Sunday, 29 April 2018

Carri baba figue

Severe Tropical Storm Fakir barrelling past Reunion recently meant that we found ourselves with three stalks of bananas blown over. The bananas were inedible as they weren't ripe enough, but we were able to recover three banana flowers, known locally as baba figue, to make a popular local dish: carri baba figue (carri is the general name for Réunion's 'national' dish, normally consisting of meat or fish cooked with onions, garlic, turmeric (safran), thyme, salt, pepper and sometimes tomatoes. Normally served with white rice, rougail, lentils and traditionally leafy green brèdes).

three baba figues 

The first step was to peel the purple outer layers off the baba figues, leaving the central white core.

peeled baba figues

close-up of one of the peeled baba figues

They can they be chopped up and put in a bowl of water with salt for 24 hours. This helps get rid of their bitter taste.

chopped up baba figues in a bowl of water with salt

The next day after draining the chopped baba figue, slice up about 300 grams of boucané (smoked pork meat) and 300 grams of smoked sausages and let it fry in the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil for 10 minutes.

boucané in the process of being chopped

chopped sausages and boucané in the pan

You will also need to dice 3 tomatoes and one large onion.

dicing the tomatoes 

This should be added to the meat in the pan along with a teaspoonful of turmeric and two pinches of salt.

adding turmeric to the other ingredients 

Cover and cook for 10 minutes, before adding the baba figue and 50 cl of water; leave to cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.

cover and leave to cook

Stir half way through cooking.

stir half way through cooking

Serve hot with white rice, rougail, lentils and brèdes (leafy greens). Bon appétit!

Finished carri baba figue!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Ilet Bethléem

During the 18th century Reunion was subject to visits from pirates, and some of the islanders living on the coast preferred heading inland to avoid being the target of such attacks. One of the places they went to live is a now-deserted hamlet in the district of Saint-Benoit that later came to be called Ilet Bethléem.

The îlet can easily be visited by anyone at any time, but we recently had the opportunity to join a guided visit organised by Les Aventuriers de l'Est during which we would learn all about the history, fauna, and flora to be found there. We met our guide Geoffroy at the nearby car park, which is home to a large number of weaverbirds who make their nests in the surrounding bamboo.

Weaver bird nests on bamboo stalks

close-up of a male weaverbird and nests

male weaverbird

The walk to the abandoned îlet takes about 20 minutes down a wide sloping path.

crucifix beside the path

sign in Creole beside the path, asking visitors to keep the site clean!

vegetation overhanging the path

shrine beside the path

a Phallus indusiatus, commonly called the bamboo fungus, bamboo
pith, long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn or veiled lady

Saint-Expedit shrine

a star laid out in stones beside the path,
in reference to the star of Bethlehem.

The îlet is beside the Marsouins river, which must have been a good source of fresh water for the villagers, who subsisted by hunting and fishing.

Riviere des Marsouins, with bamboo on the opposite bank

In 1855 the wife of Governor Hubert de Lisle became concerned about the poverty of the îlet's 500 or so inhabitants, and built a chapel - dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima - and workshops there. It was she who gave the hamlet the name of Bethléem. The chapel still stands today and continues to be used.

chapel interior

Four nuns came to instil Christian principles in the girls living there, and to teach them sewing, cooking, and gardening. The hamlet became a parish in 1860, and by 1873 the villagers were healthier and 60 pupils (of which 40 boarders) were attending school. However the nuns ended their charitable activities there in 1935.

chapel exterior

In more recent years a gîte was built, but apparently it never actually opened and so the buildings have fallen into disrepair.

one of the former gîte buildings 

looking through the corrugated iron roof of one of the gîte buildings 

The îlet remains a popular picnic spot.

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