Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Laura and Amanda

Welcoming in the New Year is always a time of celebration and reflection, I guess a bit like birthdays but at least everyone is involved. I'm always relieved at New Years that the food side of things is not such a big deal; I guess most of us are still recovering from Christmas dinner. On reflecting back to my past year's adventures the most memorable times were a few relaxing moments, and the making of a new friendship, with Laura Cagliero from the Hallberg-Rassy 46 Indeed. I had met Laura a few years ago when she joined us for an expedition and although we had an enjoyable passage we never really bonded. Laura is Italian and it was her first offshore passage. Her husband Giorgio had a dream of buying a boat and going sailing, Laura had little knowledge on what cruising was all about and a fear of the unknown.

HR 46 Imagine

Our next meeting was 3 years later, last June, when we sailed into the lagoon in Rangiroa, Tuamotus where Indeed was anchored. Giorgio and Laura had just sailed in from Europe; we were inter-island cruising after arriving from New Zealand. We instantly go an invite from Indeed for drinks and I was blown away by what a bubbly and enthusiastic person Laura had become, so eager to describe her cruising adventures. I made a comment on how much she had changed from when we first sailed together and Laura quickly responded that although she understood English, every time I spoke, while she was sailing with us, she had little understanding as to what I was saying due to my accent and the nautical terminology I used. Now that she was experiencing the cruising life she could relate. We dined together and after exchanging some of my fresh provisions for her excessive overstocking of chocolate we made a promise to share a few more island anchorages.

Laura and Giorgio

Between expeditions John and I are keep busy working on the boat but I get to take a break from cooking. Over the next month as we joined Indeed in many lovely locations throughout the islands of Tahiti their meal invitations became numerous and well appreciated. The first thing I noticed about Laura in the galley was how relaxed she was. Meals were produced without any fuss or drama; they looked simple and fresh and tasted delicious! Laura's cooking style is pure Italian and her passion for food is very infectious. I would always ask how the dishes were prepared, and then feel rather lost as she rattled off a string of Italian words.

Laura looked very bewildering at me when, one day, I announced that I had no inkling of the even the basic's of Italian cooking. Growing up in New Zealand I never knew what pasta was; spaghetti came in a can and was eaten for breakfast on buttered toast with a poached egg. She set about educating me on the essence of everyday Italian food from the must have ingredients to useful hints on methods. She told me that French cooking is done to celebrate the chef while Italian cooking is done to celebrate the food. I soon realized my sin in making pasta dishes was to add too many ingredients thus making the dish overwhelming. There is nothing wrong with simple gorgonzola pasta, I didn't have to also throw in smoked salmon and chili olives.

As I welcome in the New Year I look forward to practicing more Italian cooking and below are some recipes as inspired by Laura. I may never master Italian food enough to be able to produce my own red wine vinegar as gifts, like Laura does, but I've certainly been exposed to a new style of food in which I find the simplicity in approach and presentation very refreshing. Speaking of new, I've just pinned up this year's calendar and "Boat Show" is marked on January. Great, a perfect time to socialize and catch up on what's new. And "what's new from me?" you ask. Well, a monthly column for one, and I look forward to bringing it to life in my Galley Essentials presentations at the show. See you soon.

Vegetable Torte
  • 6 asparagus spears - sliced
  • 5 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 zucchini - finely sliced
  • 1 onion - finely sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves - crushed
  • 3 cups tightly packed spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 4 eggs

    Cook the asparagus in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Heat olive oil in saucepan and cook onion until soft. Increase heat, add zucchini and cook until soft and golden, add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Finally, add spinach and mix until briefly wilted. Add asparagus and basil, season with salt and pepper, set a side to cool. Grease an 8 inch springform tin with butter and dust with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan. Mix together ricotta, mascarpone, eggs and ½ cup of Parmesan, combine with vegetables. Spoon mixture into tin and scatter with remaining Parmesan. Cook for about 30 minutes, and then chill on the fridge for a few hours, until the torte has set. Serve with a mixed leaf salad.

Spaghetti with Clams
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic - crushed
  • 2 pinches chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 3 lb clams - scrubbed clean
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 14 oz spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • lemon wedges

    Cook the pasta until tender. Meanwhile, heat oil in large frying pan, add garlic and chili and cook over a low heat for 30 seconds. Add parsley, wine and tomatoes. Increase the heat and boil, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Add clams and cover pan. Increase heat and cook for 5 minutes until clams open, shaking pan often. Toss the drained Spaghetti calm mixture. Garnish with lemon zest and wedges.

Spicy Lamb Casserole
A pinch of chili signifies this as a Southern dish probably originating from the Sheppard's who used wild herbs and vegetables found around their campsite.
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lb lamb leg or shoulder - cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 onion - finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk - finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves - crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala or red wine
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 12 pearl onions - peeled and halved
  • 2 carrots - sliced
  • 2 potatoes - cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

    Heat olive oil in a large casserole. Over high heat brown the lamb 3 batches, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove lamb, add onion, celery and garlic, reduce heat and cook 4-5 minutes until softened. Return lamb to casserole, pour in Marsala and cook over high heat until dark brown and reduced by half. Add chili flakes, tomato paste, stock, rosemary and about 1 cup of water, or enough to cover. Cover the casserole with a lid and bake in oven 30 at 350º for 30 minutes. Add onions, potatoes and carrots, cook another 30 minutes. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serves 4

Lemon Biscotti

Lemon Biscotti

Biscotti, meaning twice baked, were very popular with early sailors as they lasted a long time before spoiling.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon grated lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios

    Lemon Glaze
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

    Preheat oven to 325º. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Mix in zest, then flour mixture until just blended. The dough will be sticky. Stir in nuts and let stand 5 minutes. Transfer dough to baking sheet forming two 11x4-inch logs. Bake until logs are lightly brown, about 35minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Cut logs into 1-inch thick diagonal slices. Arrange cut side down on the tray, bake 15 minutes until golden. Mix confectioners sugar, lemon juice and zest together and glaze each biscotti while still warm.

