military style this evening, singing Bertie's favourite army song, "Les oies sauvages".

This afternoon we were invited by an anglophile from our church, Fabienne, to come with her to the house of a Liverpudlian lady called Pauline (I am increasingly amazed at the number of Brits here!). We managed to get ourselves together and go, and were delighted to find she lives very close by, and has a beautiful huge house with a swimming pool! So we got our bathe in after all. Bertie chickened out so I went in with the girls and then a little bit with Baby JoJo and they all had a marvellous time. It was pretty cold (has been chilly all day today!) - only 27 degrees in the water, brr!

Afterwards we enjoyed Norman cider (her husband is from Le Havre) and delicious patisseries, whilst revelling in the beautiful sunset over the mountains from one of her terraces and view of Port Louis, sugar cane fields and mangrove from another of her balconies! Pauline has been here 14 years and couldn't imagine living in Britain again. With a house like that, I am not surprised!

Farewell BBQ

Monday (10 November)

To commemorate Mum's final evening, Bertie's sister organised a BBQ at her house, and we enjoyed a fine meal. Many thanks to her husband who did all the BBQing!
Bertie's other sister and her children were also invitedThe children enjoyed the opportunity to chuck balls at each other - or sit on them, according to their preference - as well as dance the night away

Mum and I enjoyed a planteur - a rather strong rum punch which may or may not have caused mum to have her eyes shut in all the photos, hence none have been uploaded!

That night there was also a fete du quartier with a bouncy castle that the girls enjoyed
Bertie laughed at this photo as he said he couldn't even see himself!

Family & Things

CassCass and LissaLou love playing with their cousin, who is very kind and always patient with them, despite the difference in age. She is very creative and produced this...well, I am not quite sure what it is!
Mamie hard at work shelling peas she has grown in her garden
The girls also love their older cousin, and will pop next-door to visit her - and watch her tv if I have refused to put it on upstairs!
Not the best of photos but I love this shot of daily life - the girls and their cousin watching their new Vegetales dvd, me in the background tidying, and Baby JoJo exploring the world, and his sisters' toys
Siesta time! Generally CassCass will only sleep if I do, and LissaLou very rarely will.Baby JoJo in his favourite position!

We just couldn't get CassCass to smile, ah well!


It was brought to my attention that there is more on this blog about LissaLou and Baby JoJo - we can't have this! I don't want her feeling like the overlooked middle child...! So here is a little update on our growing green-eyed girl.
CassCass is so full of energy! Constantly running around the place, she loves jumping and imitates her big sister's star jumps pretty well. She and her two year old cousin are always delighted to play with each other, though it can turn rough pretty quickly!
I was most impressed that she wrote the first three letters of her name recently - listening and watching her sister has apparently given her a good grounding in letters and numbers. She loves playing with the bigger girls, and we often forget she is two years younger as she gets on pretty well keeping up with them. But she is also great at playing quietly on her own, chatting and singing to herself. Today she was singing a sweet little song they learnt at sunday school - yes, she now stays in sunday school with no tears! Hurray! Anyway, it was lovely watching her lips purse up for the french words!
She still hates the word no, and will burst into tears at it. She is quite in fear of Mamie and Papy who will tell her off if she goes downstairs with no knickers on (quite often) or even worse, nothing on altogether!!! Nudity is frowned on here... We are working on her obedience and there is definite improvement.

She loves her Daddy so very much and is always pleased to go out with him in the car somewhere. They have spent a lot of time at Pika recently where she runs and swings and has a fine time. So I was quite pleased she actually chose to come to my friend's house with me rather than go with him to Pika yesterday. We were doing baking, and our kind friend Marcelline produced a mixture for her to stir herself, which she did well and loved. Eventually, it went all over her hands, then got rubbed into her legs... At home when it goes silent she will often be found hidden behind the bathroom door emptying some tub or other (toothpaste, sun tan lotion, sudocreme, you name it!). Or she may be in the kitchen routing through the goodies in the fridge! Chocolate and compote are particular favourites!
Her speech is great, and she says lots of things in french now, though pretty basic sentences "Papy non pas la" and so on. I was very touched recently, when I chopped my little finger whilst cutting a sweet potato. Agony! Blood! CassCass came over and gave me a hug and a kiss and said "don't worry mummy!" She even tells me "I lub you mummy!" very occasionally!

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Monday (10 November)
Pap is a bit of a chaotic place, a mish-mash of shops and markets, somewhat like Dalston for you north Londoners! We took mum for a walk around and managed to spend all our money, particularly in the spice market!
A drummer

And the real thing! Great music too.Down by La Darse - you can see the market under the large red roof. The stalls just on the side of the water are the fish sellers, who sat scaling their fish on the side of the pavement.An example of their produceThis was where the boats to Marie-Galante and Les Saintes (dependent local islands) used to leave from, but now they have been relocated it is a lot quieter.
What a lovely photo!Musee St Jean Perse - we have never been in but it shows you the colonial style of architecture that you find occasionally on the island, mainly for the owner's house on a plantation.Many of the shops in Pap have a man who stands with his mike and talks non-stop about his produce, to tempt you into entering and spending. He is usually LOUD, and can be heard well away from the shop! Sometimes he is hidden away, but this one was all too evident, and even said a loud bonjour to Mum as she sneaked a photo in passing!
We waited for Mum outside a fabric shop whilst she very skillfully made her purchase, and Bertie was in fits at the speel the store seller came out with. His favourite moment was when the man cried out Wai Wai Waiiiiiii! in true Guadeloupean style! I found his catchphrase of "le chic à prix choc" very catching!

