Maxim Behar invites with a book on a culinary journey in Seychelles in the "Classic Destination" for ClassicFM radio

Maxim Behar invites with a book on a culinary journey in Seychelles in the "Classic Destination" for ClassicFM radio

Host: It's time for our radio journey. Africa Day has come and gone, celebrated in the heart of Sofia with a special one-day festival. The event was opened by the Vice President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mrs Iliana Iotova. The event was attended by all diplomats, ambassadors of African countries accredited in Bulgaria, as well as honorary consuls of the respective countries. One of the most attractive destinations for Bulgarians is the Seychelles. During this year's Spring Book Fair, the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles, Maxim Behar, presented his new book "Seychelles Recipes and More on “Paradise on Earth". It is a culinary journey through the depths of the island paradise. In the book, you will discover the magic of Seychellois cuisine and enjoy authentic recipes passed down through generations. Find out more about Africa Day, “Seychellois recipes and more about "Paradise on Earth" from the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles in our country, Maxim Behar.

Maxim: Happy Africa Day, happy holidays to all Africans in Bulgaria. This is a wonderful holiday because today is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the African Union, which is a symbol of unity of different people, cultures, histories, customs, emotions. Africa, you know how many different countries, tribes there are, and 60 years ago they came together in one organisation. And this is a good example for us in Bulgaria and elsewhere in the world. The book sold out in a week, it's called "Seychelles Recipes and More on “Paradise on Earth". A summary of all that is Seychelles in the most concise way possible. There are 25 recipes that I love and think are the most delicious, interesting and applicable in Bulgaria. For each of them the ingredients can be found in Bulgaria and the spices. If not, all of them can be bought online. I have told stories about what it is like in the Seychelles and many stories about the people because a country, a place, a destination is always judged by three main factors. And they are the landscape or the things you can see there, the people and the food. I started with the food in the book because, to my slight surprise, it turned out to be really very appealing. In any exotic country, it's true that Seychelles has 3 of the 5 best beaches in the world, it's true that it's a super clean and environmentally friendly country, very nice. It's nature and it's quite rich, one season, but when you come back you say, "Wow, this fish Ton, these steaks or bananas. What we ate was very tasty" and that's why I started with food.

Host: You must be asked very often, what is the traditional dish in Seychelles? If you had to choose just one, but it's obviously not just one?

Maxim: I don't know if they have one traditional dish, but the traditional food is the Creole cuisine which has a lot of fish, chicken, spices. Which is mainly Indian here, there is some Chinese cuisine a bit spicier. And when I'm in the Seychelles and I meet a new person and they say "Come home for dinner, I'd like my wife and kids to meet you". And when I ask him, "What are you going to cook?" he says, "Chicken curry.”. I have no idea why chicken curry, I always get invited to chicken curry. I love fresh fish, Ton. There are lots of different kinds of fish, but fresh Ton fish is very easy, quick and super tasty to make into a steak.

Host: In your book we notice not only recipes, wonderful photos, but also a small Creole dictionary.

Maxim: There is a glossary with the basic Creole words, about 25-30 that everyone should know. How to say "hello", "goodbye", everything is practically French, but with a slight Seychellois twist. Yes, I have included descriptions of all the products that are not known in Bulgaria, of all the types of fish, because I wanted that when a person takes this book and brings it home, it would be like bringing Seychelles home. To have everything in the dictionary, the recipes, the interesting stories and the description. There is no such book in Bulgaria, it turns out that there are no more than 2-3 cookbooks even in Seychelles. It is now being translated into Creole, but for the last 10-15 years no one has published a cookbook even in Seychelles. And it turned out to be a very good project, we are going to do a second edition very soon. Probably I'll add more interesting stories from Seychelles itself, and that's how I want to bring this country closer to Bulgaria. Meanwhile, the book is being translated into French, so there will be more concise, accurate and clear information about the whole world.

Host: The symbol of the Seychelles is the famous "Coco de mer".

Maxim: It is a coconut "Coco de mer", which means coconut from the sea. It has the strange shape of a woman's torso, it's the female coco de mer. There is also a male "Coco de mer" which has the appropriate shape to be male. It has the shape of a cucumber.

Host: Is it allowed to be cooked?