As you reach the top of the dock at Prince Rupert Yacht Club, NW Canada, and cross the street at the corner intersection you'll find yourself at the doorstep of Cowpuccino's Coffee House. I love this place and on my recent sail through Prince I spoke with Judson Rowse, the owner, to glean a few of his secrets on his sweet success.

Cowpuccino's Coffee House

Gumboots for rent

Judson and staff member

It was my idea, along with partners at the time, to open a coffee shop. That was nearly ten years ago. As the name of the waterfront is Cow Bay the name Cowpuccinos' stuck. I grew up in Prince Rupert, I think a lot of customers are surprised to hear that, especially since the café is one of a kind. I used to commercial fish and cook on a boat and had no cooking or business management education. When I started there was nothing like this in town, we've created a lot of original and very unique styles such as painting the dumpster as a Holstein cow to pinning up cow postcards sent to us by customers on their world travels. Adrian at Cow Bay Café was here too. It was kind of cool, it was just me and her, some abandoned buildings, Breakers Pub, and Smiles fish and chips. We were busy and town was busy.

The mill is now closed and the fishing has really slowed down. In recent years, our town has lost a quarter of its population and that has made quite an economic impact. When we first opened there were plenty of fishermen around. You wouldn't think they'd go for muffins and lattes but they do. Fortunately there still lots of yacht clubbers, people cruising through, and overland travelers. We now have cruise ships, it's a good boost, though we don't have a line up out the door all day and most days it's pretty tiring as they don't understand the coffee shop protocol when it comes to ordering.

Our focus is coffee and deserts, we have no major house specialty but many of our desserts like "Sex in a Pan" and "Lemon Dream" have been standard since we started. We have a great Tiramisu that we do once in a while and some new treats that are doing really well like the Cow Patties", oh, and the "Skor Bars", they're big. We're always looking for something and you never know when it's going to be a big hit. Oops, I've got to mention mum's rhubarb, it's as organic as it gets, and it comes right from mum, we make it into an eight fruit crisp. Our Eggspresso is a novelty with travelers, we cook the eggs, you can add ham or cheese, with the steam wand on the cappuccino machine and they come out all light and fluffy.

It's still never a dull moment. I employ 11 staff and they're always coming and going, it's crazy and nearly out of control. I don't have to advertise; usually a friend of a friend applies for a position. We put a sign up once in a while, it says "Hiring, no crazies" but we probably want the opposite. We're open from 7am to 10pm and also run a kiosk at the ferry terminal and hardware store plus bake for four other venues including the marina gas station and fisherman supply store. All the baking gets done a one regular convection oven; a two foot space. I've had few disasters, no big explosions but there's grief when equipment fails. This year I lost both the dishwasher and cappuccino machine on the same day, a cruise ship was in so we were about to get slammed by about 2,000 people. And once, the long display cooler broke. All my buddies were here drinking coffee in the morning; they helped get the spare cooler from my parents basement up over a rock wall and into the shop by taking the door off then set it up with the desserts.

What do I do, in summer to unwind, after an 11 hour day? Grab a kayak and go for a paddle.

Sex in a Pan
This house specialty at Cappuccinos can become wicked by adding Kaluha to the chocolate layer or Grand Marnier to the base.

    1st layer
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup butter (melted)

    Mix all ingredients together and press into a 9x13 pan, cook 15 minutes at 350º

    2nd Layer
  • 2 packages (16oz) of soften cream cheese
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 1 container cool whip

    Beat cream cheese slowly blending in icing sugar then cool whip. Spread on top of base layer.

    3rd Layer
    Chocolate and vanilla pudding mixed with whip cream and milk as per directions. Spread on top of 2nd layer

    Top Layer
    Whip ¼ pint carton of cream with ½ cup icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla. Spread on top.

Cowpuccino's Secret Granola Bars
  • 1½ cups oats
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup sunflower
  • ½ cup Rice Krispies
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup butter - melted

    Mix all ingredients together and press into a greased 8x12 pan. Bake 25 minutes at 325º until golden.

Cowpuccino's "First Date" Bars
  • 2 cups oats
  • 2 cups pitted dates-16oz packet
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt

    Simmer dates in 2/3 water until mushy, add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together, cut in butter. Press ½ dry ingredients in to a greased 8x12 pan, spread with dates and crumb remaining mixture on top. Bake 30 minutes at 350º.

Ginger Crunch
I gave this favorite New Zealand recipe to Judson as a possible new addition to Cowpuccinos.
  • ½ cup butter-softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

    Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add sifted flour, baking powder, and ginger. Knead well on floured board. Press into 8x12 pan. Bake 375 º for 20-25min until light brown.

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

    Combine icing ingredients and heat until butter is melted. Spread icing on top of base.

Maureen and her dog Flynn

While presenting my Galley Seminar at the January Seattle Boat Show a question was asked on how I keep food from becoming boring, my answer was that I'm always trying new things.

At the Friday Harbor November Artisans Fair I happened to meet Maureen See, the creator of Cedar Rock gourmet black pepper specialties. She was so fascinating that I bought a few of her peppers to put her enthusiasm for pepper to the test. After a few pepper creations I had to discover more, so I asked Maureen if she'd share her story with you.

After arriving at her cozy little barn and being greeted by two Border Collies, Maureen and I sat down over a pot of tea to chat about food.

What inspires you about cooking?
I've always been interested in food. Growing up on the East Coast there are so many ethnic groups that it was wonderful to recognize a neighborhood from the aroma of the cooking, I loved that. I was the youngest of seven and my mother wasn't a particularly good cook but my grandmother was lovely cook and we all learned from her. Now one of the fun times in my life as when my family gets together and we all cook in the kitchen. It's a great opportunity to catch with one another, cooking together has great memories.

How did you come about creating Cedar Rock specialty peppers?
I was a social worker but when I came to the island I wanted to try something new. I had developed some products at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm, here on the island, and after creating lavender pepper I discovered I wanted to continue with my own line of products. I love to cook, smell and taste food so I started creating different infused peppers.

What are Cedar Rock specialty peppers?
Cedar Rock specialty peppers are a blend of pepper and herbs or spices that infuse into the pepper to give it flavor. There are ten peppers in the line; Cumin, Curry, Dill, Ginger, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, and Sage plus Fire in the Attic Pepper.

