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THE BEAUTY THAT IS CREOLE

 

Sunday, December 2, 2007.

 

By Franka Philip

 

This could be this the shortest book review I’ve ever written: "It’s a fantastic book, buy it."


It’s what I’ve been telling all my foodie friends about
Creole
, the new book by Guadeloupean-born chef Babette de Rozieres.


Creole is an absolute revelation and I can’t remember the last time I got so excited about a book at first sight. It’s got to be one of the best cookbooks published this year.

From the vibrant, colourful cover based on the French Madras print seen in traditional costumes of the French Caribbean, to the evocative photos of food and French Caribbean life and the utterly tempting recipes, Creole wins on all fronts.


In the preface, de Rozieres defines Creole cuisine as “the happy result of cross-fertilisation. It reflects the same diversity of civilisations that characterise the West Indian people themselves, who have come to our islands from
Asia, Africa, Europe and the East Indies. Our cuisine is solid and well constructed, however, it remains refined and light and its palette extends well beyond the traditional sweet and sour.”


In the 350-plus pages of Creole, de Rozieres brings together a selection of recipes that tries to reflect the diversity of Caribbean food. And though a lot of the recipes refer to ingredients found mainly in the Caribbean
, these can easily substituted. So for example, if you wanted to make Ouassou mousse in eggshells, crayfish or langoustines would be perfect substitutes for the ouassou.


This book is so good, that it not only made me want to cook, but it also promoted serious thoughts about heading to Paris for a day trip just to have a meal at La Table de Babette.


For those in the Caribbean diaspora who lament the dearth of good cookbooks about Caribbean cuisine, Creole will go a long way to easing this frustration. It is a really fantastic book, go out and buy it!

 

Tuna layers with prawns and roasted mangoes
(from Creole by Babette de Rozieres)

 

Ingredients
1lb 2oz (500g) tuna fillets
8 Mediterranean prawns or jumbo shrimp
4 bird peppers or Serrano chillies
4 red bell peppers
6 basil leaves
1 tbsp olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
2 cloves, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of one orange
2 mangoes, quartered lengthwise and sliced

 

Method
1. Shell and devein the prawns, removing the heads, then finely chop the flesh. Thinly slice the tuna fillets lengthwise.


2. Puree the chillies, black pepper and basil leaves in a blender or food processor. Heat the oil in a skillet or frying pan, add the chilli paste and cook for two minutes.


3. Add the prawns and garlic, cook over high heat for two minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


4. Preheat oven to 200C and grease and flour and baking sheet. Arrange four slices of tuna on the sheet and cover each slice with 1 tbsp of prawn mixture. Cover with another slice of tuna. Repeat several times, building up the layers. Season lightly with salt and bake for five minutes.


5. Caramelise the sugar in a saucepan then add the orange juice and simmer for two minutes. Add the mango slices to the saucepan and serve with the tuna layers. Top with a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Creole by Babette de Rozieres, published by Phaidon.

 

Franka Philip is a journalist with the BBC in London. She blogs at www.Cancookmustcook.com

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

 

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