Ayyam-I-Ha ... let the celebrations begin...

Ayyam-i-Ha celebrations are fast approaching and I thought I shared with you what our plans are for this year's Intercalary Days. I've blogged about Ayyam-i-Ha before here, but for those of you who are first time readers of the blog, let me explain very briefly what it is.
Ayyam-i-Ha (The Intercalary Days) is the time of gift giving and sharing, celebration and service for all Baha'is around the world. It lasts for 4 days (5 on leap year) from 26th February to 1st of March.

I absolutely love everything about Ayyam-i-Ha, because of all the wonderful memories I have from growing up. And now that our family is growing too, I wanted to make sure we start creating our own family traditions for Ayyam-i-Ha. And I think that one of the things that makes holidays so special is the traditions that we create around them.

We were inspired to make this 19 day countdown Ayyam-i-Ha calendar and banner from a another Baha'i blog last year.

Our beautiful Ayyam-i-Ha banner and calendar that is hung on the walls of our living room was created by our handy dandy assigned tailor, aka my adorable husband! We chose the fabrics together and I gave him the instructions and vision of how I wanted it to be and this is the wonderful results of his hard work. I am so proud to have a crafty hubby like him.

So we have 19 pockets for each day of the month leading to Ayyam-i-Ha. In each pockets we have a little treat for Mona with either a quote on Ayyam-i-Ha or a little history of the Baha'i Faith to read together.
On the 20th day, which is the day Ayyam-i-Ha begins, we have a bigger treat and a clue for a treasure hunt for her to go find her little Ayyam-i-Ha gifts, which we will repeat for the 4 days of Ayyam-i-Ha.

We already put on our playlist the 'Ayyam-i-Ha party' recording of Mr William Sears and children. So we definitely got our Ayyam-i-Ha songs and spirit ready!

This year as a service project, Mona has decided to sort out her toys and put aside of box of toys to give away to children who don't have many toys to play with.

We also decided to bake star and heart shaped cookies together and decorate them with all sorts of fun and colourful icing and sprinkles.
We want to put the cookies in little bags along with some handmade cards that we are going to create and adorned with glitter and Baha'i prayers or quotes. We want to share the little cookie gift bags to our close friends and family during the Ayyam-i-Ha celebrations.

I also wanted to host an Ayyam-i-Ha party for the children this year, but unfortunately considering the state I am in right now, I don't think I will be able to manage all of it this year. Hopefully next year I will be able to do more. We also have a couple of Ayyam-i-Ha parties to attend, so we will be very busy on the last days of February!

The very good thing about our Ayyam-i-Ha calendar is that it is completely detachable from the banner.

We used Velcro to hold the banner and the 20 pockets calendar together.

We are actually planning to use the calendar as a countdown for The Fast and Naw-Ruz. We want to make a 'Happy Naw-Ruz' Banner too.
We really want Mona to start becoming aware of the difference between Ayyam-i-Ha and the Fasting period (19 days). We are planning to have little stories or quotes for each pocket during the Fast and other specific instructions like to help set the table for dinner, to learn a new Baha'i prayer etc. And on the 20th day there would be a little surprise for her in the pocket.
We really hope that this is will help Mona to better understand the importance of this spiritual time.

So what are you planning or have planned for the celebrations of Ayyam-i-Ha? I would love to hear from you all in the comments section below.

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Boulettes Chouchou Recipe (Choko Meatballs Recipe)

Port-Louis is the capital city of Mauritius, the place I was born and grew up in!
When you travel to Mauritius and it's capital city, you have to be prepared for a colourful, turbulent and adventurous experience and let Port-Louis sweep you away!
There are several overlapping versions of this place, each independent and seemingly the only one; the people living inside of them are not aware that just next door there is another piece of the same cake, 'farata' (roti/naan bread) of the dough, 'bouillon brede' (leafy soup) from the same plant, 'bryani' (typical mauritian rice dish) from the same pot and 'boulettes' (meat, fish or vegetables balls) from the same broth going on.
But, at last, they all mingle and form this one unique sizzling brew called Port-Louis, the capital of Mauritius, famous for its heat, traffic jams, street vendors, great food stands and weekly markets.
And if there is definately one thing not to miss while in Port-Louis is to stop by 'La Rue Royale' (Royal Street) for it's famous 'boulettes' (meat/fish/vegetables balls) food stand. And one of the most loved boulettes is of course the 'Boulettes Chouchou' (Choko Meatballs).