Why Pepper?
Hold the salt. The rich earthy Black Pepper we enjoy so much is the sun-dried version of unripe green peppercorns. Like salt, it has the added benefit of enhancing other flavors in a dish, even sweets, but it's better for you than salt. Black pepper is a native of India's Malabar Coast and for more then 2,000 years it has been grown in Malaysia and Indonesia; it was once so valued, perhaps to disguise the taste of spoiled food, that the search for new pepper trade routes and routes away from pirates spurred the accidental investigation of the New World.

How do you use Cedar Rock Specialty peppers?
I have fallen in love with the concept of using infused ingredients and it's taken me out of my old cooking routines. When I was growing up my parents had salt and pepper on the table in simple little things that never got changed. My mother never used pepper. I now put my infused peppers in everything, ice cream, popcorn, fruit with Ginger Pepper. I thought it was the start to make other products but now I'm just enamored with peppers, I'm now working on adding pepper with chocolate.

Where can I get Cedar Rock specialty peppers?
You may order from my website and when you're visiting San Juan Island look for me at the Saturday morning Farmers Market. You may also pick them up at Kings Market and Gourmet Galley.

The world needs more pepper, and it's better for it, that's my philosophy, use it and enjoy. Here are some recipes of mine for you to try, there's more on my website. Maureen

Blue Cheese Pepper Puffs with Sage Pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (Roquefort, Stilton, Maytag Blue)
  • 1 tablespoon Cedar Rock Sage Pepper

    In a 2-3 quart pan over high heat, bring 3/4 cup water and butter to a roiling boil. Remove from heat, add flour all at once, and stir until mixture is a smooth thick paste with no lumps. Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until dough is no longer slippery. Stir in cheese and pepper, let stand 15 minutes.

    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter baking sheets and evenly space 24 mounds of sough (about one rounded tablespoon each). Bake in oven until puffs are dry and browned, about 35-30 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

Anytime Chicken Wings with Ginger Pepper
  • 2 dozen chicken wings, cut into sections
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 minced fresh garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Ginger Pepper

    In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and mustard. Set aside. Bake chicken on cookie sheets at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and baste with sauce. Sprinkle with Ginger Pepper and return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon juice.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary Pepper
You may also substitute Lavender Pepper
    Place for to six lamb chops on a platter and generously sprinkle Worcestershire Sauce on both sides. Evenly distribute 1 1/2 tablespoons of Rosemary Pepper over the chops. Grill over medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side, turning once or twice until medium rare.

Grilled Trout with Fire in the Attic
This sauce is also wonderful with halibut or salmon
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) Fire in the Attic Pepper
  • salt (optional)
  • 4 fresh trout, approx 10oz each
  • 2 lemons, halved plus slices for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs

    For the sauce, blend all ingredients in a bowl or processor, chill until ready to serve. Rub the inside and outside of the trout with lemon, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck lemon pieces and garlic inside trout with herbs. Place on medium hot grill and cook 7 minutes, turn and cook 7 more minutes. Serve garnished with lemon slices, chopped fresh herbs, and the sauce on the side.

Melons with Port and Mint Pepper
I have so many recipes but this nothing could be simpler than this and it's beautiful.
  • 2 ripe cantaloupes (or other ripe melon)
  • 1 cup Port wine
  • Mint Pepper to taste

    Cut melons in half and scoop out seeds. Place on a bowl and pour 1/4 cup of Port into cavity of each melon half. Sprinkle with mint pepper. Serve immediately.

I was recently asked by a friend to use two words to describe cruising Alaska. "Big and Plenty" was my answer. Looking a little puzzled my friend then asked if I was talking about the trees, blokes (guys) or boats. No, I was instantly thinking of the available local foods such as cabbage, seafood and wild game.

Last September we cleared into Prince Rupert, Canada from Hawaii, reprovisoned for our trip north, and picked up our next expedition members. Included in our crew of six was Ron, a delightful Palm Springs desert chap. Ron had done a bit of lake fishing in his life and some of his tennis buddies had mentioned that the fishing in these parts was mighty good. So, Ron stopped by the sports shop on the way to the boat and picked up a rig to catch a fish.

Once aboard Ron produced his lure stating he was out to catch a halibut for dinner. I was sorry to inform him that he also needed a fishing license and asked if he any idea how big halibut were. When he spread his hands 2 feet wide, I laughed saying, "Think big enough that you need a shotgun to kill them!" Ron thought I was joking until we stopped for the night at Coffman Cove, north of Ketchikan, and there hanging on the dock was a mighty halibut caught by Big B. We were impressed and rightly told Big B so. Being a seasoned fishing guide he enthusiastically explained that this was his biggest catch of the year and he offered us some halibut steaks for dinner, suggesting we bake them with lemon, salt and pepper.

Ron checks out Big B's halibut

Big B and a fish part

Big B at work filleting the halibut

Near the end of our return south we invited the Pruth Bay caretakers aboard for dinner. Ron, realizing he was not about to catch a halibut on his own, gave away his lure to Dillon, the caretakers teenage son. Dillon is a keen fisherman who hopes to be a fishing and wilderness guide one day and we enjoyed a wonderful evening together, with his parents, hearing tales of commercial fishing in the summers and caretaking the lodge on this remote island during the winters. A few minutes after saying our goodbyes, Dillon returned with a lovely huge hunk of frozen halibut in a zip-loc bag. So in the end, Ron's lure did provide halibut for our table!

By now our crew were getting a little tired of plain fish, so later in the week I served the following recipe with sweet potato salad and fresh green beans.

Ginger Sesame Grilled Halibut
This versatile dressing is also great for other seafood, grain and green salads or stir-fries. Keeps for several weeks in the fridge.
    4 halibut steaks
    4 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish
    1/2 cup canola oil
    1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    2 garlic cloves - minced
    1 orange - zest and juice
    1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
    salt and pepper

    Combine all dressing ingredients and marinate halibut for at least 30 minutes. Remove halibut, discard dressing. Grill halibut until just cooked through and serve sprinkled with a teaspoon of sesame seeds.

