Seychelles has 115 islands. All of them have pristine white beaches with lovely fine sand and turquoise waters, while still being unique in their own way. After landing in Mahe, where the international airport is, you can proceed to island hop either by ferry or by helicopter to experience the different ways of life in the archipelago.
After spending a few nights in Mahe and frolicking on Beau Vallon beach, I took a ferry from Mahe to Praslin. The ferry ride takes about an hour and it is so scenic, with a huge chance of spotting dolphins and frigate birds expertly grabbing fish from the water without getting their wings wet.
Swallows fly in flocks, dotting the clear blue skies, while the neighbouring islands can be spotted from the ferry. On reaching Praslin, I was hosted by Acajou Hotel, a family owned hotel that prides itself in its conservation efforts and attention to guests.
“In whatever job designations we have, we pride ourselves in listening and acquiescing to our clients’ needs,” Chef Asoka Indrasekara, the executive chef at Acajou informs me. And sure enough, everything, from meal times to cocktails served at the poolside, is done with extra attention to detail and warm smiles.
Chef Asoka is not just attentive to detail, he is a master at what he does, having been cooking for more than 16 years, with the last two being in Acajou. “I always wanted to work in the hotel industry when growing up in Sri Lanka,” the chef explains.
To achieve this, immediately after high school, he joined the Sri Lanka Apprentice Board where he did a culinary diploma for three years. He then started as a commis, the lowest rung in the chef ladder, and worked his way up to the top rung that he occupies today. His is a career that has seen him travel from his home country to the UAE, Egypt, India and Seychelles among other countries.
“I feel that each country has something unique to offer its visitors. For Seychelles, it is its pristine beaches that shoulder turquoise waters and its rich traditions and culture, which are experienced through day-to-day interactions with the residents and through cuisine. Many guests have been around the world and are therefore not interested in pasta or pizza. They want to taste and experience Creole cuisine, which I love making,” Chef Asoka explains, and goes on to enumerate its health benefits and taste.
“Creole cuisine has more than 80 per cent of its ingredients being organic. It hinges on the fresh seafood that is readily available and on spices such as lemongrass, coconut milk, cinnamon and bay leaves, which grow naturally all over the island. It is therefore not just sumptuous, but healthy as well. I especially love making and eating la daube,” he says.
La daube is a traditional Creole delicacy that is normally eaten as dessert. It can be prepared using sweet potatoes, cassava or bananas, depending on the ingredients that are in season. Chef Asoka prepared la daube banane, which was sweet and addictive. I couldn’t get enough of it, and since I couldn’t exactly pack it to come home with, I packed the recipe instead. Maybe we can all try it out together and exchange sweet notes afterwards, non?
INGREDIENTS (Serves two)
2 ripe bananas
500ml cup of freshly squeezed coconut milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
4 cinnamon leaves, or cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon of nutmeg powder
1 tablespoon of sugar
A pinch of salt
Peel the bananas and cut them in half.
Put the sliced bananas, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla essence and coconut milk in a pot and bring to boil.
Stir slowly so that the coconut milk does not cuddle.
Also, make sure you do not pound or break the bananas further while stirring.
Add some sugar and a pinch of salt and simmer under low heat for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve.
If you want to make mixed daube, all you have to do is add cassava and sweet potatoes and follow the same recipe.