The choko meatballs are made with choko of course (chouchou as we call them in Mauritius), prawn, pork or beef or lamb. We also usually eat the 'Boulettes Chouchou' (choko meatballs) with a broth (soup) that also contains fish balls, and wantans etc...
So here is my version of the 'Boulettes Chouchou' (Choko Meatballs) Recipe:

Ingredients needed:
- 600 grams grated chokoes, drained
- 300 grams minced pork (or beef, or lamb)
- 200 grams minced green prawns, shelled
- 1 medium onion finely chopped or grated
- 3 to 4 tablespoons cornflour
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- Salt to taste

To prepare the 'Boulettes Chouchou', you need to first shell and de-vein the prawns.
Finely chop the prawns to a minced meat consistency, then put aside in the fridge.
Before preparing the chokoes for this dish, it is best to protect your hands, as the juice from the chokoes will leave a dry, stickly skin like thing on your hands. I used gloves, but you can also rub oil over your hands.
Now that your hands are protected, go ahead and peel the chokoes. Cut them into quarters and trim away the peel and center bits. Soak the chokoes into cold water. Then corsely grate the chokoes and put aside in another dish. Hand strain the grated chokoes and allow to drain in a colander.
Finely chop the medium onion and mix it with the mince pork (or beef) and minced prawns. Season well with salt to taste. Add the light soy sauce and fish sauce and mix well by hand. Add the grated chokoes and mix well into the pork (or beef) and prawn mixture. Gradually mix in the cornflour and hand mix well.
Cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge for 20 mins.
Meanwhile, prepare the steamer and put on slow simmer.
Using little quantities of the mixture, make small meatballs of approximately 3cm in diameter.
Place the meatballs in the steamer and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked.
Check by breaking one meatball in half to see if it is cooked inside.
Enjoy this delightful 'Boulettes Chouchou' either as a snack, served with chilli sauce or with other 'boulettes' (fish balls, wantans, dim sim etc) in a broth.
And always sprinkle with finely chopped chives or spring onions and chilli sauce of course!

Oh man.... I'm hungry again!! ;))

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Chocolate Croissants Recipe (Pain au Chocolat)

This is my quick and easy, I should rather say 'my cheat' way of making "Pain au Chocolat" (Chocolate Croissants), for those lazy Sunday morning breakfast.

You only need 3 simple ingredients to make those:
- Puff pastry sheets (1 sheet makes 4 croissants)
- Melted cooking chocolate (or Nutella, or chocolate squares)
- 1 egg

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Take one sheet of puff pastry and cut it into 4 long rectangle strips.
Spread some of the melted chocolate on each strip of puff pastry.
Roll each strip of puff pastry onto themselves to form a little square.
Brush some egg on the little squares and place into oven until each 'Pain au chocolat' are cooked, puffed and golden in colour (approx 10 to 15 mins).

The "Pain au Chocolat" are best served with a nice cup of tea.


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Salade Mangues Recipe (Mango Salade)

I am so sad that Mango season is almost over here in South Australia.
This is one dish that you absolutely have to try if you love Mangoes!!!

In Mauritius we make this Mango Salad and leave it to stand in the sun for about 1/2 hour, and just writing this down is making my mouth water and bringing my childhood memories back!!
Gosh how I miss home and the food from home!!

For this 'Salade Mangues' (Mango Salad) you will need:
- 2 to 4 big mangoes (half ripe are the best!)
- Green or red chillies (as much or as little as you like)
- White vinegar
- Sugar to taste

To prepare your 'Salade Mangue', you need a large salad bowl.
Wash and peel the mangoes and cut the mango flesh into thin bite size pieces and put into the salad bowl.
Chop the chillies and add to the bowl. Add the white vinegar. The vinegar is what will make the sauce or dressing if your like, so start by adding a little at first and taste and see as you go.
Add Sugar to taste. Then leave the mango salad to stand for about 30 mins under the sun preferably.