Sweet Potato Salad
    3 orange flesh sweet potatoes - peeled and cubed
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    1/4 cup honey
    1/4 cup olive oil
    3/4 cup diced red onion
    1/2 cup dried cranberries
    1/2 cup dried currants
    3/ cup toasted pecans - chopped

    Steam sweet potatoes in steamer basket until just fork tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile whisk mustard, vinegar, honey and oil together. Combine onion, cranberries and currants, toss with sweet potatoes and dressing. Chill for an hour and toss in pecans before serving. Serves 4

My next introduction to "Big and Plenty" was our arrival in Wrangell where on the dock stood Vena Stough next to the first moose she'd shoot. This seemed a rather astounding feat to me, especially when I learned that she was only 28 and this was her first boating and hunting trip with her parents. They had taken their aluminum jetboat up the Skeena River and she and her mum had been perched up a tree when Vena shot the moose with a single bullet. No, I didn't take home moose meat to the crew, but I did get Vena's favorite stew recipe and was told that she'd be having some moose meat made into sausages at the local supermarket of which they'd sell some.

Amanda with Vena and moose

Butcher at Wrangell Supermarket

Vena's Meat Stew
Beef, Moose or Venison can be used for this stew.
    2 tablespoons oil
    2 lbs meat - cubed
    2 onions - diced
    2 celery stalks - sliced
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 bay leaf
    1 sprig marjoram
    fresh basil leaves
    3 cloves garlic - chopped
    2 16oz canned tomatoes
    1 10oz can beef broth
    2 cups red wine
    2 carrots - sliced
    3 medium potatoes - cubed
    1 10oz packet frozen corn
    1 10oz packet frozen green beans
    Saute meat in oil until all brown, reduce heat add onions, celery, herbs and spices. Cook until onions are tender. Add tomatoes, broth and wine, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until meat is tender. Add carrots, potatoes and corn and beans, cook another 20 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or polenta. Serves 4

Date Pecan Pancakes
I'm rather fortunate onboard as John cooks breakfast. Our late season Alaskan cruising (we only saw one other cruising boat) offered us short daylight hours, cold windy days and log lookout. In order to cover a fair distance on a days run and reach an evening's anchorage with plenty of time to explore we opted for pre dawn starts and a hearty breakfast served underway. These wholesome pancakes became John's specialty and he'd mix and store large batches of the dry ingredients adding the eggs, milk and butter for every two cups of dry mix. I must admit, sometime John cheats and uses Krusteaz Pancake Mix as a base, adding the extra treats to it.
    1/3 cup rolled oats
    1 1/14 cups flour
    1/4 cup buckwheat flour
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup dates - chopped
    1/3 cup pecans - chopped
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 cups milk
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted and cooled

Combine oats, flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl, add dates and pecans. In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk and butter together and stir it into the dry ingredients to form batter. Cook on a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan. Serves 4

Apple Slices with Curried Chutney Spread
This appetizer is great to serve any time onboard, the crisp apple slices make a wonderful substitute for crackers although you may also try celery.
    2 apples
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    8 ounces cream cheese - room temperature
    2 tablespoon milk
    1 teaspoon of Indian-style curry paste, Pataks mild is my favorite.
    2 tablespoons fruit chutney
    1/3 cup pecans - toasted and chopped

Blend together cream cheese, milk and curry paste. Stir in chutney and ¼ cup of pecans, reserving the remaining nuts for garnish. Cut the apples in quarters, remove core and cut each quarter into four length wise quarters. Place slices in a bowl and cover with cold water, stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate until serving time. To serve, drain the slices and pat dry with paper towels and smear with a teaspoon of spread.

Unfortunately I've run out of space to tell you about the huge shrimp we were also given so next month's column will be devoted to shrimp recipes.

What a Shrimp!

Last month I wrote about some of the foods we experienced as we cruised Alaska in autumn. I had also planned to include shrimp but as we enjoyed such an abundance of them and tried so many tasty recipes I thought it best to dedicate this month's column to them alone.

On our late September visit to South Sawyer Glacier we took refuge on a rainy night at Sandborn Canal and were surprised to find two shrimp boats rafted up in this isolated bay. Wondering what they were catching we went over to visit and were disappointed when one of the skippers informed us that they weren't working as they were waiting for the October 1st opening of a short shrimping season, so short that to maximize the limited hours they had hired a float plane to daily collect their harvest meaning the shrimp would be shipped fresh on ice and the boat didn't have to return to Juneau to unload.

We were then on the lookout for fresh shrimp! The Alaskan shrimp harvest is comprised of four species, the pink, coon stripe, spot and side-stripe, with pink shrimp accounting for more than 85 percent of the total harvest. Large shrimp are often marketed as prawns, however the Food and Agricultural Organization calls freshwater species "prawns" and saltwater species "shrimp".

We had thought that our next stops in both Petersburg and Wrangell might have yielded fresh shrimp but alas there were no active shrimping boats in port. Leaving Wrangell we had spectacular sunny cloudless weather and decided to swing by Anan Creek for a hike to the National Park Service bear observatory and perhaps a sighting of bears. Along the boardwalk trail we found dozens of half-eaten salmon, lots of tracks and prints, plus bear poop but where were the elusive bears? Still we were content by being in nature and viewing the waterfall, tidal lagoons and the many bald eagles feeding on the spawned-out salmon, and working up an appetite for dinner.

Shrimp boat

Packing shrimp

These shrimp are BIG

In the nearing dusk we returned to the beach to find a small fishing boat moored near us. Its humming generator, blazing lights and music altered the still of the evening along with the activity of the onboard crew. Eagerly we headed over to the Downcast'r to see if we could acquire some seafood. Yep, we were finally in the right place at the right time! Jim and Bob (homeport Wrangell) had just completed their first day of shrimping and they were in the process of packing the largest shrimp we have ever seen.

I soon realized that commercial shrimping is a very sophisticated business. First they were sorting the spot shrimp on deck before soaking them in a brine solution, neatly packing them in paper boxes, then freezing them to -40F in the blast freezer located in the hold. The shrimp were then shipped to Seattle and when there was enough to fill a freezer van, a broker would sell and ship them to Japan. Apparently shrimp accounts for about 25 percent of all seafood sold in U.S making it the best-selling creature of the water although the US imports 80 percent of the shrimp it consumes.

