This is the eighth post in a series on the French-themed trip I took this summer. In this post, I’m bringing you back to Réunion, the French island colony in the Indian Ocean, where I tried French-influenced Indian cuisine and suggested an AOC for Chouchou de Cirque de Salazie. In case you missed them, read my earlier posts on how I became such a Francophile, come along on a Parisian food tour inspired by David Lebovitz, see me try out his recipe for pain d’épices au chocolat, read my homage to lovely Montmartre, and see the Space Invaders in Paris and the street art of Belleville.
Réunion’s Southern coast is just an hour away in distance but continents away in climate and culture from the wet, mysterious, and rural cirques. St. Pierre, the “capital of the South,” has a sunny Mediterranean vibe that feels more Riviera than rainforest. In the lively city center, the Marché Couvert (Covered Market) is a good source for local produce including the island’s famed Bourbon vanilla (Réunion was formerly named Ile Bourbon) and jars of local condiments including chutneys, chillies, and tropical jams. It is also a showcase for local handicrafts including woven baskets and bags from neighboring Madagascar and the traditionally used covered casseroles known as marmites. Be prepared to bargain (en Français) and pay in Euros.
* * *
Caramelized Banana Vanilla Jam
As with their compatriots on the French mainland, the Réunionnais love their confitures (jams) to enjoy along with their pains et croissants pour le petit déjeuner. In Réunion, jams are made with an interesting twist– sugar is caramelized before the fruit is added, which adds body and extra flavor. Here is a recipe for a typical jam you might find at a typical French tropical breakfast: caramelized banana jam, which I have finessed here with a hint of vanilla, in honor of Réunion’s place in the history of vanilla.
5 overripe bananas
1/2 cup demerara or brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1. Peel and mash bananas as smoothly as possible. Set aside.
2. Place sugar into a saucepan and melt over low heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes.
3. Add mashed bananas to caramel. The caramel will harden when the (cooler) bananas are added, so stir well to re-melt.
4. Simmer over very low heat for 45 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.
5. Once thickened to desired consistency, add salt and vanilla.
6. Allow to cool.
7. Enjoy with buttered bread or on a croissant.