Enjoy the yummiest mouth watering mango salad ever!

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Achard Légumes Recipe (Vegetables Achard/Pickle)

This is by far one of my favorite side dishes!
It's so healthy because you will definately get your serves of veggies in this one, it is super flavourful and tasty, so quick and easy to make, very economical and last for a while. And of course is a very well loved and familiar taste from Mauritius! 
Nothing beats my mum's 'Achard légumes' but this is as close as one can get, and thus making this side dish a real winner for me!!

For this recipe you will need:
- 250g white cabbage
- 250g carrots
- 250g green beans
- 250g caulifower
- 2 large onions
- 4 large red or green chillies
- 10 cloves garlic

- 2 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 180ml vegetable oil (but I always used less)
- Salt to taste

The 'Achard Légumes' is quite easy to make, the only part that takes a while is all the cleaning, peeling and cutting of the vegetables, but if you have little helpers in the kitchen like me your work will be done quicker while doubling the fun!

To prepare the Achard Légumes, you need to wash and peel your vegetables, then julienne the carrots, cabbage, green beans and cauliflower and set aside.
Heat vegetable oil in a large pan and sweat the garlic. Add the onions, mustard seeds and chillies and cooked until onions are softened. Add the vegetables and mix well. Let it cook until vegetables are softened, but still crunchy. Add salt to taste.

This makes a lot of 'Achard Legumes'.  You can serve your Achard Legumes as a side dish to your rice & curry dishes. The remaining achard keeps well in the fridge for a while. (Mine didn't last long, because I ate it everyday at every meal.)

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Alouda Glacée Recipe (Cold Alouda Drink)

Now this is a typical Mauritian drink!
You simply cannot call yourself a Mauritian or visit Mauritius Island without even having a glass of "Alouda Glacée".

I don't even know where the name for this drink comes from, but 'Alouda Glacée' is a very very popular cold (glacée means cold in French) drink know to absolutely every Mauritian. They are most famously found in the central market of the capital city of Mauritius, Port-Louis.
It is a yummy refreshing, filling, sweet milk base drink made specially for cooling down after a sunny Mauritian day. It is of course non-alcoholic and is very well loved by kids because it can take any color or flavor you like and it is made with soaked Basil seeds and chopped agar agar, which makes it more fun to drink for the children.
It is best to prepare the basil seeds for this drink overnight, so prepare ahead. But it can also be easily done a little faster (see my recipe below).

Ingredients needed for Alouda Glacée:
-  3 to 4 tablespoons of soaked and cleaned basil seeds
- 1 cup chopped agar agar strips
(I bought both the agar agar strips and basil seeds from an Asian food shop. You can also substitute the agar agar with set gelatin jelly or tapioca strips).
- 1 litre cold milk
- 500 ml water
- crushed ice
- a few drops of almond essence
- a few drops of  vanilla essence
- Sugar to taste.
- Tall milkshake glasses chilled in the fridge!

Time to make the 'Alouda Glacée' drinks:
1. Put the basil seeds onto a large plate and sieve out any odd stalks, leaves etc...
2. Put the basil seeds into a large bowl and top with 500ml cold water for soaking.
    (for best results soak the basil seeds overnight)
3. Cut the agar agar strips into little pieces (about half an inch in size).
    Separate the strips and put into the bowl with the basil seeds.
    (For quicker results try topping the soaking mixture with lukewarm water
    and soak until the agar agar is soft and the basil seeds are swollen up.)

4. In a big jug or bowl, pour the cold milk and add the agar agar & basil seeds mixture. Add sugar to taste.
5. Add a few drops of vanilla essence and a few drops of almond essence to taste.
6. Stir the drink mixture until really well blended.
7. Serve the drink in your chilled glasses and top with some of the crushed iced. 

Optional coloring:
You may want to add a tiny drop of red food coloring to get a pink colored drink or green food coloring to get a green drink like the ones pictured.

Your Alouda Glacée drinks are now ready to be served and enjoyed by all on a hot summer day.

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