The vast island of Madagascar has long captured the world’s imagination as a place of exoticism and natural beauty.
The fourth largest island in the world, its unspoilt landscape is home to some of the world’s rarest and most unusual animals and plants.
Madagascar is also renowned for its spices. Here are 5 of the best served at Constance Tsarabanjina, along with recipe and remedy ideas for each spice.
Probably the most famous spice from Madagascar is the wonderfully fragrant vanilla pod. Vanilla makes up some 20% of Madagascar’s exports. The bean has no smell when it’s first harvested – it has to be fermented and dried to develop its distinctive aroma.
Recipe with vanilla: Salad of smoked duck and leeks with vanilla citrus dressing
Remedy for headaches: vanilla has an uplifting effect, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. Vanilla extract can help to get rid of headaches – mix one teaspoon of extract with 8oz of water.
A store cupboard basic, black pepper grows in plantations on the verdant East coast.
Voatsiperifery is a very rare wild pepper found only in Madagascar. It has a hot taste that goes well with meat, especially pork and lamb dishes.
Red and green chillies
Recipe with black pepper: try our Constance Spicy Chicken Legs
Remedy for coughs: grind black pepper to a powder and mix with honey. Add to boiling water and allow to cool before drinking.
The best hot red chilli peppers are bright and deep red in colour. Capsaicin is the chemical in the peppers that makes them spicy. In traditional Madagascan cooking, chillies are seldom put in a dish but instead are put on the table as an accompaniment, along with garlic, ginger, lemon, onions and carrots, all steeped in white vinegar for a few days.
Recipe with chillies: try our Chicken and prawn fricassée with stewed chinese bredes with boucane.
Remedy for back ache: The capsaicin in peppers has a powerful pain-relieving effect. Mash red chilli pepper and rub it onto the painful area. For a milder remedy, use an emollient cream mixed with ground chilli pepper.
Ginger became a key ingredient in Madagascan cuisine after it was introduced to the island along the spice route from Asia. Its distinctive taste works well in curry pastes, stir fries and chicken dishes as well as sweet puddings.
Fresh root ginger
Recipe with ginger: Dark chocolate tart with ginger milk foam
Remedy for motion sickness: peel a knob of ginger and make ginger tea with boiling water. Drink the tea about half an hour before travelling.
Clove trees along the East coast of Madagascar turn a crimson shade when the tree flowers. For many centuries, cloves were very expensive in the West and so were saved for special occasions. Still today, they are a quintessential ingredient at Christmas time. Cloves should be used sparingly either whole for flavouring fish or meat, or ground for use in cakes and puddings.
Recipe with cloves: Orange lemon gingerbread
Remedy for toothache: Ground cloves can be rubbed onto the tooth to alleviate the pain of toothache. Be careful not to get it on your gums as the oil in the cloves can create a burning sensation.