Saturday, 30 May 2015

Food Roots Interview - Selina Periampillai


For my latest Food Roots Interview, I’ve had the opportunity to find out a little more about Mauritian food and culture through London based Chef Selina Periampillai.

 
Selina Periampillai

Selina Periampillai is a British-born Mauritian food pioneer, self-taught chef and food blogger.


 

She is behind the successful Taste Mauritius brand, which stems from her love for feeding people and a passionate plan to revolutionise Mauritian cuisine. 

 

She hosts monthly supper clubs from her home, offering people a taste of Mauritian cuisine.  She also organises and hosts regular pop-ups around London taking over restaurants like Roti Chai, Peyton & Byrne at The National Gallery involving culture as well as great food, with sega music/dancing to accompany the Mauritian experience.

 
In addition to the supper clubs and pop-ups, Selina runs cookery classes in Central London teaching the principles of how to make street food and she also offers the provision of Mauritian private catering for clients upon request.


 
 

Plaudits include recently winning the Mauritian Achievers Award in Catering/Restaurants 2015 and she has appeared in and written for Jamie Oliver.com, Great British Chefs, Air Mauritius Blog, The Guardian, Good Food Guide, Food Network and Good Taste Magazine.

I’ve enjoyed finding out more via Selina’s interview and becoming acquainted with Mauritian cuisine, the importance it plays in her life and her desire to cascade that to others.

 
You can follow her on Twitter at @tastemauritius or check her out at her blog and website at www.tastemauritius.com.

 

    

Pics credit Guila Mule @ Mondomulia.com

 

 
How would you describe Mauritian food and the importance of food to Mauritian people and Mauritian communities world-wide?

Mauritian food is a true melting pot of cultures, it has French, Creole, Indian and Chinese influences that can be seen through the dishes we have on the Island.  It is fresh seafood, bbqs, alfresco cooking, fragrant spicy curries, fried gajaks (snacks), popular street food, a dash of rum here and there and exotic fruits and desserts. It encapsulates Island life!

It’s very important to the people, it’s a central focus point for gatherings, family occasions, traditions and it’s something that connects people no matter where they are in the world.  I speak to people from all over on my social media who connect with me because of the food I'm cooking whether it’s Australia or Canada. It has a sense of unity and I've met some people on my journey who are passionate about Mauritian food and are trying to get it out there to more people.



How has your Mauritian heritage influenced the way you cook?

It has been a huge influence; both my parents are from the Island and I was born here in the UK. I pretty much learnt everything from them both, we grew up on the wonderful food and recipes passed down generations and that's what really sparked my interest in exploring the cuisine further.  I am now familiar with ingredients, ways of cooking, traditional recipes (from family) from trips back and forward to Mauritius from when we were kids until only last year.

It's also helped me to explore my own recipes and ideas for using key ingredients to create something with a modern twist.  I also like to visit and gain inspiration from restaurants/hotels on the island and see what’s on the menus.



Do you celebrate any of the calendared Mauritian feasts and what would you typically make for them?

Here we don't celebrate many, but for Independence Day in March, we tend to cook a delicious goat curry or on occasion for birthdays or treats, my Mum likes to make sweet potato cakes (filled sweet potato dough with coconut sugar that's fried) or gateaux patate as they are known.

Sometimes over New Year we make Indian sweets/cakes for celebrating as well and possibly a big pot of Mauritian briyani if lots of family are over!

 

What Mauritian food would you recommend for vegetarians?

We have cari groi pois or butterbean curry which is great and simple to make especially with dhall puri a splitpea filled flatbread. The curry is placed in the dhall puri with a vegetable pickle(achar) or chilli sauce, rolled up and eaten on the street in Mauritius.

Also making an egg rougaille is a great alternative to using seafood.  It’s a tomato based chilli, thyme and coriander sauce with cooked eggs nestled in there. Great for brunch or a healthy dinner. Gateaux Piment are split pea chilli balls (perfect snacks) that are fried and eaten when hot with chutneys.  We can also make lovely tropical salads with mangos, guavas, coconut and pineapple there are an abundance of these tropical flavours on the Island.


What would be the 'must-have' pantry items to replicate a Mauritian kitchen?

Must have ingredients are split peas/dhall (I always have a packet of this in the larder), basmati rice for all those curries and briyanis, chilli paste or fresh chillies for flavour, a packet of Bois Cheri (Mauritian vanilla tea) for those well-deserved breaks and chai plus not forgetting a bottle of Mauritian rum for flambee desserts or tropical cocktails!

~~~


Notes & My Thanks: 
 
I would like to thank Selina Periampillai for her time in participating in the interview.
For more information about Selina Periampillai, please visit www.tastemauritius.com.
Photo Credits:  Leyla Kazim @Cutlery Chronicles and Charlotte Hu @charlottehuphotography

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