Maxim: No, not at all, you can't cook it. Yes, it's sliced to get the liquid out. I wouldn't say the milk, because the milk of the coconut is in the coconut itself. Once the nut has been grated and squeezed, the coconut milk itself comes out. The inside of the coconut is full of liquid, like water, which oozes out of the sides of the coconut. “Coco de Mer” now grows in only one place in the world and that is on the island of Praslin, which is the second largest island. Export from the Seychelles is only allowed with the permission of the Ministry of Culture. With a special certificate and signature. Can be bought everywhere or almost everywhere. Mainly in souvenir shops, but its export is limited and controlled. So it cannot be used for anything other than a souvenir. It is very expensive, at the moment the cheapest coco de mer is about $1000, and you have to get the proper permits. You put it in your luggage, you take it home and you decorate your living room, your lounge, your kitchen, wherever you want, and that's its only purpose. But that was back in the 17th century, when the French brought slaves from Africa to settle the then deserted islands of the Seychelles. They first settled the main island of Mahe and as you stood on the shore these coconuts came from the other island of Praslin. They didn't know what they were, so they called them "coconuts from the sea". But they believed it was an aphrodisiac. And because there was nothing to make them - they were not good for eating, they were not good for anything else - they used them as utensils to put their food in and to serve their food and the slaves served the French colonisers then and there were many missionaries too, in these natural plates. And they believed that the aphrodisiac qualities were in this food and so the mantra remained that “Coco de Mer” was, among other things, an aphrodisiac. By the way, a lot of fruits in the Seychelles, when I go and ask for example passion fruit what it is good for, they say health and it is an aphrodisiac. I even had the opportunity once to buy mineral water on the beach. They said it's very nice, it's very nice and I asked them why it's nicer than the other one and they said Seychelles water is an aphrodisiac! And I said, my God, these people are going to take my bread, because it's actually marketing. And so “Coco de Mer” has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac.

Host: But have the Seychelles become an aphrodisiac for Bulgarian tourists?

Maxim: I have been working on this subject for 20 years without a few months off. And suddenly after the pandemic, because the Bulgarian tourists and not so much the tourists, the pandemic found them here in their apartments, in their houses, closed, in their villages and when the pandemic was over they went to Bulgarian as they say as "untied". And suddenly some destinations like Zanzibar, like the Maldives, which weren't that popular - and the Seychelles included - became extremely popular and all this interest, all these pictures and films I've made over the years have obviously reached a point of good accumulation because last year we had five charters to the Seychelles. This year we had two. We will have more. The interest in Seychelles has increased manifold. According to statistics, last year, 2022, the Seychelles had 500 per cent more tourists from Bulgaria than in 2019, the year before covid. This interest continues and it seems like the whole country, I don't know if it's an aphrodisiac, but the interest has increased manifold and that makes me very happy. More and more Bulgarians are discovering the Seychelles. The idea to write this book "Seychelles Recipes and Stories from “Paradise on Earth" was born out of this interest.

Host: Do we need a visa and when should we go to the Seychelles - this summer or autumn and winter?

Maxim: No visa is required. In Seychelles you can stay as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa. So any of your listeners, friends, acquaintances and colleagues can have a wonderful holiday in Seychelles for up to 90 days. There is a season, there are no seasons in Seychelles, they are on the equator, seven degrees south of the equator. There is absolutely no need to plan a season in advance. Even recently there was a very friendly political protest in the Seychelles when the President said in a speech: "We are in our Christmas season because the Christmas holidays are coming". And then one person stood up and said: "What seasons, there is only one season in Seychelles. There is no Christmas, there is no Easter. There is one season.”. It really is one season. It's always 29 - 30/31 degrees during the day and 26/27 degrees at night. Yes, sometimes it rains, but there is no season that we can call "rainy season" or "tropical season". But sometimes it rains in a unique way - like you're sitting on the beach and suddenly it starts to rain. Just within seconds. And after 3, 4, 5, 10 minutes, when it should stop, it suddenly stops abruptly, as if "cut with a knife", as they say in Bulgarian. But there is no season when we say "don't go to the Seychelles because the weather is...". Yes, around New Year the hotels are of course a bit more expensive and more limited. You have to plan earlier because there is a bigger influx. And here I want to tell you that this mantra that Seychelles is a very expensive resort, that you need a lot of money, is quite made up. It's true that it costs more to go to a five-star hotel, but a five-star hotel to go to Greece and Spain and Italy and wherever you want to go is always going to be expensive. I think with good planning in a nice royal house, which is where we live when we go, we just rent an apartment on the beach. The price is cheaper than on the beach in Greece and with good planning I think a week to 10 days in the Seychelles can be done by any Bulgarian tourist. The price is about what you would spend in Greece. The road is not so expensive anymore. The airlines offer, again with good planning, if you buy the ticket from earlier offer amounts between 500 and 700 euros both ways. Well, nowadays you can't get to Vienna for that price either.

Host: In a word, let's go to the Seychelles.

Maxim: I very seriously recommend to everybody and if anybody has any questions for me, Maxime Behar, the Honorary Consul General of the Seychelles, I am very easy to find - send me an email, give me a call, I will be happy to give you the best advice.

Host: In one sentence The Seychelles are…

Maxim: Great love. And a great love for every single person who has visited it, even for a day.