Enjoying Coconut Island Style

Firstly, find one West Indian coconut, grown with love and caresses...Then find a handsome son-in-law ready with his machetePosition it nicely, then chop!
Shun all aides such as cups and straws. Those are for weaklings. Take a deep breath,
purse up those lips and drink!
Tilt it up for those last few drops
All the while posing for that annoying camera!Delicious! Nicely done mum!

LissaLou At School

Thursday (6 November)
Mum was delighted to get an opportunity to take LissaLou to school, meet her Maitresse and get a little tour around the classroom.
This is just outside her class
And this is her room, separate from the main part of the school (on the left), which is a bit of a problem when it rains and we all get wet!

We were also pleased to get her school photo just before Mum left. What a beauty! I'm not sure about the background though...and looking at the class photo, it would appear they were all told not to smile!
When we got home she painstakingly showed us every person in the class, until she came to an unfortunate named Lerry, and couldn't get past the fact that his name in english meant rice, which brought on giggles after giggles after giggles!

Beauport - Pays De La Canne

Wednesday (5 November)
We have previously visited Beauport twice but it is always nice to return, if only to travel on the only train that this island possesses! We would probably not have chosen to go so early (Bertie's sister Nadia kindly sorted our car problem by giving the girls a lift...and arrived at our place at 7.30am, groan!) but the webpage for Beauport told us that the train tour was either 9am or 3pm, so we went for the latter. We therefore weren't particularly amused when we arrived and discovered not only was it wrong and the train left at 11am, but the place wasn't even open! However, we took advantage of the opportunity to have a quick look at Port Louis and get a few family photos...

I love the colour of the Catholic church there - and this is a great shot which is becoming Mum's trademark!
Beauport used to be a sugar cane factory, one of several on the island (La Retraite - Baie-Mahault, Blanchette - Morne-à-l'eau, Gardel - Le Moule, Grosse Montagne - Lamentin, Darbousier - Pointe-à-Pitre, St Marthe - St Francois, Courselle - Le Moule, Marquisat - Capesterre, Rougeole - Petit-Bourg, Comte - Ste Rose, Bonne-Mere - Ste Rose). All of these are now closed with the exception of Gardel and Grand Bourg on the neighbouring island of Marie Galante, reflecting the decline in sugar production and the change in sugar production methods. Papy's father worked for the Gardel factory in Le Moule, driving a cart around for the Manager.

Wandering around Beauport gives you an opportunity to see the different machinery involved in the process and there are different information points as well as those funny machines that tell you the history, which I have only otherwise seen at the baths in Bath. The writing is all translated into english, but not the audio information unfortunately, and with the girls running around the place, we gave up on that! You aren't allowed to get too close to the machinery as the place has not been maintained as well as it might have been and it is rather dangerous!

The train used to run around a 50km or so track transporting sugar cane from the plantation to the factor. I learnt that after it has been cut, it has to be processed with 48 hours for maximum freshness, but this reduces to 12 hours if the cane has been burnt. This is one method of cutting the cane, and it surprisingly doesn't do it any damage. Now the train gives a nice 45 minute journey through the cane fields (increasingly being replaced by houses and offices) with a 15 minute stop at the station En Ba Bwa La (in the woods), where you get to purchase local sweet things, oh and chew on some cane of course!

It is also a great opportunity for some photo shoots!
Funny how I just couldn't get them both to smile at the same time!
Baby JoJo was enjoying his ride until the bumping bumping of the train sent him softly to......sleep! I love the way he dropped off clutching his bit of chewed up bread in his little fist! No the photo isn't the wrong way round, this was Bertie's thoughtful effort to make him comfy!What a lovely couple!
After the train ride we went for a walk around the sugar cane maze. Except it isn't really a maze, but full of lots of different varieties of cane. We saw plenty from PNG Mei-Li! Bertie gave us a lesson in cane; either you can cut the previous year's and leave it to grow again, or it is planted by laying a cane flat in the soil and then it grows upwards. About a year later, it will be ready to harvest (between Jan/Feb and June/July). If it isn't harvested and is left to grow, not only will it not taste so nice, but stems will start to grow out of the main stalk, as you can see on the left below. The factory also has its own windmill, which gives great views over the land and neighbouring islands. There aren't any working windmills on the island now, but we have previously visited one on Marie-Galante.Mum bravely made it up herself after babysitting for us.One very welcome addition is a playpark where the girls ...and Baby JoJo...had great fun.

LissaLou drove one of the exhibition trains
I think my favourite part was this lovely wooden carved swinging seat in the grounds, it was so relaxing sitting and swinging after all our walking around!