Bob disappeared below and returned with a pot of steaming shrimp, a different variety to what they were packing as these had been frozen from a previous season. After sampling Bob's dinner of tasty crustaceans we asked if we could purchase some. He laughed stating that he'd gladly give us a bag of the last seasons frozen shrimp but the fresh ones were all destined for Japan. "But they look so tasty" our crew replied. With a mumbled reply Bob relented saying "O.K, come back in an hour or so once we have these guys sorted, you can purchase some of the rejects". He cautioned that we not overcook them, 5 minutes maximum and that people often think that fresh shrimp should yield a soft flesh but that's only the case if they have been frozen; fresh shrimp have a firm texture and mid flavor.

Being too late in the evening to clean the shrimp we kept them in a bucket of water overnight and set to the next day, peeling them ready for some tasty dishes.

Girls peeling shrimp

Yael gets creative in the galley

Shrimp Salsa
    1 lb cooked shrimp - chopped
    1 jalapeño pepper - finely chopped
    1 cup corn
    1 can black beans - drained
    8 tomatoes - seeded and diced
    2 avocados - chopped
    1 cup cucumber - seeded and diced
    1 cup yellow bell pepper - diced
    ½ cup cilantro - chopped
    ¼ cup green onion - chopped
    3 tablespoons lime juice
    ½ teaspoon sea salt
    ½ teaspoon pepper
    ½ teaspoon coriander
    Combine all ingredients and refrigerate 1hour - serve with tortilla chips

Grilled Coconut Shrimp with Tropical Pesto
    1 lb shrimp - peeled, deveined with tails on
    1/3 cup coconut milk
    2 tablespoons lime juice
    2 garlic clove - crushed
    1 teaspoon red chili peppers - seed and minced
    1 teaspoon cumin
    ½ teaspoon ground coriander
    ¼ teaspoon pepper
    18 fresh pineapple chunks

Tropical Pesto
    1 cup flaked coconut
    1 cup cilantro - chopped
    1 cup green onion - chopped
    ½ cup peanut or olive oil
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons ginger - minced
    2 teaspoons garlic - minced
    ½ teaspoon salt
    Combine coconut milk, lime juice, garlic, red peppers, cumin, coriander and pepper; pour over shrimp. Marinate 1 hour then thread shrimp and pineapple on skewers. Broil or grill, 3 minutes per side until shrimp are done. Serve shrimp with pesto.

Layered Shrimp and Potato Salad
Containing olives and olive oil this recipe has it's origins in Spain and is always a hit at picnics or potlucks.
    4 red skinned potatoes
    2 tablespoons wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cups small shrimp - cooked
    ¼ cup mayonnaise
    shot of hot sauce
    ½ cup Italian parsley - minced
    6 hard boiled eggs - sliced
    ¾ cup pitted black olives - sliced
    ¼ cup pimiento - minced

    ½ cup olive oil
    1/3 cup wine vinegar
    2 green onions - minced
    1½ teaspoons salt
    ½ teaspoon pepper

    Boil potatoes until tender. Drain, cool 10 minutes then slice into a bowl. Gently mix in wine vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, marinate 30 minutes. Whisk dressing ingredients together. Thin mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons of dressing adding a shot of hot sauce, fold in shrimp. Spread a layer of potatoes in a shallow serving dish and drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle with parsley then add a layer of eggs followed by layers of pimiento, olives and shrimp. Repeat layers. Cover and keep at room temperature before serving.

Shrimp "Enchilado"
This main dish, served with rice, originates form Cuba and the name "enchilado" comes from the added hot pepper. It. should be used with a light touch, as Cubans do not eat highly spiced foods.
    1½ pounds shrimp - peeled with tails on
    1 tablespoon lime juice
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1¼ cups onion - chopped
    ½ cup green pepper - chopped
    4 garlic cloves - chopped
    13/4 cups tomatoes - peeled, seeded and diced (or 14oz can)
    4 tablespoons tomato paste
    ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
    1 cup white wine
    ½ cup fish broth
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    2 tablespoons chopped parsley

    Marinate the shrimp in lime juice and salt for 20 minutes. Sauté shrimp in olive oil and pepper flakes until just cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp and add onion, green pepper and garlic, sauté 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, wine and fish broth, simmer 10 minutes until sauce thickens. Return shrimp and accumulated juices and gently heat. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

Packing the fridge

In February we collected Mahina Tiare from her winter storage boatyard in Sidney and set about refitting her for this years eight expeditions from Victoria BC, to Sweden via the Panama Canal. Being based in Friday Harbor we had the luxury of having the boat at our doorstep, for the first time in 6 years, and it was a great to be able to off load, replenish and update many of the galley supplies from a new Rubbermaid cutlery tray to the latest Magma stainless cookware set.

We drove off island for a Costco shop, but not too large as we wanted to keep the boat light for the trip down the coast and have planned a larger shop in San Diego. A few days before leaving Friday Harbor for Victoria I shopped at Market Place to load up the freezer, condiments cupboard and gather miscellaneous items. Although I was paying "island prices" it was easier here than another run to the mainland or a last minute big shop in Victoria before our six crew arrived. In Victoria, Thrifty supermarket, two blocks behind Parliament building, provided excellent fruit and vegetables for my two week provision plan plus bread, bagels, muffins and a dozen hot cross buns.

Fruit and veg bins

Sandwich making items and extras

To pack the fridge I load up 6 bins in layers of weeks, 3 containing fruits and vegetables while the other three contain sandwich making items and extras such as yogurt. An open bin as a top has condiments and current items. I try and avoid stray items in Ziploc bags and use small containers for open packets of cheese and ham. I use powered milk to save space and smear a light coating of Vaseline on the eggs so they don't have to be stored in the fridge. Potatoes, onions, and long lasting fruit live in a large bin under the galley floor.

Be aware that last minute provisioning and packing takes time and effort. The last thing I feel like in the evening is cooking. Being tied up in Victoria's inner basin has the advantage of a wonderful restaurant selection so John and I headed uptown for a meal out. I'm always scanning menu boards for inspiration and on my morning run a Caribbean restaurant had grabbed my attention. "The Reef" on Yates Street is truly what people say; "a departure from conventional taste" and its topical atmosphere eased my cravings warmer climates. John's tomato and mango red snapper was so fabulous that I must share my inspired version with you.

