As often happens when reading cookbooks about food from faraway places, I’m suffering from a bit of travel envy. Imagine beginning a journey in France and then continuing to several beautiful places where French colonies were established just to follow the trail of culinary influences. How fun and delicious would that be? That’s how the new book Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway by Tessa Kiros came to be. There’s a chapter devoted to each stop along the way. It begins with Provence and continues to Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry, La Reunion, and then ends in Normandy. So, the recipes begin with French classics and then veer off into use of flavors from other climates prepared with French influences. The Court-Bouillon de Poisson from Guadeloupe is made with chiles, garlic, tomato, and beurre rouge with annatto seeds. From Vietnam, Banh Mi is of course made with baguettes, and the creme caramel includes lemongrass. Some hints at French influence in foods from Pondicherry include milder flavors with fewer chiles as in the Pondicherry Chicken curry. I lost track of time when I got to the La Reunion chapter due to the fruits, rum, coconut, and interesting uses of vanilla. There’s a braised duck dish made with split vanilla pods and a mashed potato dish that incorporates vanilla-steeped warm milk. I walked straight to the kitchen when I read about the Punch de Coco. Seeds from a vanilla pod were added to coconut milk, and it was chilled while the flavor infused before being served with rum. I highly recommend this combination. Also from this chapter, I had to try a very French-sounding dish of gratineed fruit made with very un-French fruits.
In the book, lychees, guava, strawberry guavas, pineapple, and mango are suggested for the gratins. But, some of those were too exotic for me to find them. Instead, I used chopped pineapple, papaya, and mango. The process is very simple once all the fruit is chopped to a similar size. Ramekins were buttered and filled with a mix of the fruit. A tablespoon of cream and one of rum was added to each ramekin followed by some ginger, and I used freshly grated. Bits of butter were dotted on top before putting the ramekins under the broiler until browned. I should mention that sugar was supposed to have been sprinkled over the fruit, and it definitely would have brought about more browning. I chose to skip the sugar since the fruits were already very sweet. I garnished with toasted slices of fresh coconut and some mint leaves.
The cream and butter made this rich and decadent while the fruits and ginger added a mix of fresh flavors. And, I’m always happy when there’s rum. This dish seemed to perfectly highlight the point of intermingling cultural influences. A very French technique of gratinee-ing with butter and cream was applied to ingredients specific to a different spot in the world to bring about something uniquely delicious.
Gratin de Fruits Exotiques
Recipe excerpted with permission from Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway by Tessa Kiros, published by Quadrille March 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover.
The amounts here are very easy to adjust according to how much fruit you will be using and the type. Just use a good variety. Add more or less rum to suit your taste.
4 lychees, peeled, halved and stoned
1 guava, sliced
3 goyaviers (strawberry guavas)
2 pineapple slices, halved
4 good slices of mango
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons rum, or to taste
4 small blobs of butter
3 tablespoons cane sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Lightly butter 2 shallow ramekin dishes, about 11cm (4 1/4 in) diameter and 3cm (1 1/4 in) deep. Divide the fruit between them.
Splash the cream and rum over each, followed by 2 blobs of butter each. Mix the sugar and ginger together and scatter evenly over the tops.
Preheat the grill (broiler) to hot. Grill until deep golden and charred here and there. Let it cool down just a little before serving.
I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program.