Fish with Tomato and Mango Sauce
  • 2 tomatoes - chopped
  • ¼ cup mango chutney
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoon cilantro - chopped
  • chopped hot pepper or hot sauce to taste

    Combine all ingredients and serve with pan seared snapper or halibut, rice spiked with beans and jerk seasoning, and Jamaican Coleslaw.

Jamaican Coleslaw
  • 3 cups cabbage - grated
  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts - chopped
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 limes - juice and zest
  • ¼ cup cilantro - chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • chopped hot pepper or hot sauce to taste

    Combine all ingredients.

Provisions Note- I keep my fresh ginger root in the freezer. Upon purchase, give the root a quick scrub, place in a Ziploc and freeze. It then keeps for ages and is super easy to grate when needed.

Crew joined Monday and as weather dictated another day in port I grabbed the opportunity to visit another one of Victoria's global restaurants. I suggested The Tapa Bar on Trounce Alley as a few day's earlier, when passing, its vivid décor had caught my attention. When we arrived the place was packed but the head waitress quickly arranged tables to accommodate our crew. Tapa's are small flavorful dishes that originate in Barcelona and The Tapa Bar menu offers over 50 items. Being overwhelmed at the extensive choices ranging from wild mushroom tostada to mussels de cha cha cha we made an offer our waitress to provide us a dinner selection for $12 per person. After consuming a superb array of delightful dishes our waitress then announced we were under budget and would we like desert. We were in seventh heaven and even more so when our chocolate lava cakes served with raspberry puree, sorbet and whipped cream arrived.

Lava Cake served at The Tapa Bar

So intrigued by the hot little cake with a flowing chocolate centre I asked how it was done. I was told it's a brownie with a lump of semi dark chocolate in the middle. Our next stop in Neah Bay resulted in a quick trip to Washburn's Store for an 8oz pack of Hershey's semi-sweet baking chocolate and while still pounding south ten days later, in 15 knots, I proceeded to create my own lava cakes off Monterey. A rudimentary version I must admit, a lump of chocolate squished into a Ghirardelli brownie mix that had been spooned into 12 foiled cup cakes, but it worked. For a more refined version we all agreed that a raspberry flavored chocolate should be used. So here's a scratch brownie recipe for you to set about creating your own lava cakes, and it's up to you what chocolate to use.

Lava Brownies
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 chocolate squares

    Beat butter, oil, buttermilk, egg whites, eggs, vanilla and sugars until sugar is dissolved. Mix in remaining ingredient except chocolate squares. Spoon mixture into 12 foil cup cakes and insert a chocolate square into each cake. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes turning once. Serve hot.

Baking Lava Brownies at Sea

We had planned to clear customs into the U.S in Neah Bay and although it is a port of entry it is not manned so Customs informed us we had to back track the Straits of Juan de Fuca, 60 miles to Port Angles. Mark Johnson the Customs inspector recommended we headed to town to Michael's Divine Dinning, on First St, for Northwest cuisine with a Mediterranean theme. Hungry after our days sail we devoured their Tapenade served in a small dish with a basket of hot country bread and were delighted when they brought another round before our excellent dinners arrived. So here's a Tapenade recipe in honor of Michael's.

Tapenade will keep in the
fridge for up to a month. Serve on hot fresh bread, crostini, mixed into hot pasta or simply place on the table as a condiment.
  • 1 cup black olives - pitted
  • 1 cup green olives - pitted
  • 1 tin anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 4 garlic cloves - finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil - finely chopped
  • 1 lemon - juice and zest
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

    Finely chop olives, anchovies, and capers together. Add remaining ingredients and season well with salt and pepper.

If you're headed to Victoria for Swiftsure, the Wooden Boat Festival, or as a stoppy bit on you're summer cruise be sure to checkout The Reef ( and The Tapa Bar ( phone 250.383.0013) for a fun crew night out.

Nicole enjoying her dinner whilst on watch

Nicole Friend, 31, joined Mahina Tiare for our leg one expedition from Victoria to San Diego. Her youthful personality was infectious aboard and her enthusiasm for undertaking an ocean voyage abounding. During our 2am watch off Santa Cruz Island I took a few moments to ask her about her own upcoming adventure.

What are your plans?
My husband Gar and I are in the process of fixing up and selling our houseboat in Sausalito plus down sizing and outfitting our newly purchased 1999 Pacific Seacraft 40, Dreamkeeper. In early December we plan to sail to Mexico then on to the South Pacific once spring arrives.

What are you looking forward to?
I'm hoping we'll catch fish. It's certainly something I'm eager to learn about plus how to cook it, as I haven't done it much. I'm busy gathering up fish recipes. I'm really excited to be learning more about the Pacific Island people. I lived in Palau, Micronesia for a period of time so I'm planning to sail there. It would be really spectacular to be able to return to a place that I love and visit some people that I really care about.

What food concerns do you have for when you go cruising?
One of the things that worry me is being able to get all the vegetables I want while out in the middle of the sea or visiting certain places. When I came up on deck the other day with my loaded lunch plate my watch partner J.M said that it looked like I was off to feed the animals at the zoo. Gar and I don't eat red meat so that might be a concern if we're trying to blend in with local people when we share meals. We're respectful of other cultures and don't want to appear high maintenance so sometimes we bend out eating habits in order to not be rude.

What's your galley set up?
I have a fridge and freezer. I don't know how well it works, we have to do a little analysis on it and fix it if it's not working as well as need be. I have a force 10 three burner stove. I seem to be lacking storage space and was thinking of adding a top cupboard in above the center line sink, but it may hinder ventilation.

What are your galley priorities?
Although I adore dried banana's I don't think I'll carry a dehydrator. I might take a vacuum packer, at this stage I don't know how realistic it is to dehydrate stuff for two months ahead of time and then vacuum pack it. It's not first on the priority list although I'm sure I will long for spectacular dried red pepper, fruits and berries. As far as galley utensils, I have a gift certificate at a kitchen store which I will use on OXO galley tools.

Does Gar cook?
Gar is a good cook when I let him cook. I'm not very good at letting go of control in the galley. I do a lot of the cooking but he really enjoys cooking for me and so I'm working on letting him step in. He really enjoys baking cookies, making soup and is super keen on growing sprouts, so he'll be the gardener at sea. Sometimes we cook together.

You said you were thinking of writing a book?
It would be an interesting and fun project to publish a book on coconuts. It seems that throughout the South Pacific and Micronesia everyone depends on coconuts for so many different things. I'd like to present coconuts and the role they play in different cultures along with portraying their uses and history, tying it together with our passage through the Pacific. I'm a huge lover of coconut smoothies so I'm definitely having a blender aboard.

What is your comfort food?
I like a lot of lentils in my diet, they're easy, inexpensive, readily available and always seem to taste good plus they're super nutritious. I often combine lentils with rice or other grains such as quinoa; which is great for any meal or for thickening soups. Lentil soups are my comfort food.

Lentil Soup
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 onion - chopped
  • 2 carrots - chopped
  • 1 stalk celery - chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 can whole tomatoes and juice - chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Tabasco sauce

    Heat oil and sauté thyme and onions. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 45 minutes until lentils are soft or pressure cook 9 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

I love peanut saté with coconut milk, and any red curry, especially Thai as they do a wonderful job of combining fresh ingredients with coconut milk. I've just returned from Thailand where I learned the following dishes, I think they'll also work in the South Pacific as Thai food seems super refreshing in hot climates.

Chicken Saté
  • 3 breasts of chicken sliced into strips
  • Marinade:3 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste

    Marinate chicken for at least 4 hrs. Skewer chicken on sticks, place on cookie sheet and pour excess marinade on top. Broil on high, until done (approx 10min). Serve with peanut sauce, and sliced lime, cucumber and cabbage.

Peanut Sauce
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro - chopped
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • cayenne to taste
  • ½ cup warm water

    Whisk ingredients together while slowly adding the water. Peanut sauce will keep for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Marin's Peanut Soba Noodles
This dish is great with all of these ingredients but if you're short it still seems to be a popular favorite.
  • ½ lb soba noodles (buckwheat is best)
  • peanut sauce - from above
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup sliced purple or white cabbage
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup snap peas or green beans
  • ½ cup cilantro - chopped
  • ½ cup green onions - sliced
  • lime wedges
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (I like unsalted roasted best)

    Boil and rinse soba noodles. Toss noodles with peanut sauce or drizzle sauce over the top. Garnish with remaining ingredients. Serves 4.

Chicken Mediterranean Pasta
Here's a dish I created that's always a hit with people of any age.
  • 8 oz uncooked pasta - preferably a fat and stubby shape
  • 2 chicken breast - sliced and sautéed
  • 4 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup kalamata olives
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil - diced
  • 2 tablespoons caper juice, white wine or lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • salt and pepper

    Cook pasta and dress with olive oil or sun-dried tomato oil. Toss in remaining ingredients and garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Nicole and Amanda at sea preparing Chicken Pasta

What's appealing about going long term cruising.
I love the ocean and I think sailing is one of the best ways to see the world and have an adventure. I really appreciate learning from other people and cultures and cruising on your home allows you to live serendipitously with some foresight.

Buying a fresh fruit cup

Ensenda was our port of clearance into Mexico. To cater to the cruise ship industry the town has undergone a recent renovation with a widened waterfront malecón (promenade) and central district to accommodate outside patios for restaurants, of which there are plenty. Our four hour visit coincided with spring break and three cruise ships, a rather busy time for the small town. I managed to drag John along on a visit to numerous shops and a wander into the backstreets in search of the only nearby supermarket for fresh provisions after which he was clearly fading from the hustle and in need of sustenance. A sidewalk eatery that announced "free salsa and tortillas with the purchase of a drink" grabbed his attention. We savored a quiet time sitting under our umbrella street side table watching the world go whilst devouring a refreshing bright salsa, home made tortilla chips, freshly-squeezed fruit drinks and an order of fish tacos with corn-bean salad. We later learned that hot salsa and chips are instantly put on your table whenever you sit down at almost any restaurant in Mexico.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

    1/3 cup olive oil
    ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
    juice of 2 limes
    1 teaspoon paprika
    2 cans black beans - rinsed and drained
    2 cups frozen corn - thawed
    2 cups cherry tomatoes - quartered
    1 orange pepper - diced
    1/3 cup chopped cilantro
    2 small jalapeno peppers - seeded and minced
    salt and ground pepper

    Whisk first 4 ingredients together. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Let stand 1 hour before serving.

We had two weeks for the 1,000 mile passage from San Diego to Acapulco, nearly ¾ the length of Mexico, so our stops were short but frequently held a culinary surprise. Whenever there was a sandy beach close to a town, restaurants with shaded tables lined the shore offering extensive menus and cool drinks, too tempting to pass up. Our strolls around the town's were punctuated by frequent stops at traveling food venders who offered small inexpensive treats such as fresh squeezed juice, baked rolls and sweet buns, fruit flavored ice creams, and my favorite; cups of chilled sliced fruit doused in picante (hot chili) sauce and salt. I was surprised at the bold freshness and unsophisticated presentation of the many of dishes we tried and quickly discovered that limes, chilies, cilantro and avocadoes are companion ingredients to any dinner.

Drinks on the beach

Fresh bread vender

A crew escapade to view the Semana Santa (Holy week) celebrations at Puerto Vallarta's malecon rewarded us with a lively evening along the waterfront. Musicians, artist, dancers, vendors, and sand sculptors vied for attention amongst the restaurants, elaborate discos and stores that had peeled back their exteriors to reveal gay interiors and blaring music. To beat the crowds we opted for an early dinner at the romantic looking La Chata, an open aired second floor restaurant that had private balconies perched over the street. I barely had time to admire their décor of traditional Mexican handicrafts or take in the sunset as the food just kept coming. Sopas, cerviches, fijitas, moles and quesadillas were devoured and washed down with tangy margueritas. When a nine member mariachi band paraded up the stairs our tranquil atmosphere was shattered but by then our drinks had taken affect and we happily encouraged their festivities at our table.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

    3 corn tortillas - thinly striped
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 onion - chopped
    1 celery stalk - diced
    1 red pepper - sliced
    1 orange pepper - sliced
    4 cloves garlic - minced
    4 cups of pulled roasted chicken
        * you may substitute crab for chicken
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1 can tomato paste
    1 can black bean
    6 cups chicken broth
    1½ cups corn
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 tablespoon chopped basil
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 can mild chilies
    juice 2 limes
    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    ¾ cup grated cheese

    Sauté onions, celery and garlic 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except cilantro, cheese and tortillas. Simmer 10 minutes. Meanwhile toast tortillas in a frying pan or oven until crisp. Stir in cilantro and simmer soup 5 minutes more. Serve topped with cheese and tortillas on the side. Serves 8

Sailors who anchor in Zihuatanejo Bay, dinghy ashore to the white sand beach and dine at a local beachside cantina will think they're in heaven; it doesn't get better. Good food, a cool drink, friendly folks and your boat at anchor is a scene not soon forgotten. We shared the anchorage with two other boats from Seattle and I particularly enjoyed a visit with Diane Rector on the HR 36 Con Te Partiro. I even managed to obtain her salsa recipe in exchange for signing the copy of my book she had aboard.

Diane and Me

Fresh Salsa

Diane's Salsa

    3 roma tomatoes - diced
    ½ red onion - diced
    1 jalapeno pepper - finely chopped
    ½ yellow pepper - diced
    ½ orange pepper - diced
    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro juice of 1 lime
    Mix and enjoy.

Arriving in Acapulco, our last port in Mexico and rest stop before the next leg to Panama, was a tack into the fast lane. Crowed beaches, glitzy resorts, a never ending night life plus menacing buses and honking VW taxis make this city tiresome. The Club de Yates de Acapulco with its open aired pool-side restaurant and tropical gardens proved to be an oasis from our city trips. Acapulco abounds with places to shop and we divided our provisioning into three excursions; Wal-Mart (open 24 hours), the flash new Super Gigante supermarket and the older, more local, Mexicana. Prices and selection varied considerably, I went prepared with detailed shopping lists and translations. When I found a needed item such as wasabi, or pumpernickel bread, I bought it there and then, not worrying about the price. The huge central market building was an excellent place to obtain cheap jerry jugs for extra fuel to Panama but on closer inspection it appeared too old, battered and hot for general provisioning. We hired Edmundo, a local boat boy to help with errands and moving the boat to obtain fuel. I enjoyed chatting with him about Acapulco and often questioned him about the local dishes. He was particularly fond of moles (sauces) and helpfully explained the many regional variations that occur.

Walmart Acapulco

Super Gigante

Mole Chili
The addition of cocoa transforms this tomato based sauce into a new and unique flavor.

    1 lb chicken, turkey or ground beef
    1 onion - chopped
    4 garlic cloves - minced
    2 cans diced tomatoes
    1 can black or kidney beans
    2 jalapeños - seeded and finely chopped
    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 tablespoons cornmeal
    2 t cinnamon
    1½ teaspoons ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground anise
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    ½ teaspoon ground cloves

    Sauté onion, garlic and red pepper stir in meat coated in 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add remaining ingredients except cocoa and cornmeal. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer ¾ hour. Stir in cocoa and cornmeal (to thicken) and simmer uncovered 20 minutes.

I first met Beth Leonard in 2001 at the Atlantic City Sail Expo, during the release of my book. Beth was promoting her books "Following Seas" and "Voyager's Handbook" and we'd been asked to do presentations in a half built J boat galley staged in the middle of the food court. My impromptu presentations were about provisioning and cooking on a world cruise while Beth quietly and efficiently demonstrated the art of making bread. I was impressed. I've since shared three anchorages with Beth around the globe, Ireland, New Zealand and this year Victoria, BC. I delighted in catching up on the in-between years and oceans miles we've sailed and plucked up the courage to ask Beth for her bread making tips. She was busy editing the second edition of the "Voyagers Handbook" and her new book "Blue Horizons" but happily wrote the following for me to share with you.

The pungent, yeasty aroma of fresh-baked bread forms an integral part of my indelible cruising memories. In less than a heartbeat, the smell of bread just out of the oven can transport me to the wilds of Patagonia as we climb aboard the boat after a long hike and dinghy ride in company with dolphins and sea lions. It can whisk me away to any of several dozen offshore passages with the boat sashaying sown the wave faces in front of trade winds. Or it can deposit me in Hawk's cozy cabin in a remote anchorage near the Arctic Circle in Iceland while a gale lashes at the rigging and sleet taps on the deck with disembodied fingers.

But the scent of fresh bread was a part of my life long before I went cruising. That lovely rich perfume can carry me far back into the dim recesses of childhood, for I grew up with fresh-baked bread. My father's mother, Mimi as we called her, spent the school year with us from the time my grandfather died when I was about 7. My mother was busy first getting a collage degree and then working, so my sister and I came home to Mimi at the end of each school day. We would walk into the hallway, drop our bags of books, and sample the air like dogs, trying to determine what awaited us. Twice a week the smell of bread would overpower everything else, and we would enter the kitchen to find Mimi in her flour-covered apron waiting for us by two loaves still warm from the oven and just ready to be cut.

When I was about 11 years old, Mimi initiated me into the mystery of mysteries, the making of something so basic to our existence from the simplest ingredients - flour, water, yeast. She taught me how to coax the yeast back to life, how to test the water to make sure it was exactly the right temperature, how to knead the dough to work in enough air to make it light. I came to view the ingredients with affection and found them to be very resilient when I made errors. I remember how large her hands were compared to mine and their silky feel as she positioned my hand at exactly the right angle to punch dough down with the heel of my palm. I can still fell the baby-bottom texture of the dough when I had worked in enough flour, and hear the resounding slap it made as Mimi tossed it onto the floured board.

I was surprised, then, to find so many new cruisers intimidated by the idea of baking bread. But I soon realized that most people had not been as lucky as I had, had not their own bread-baking muse to guide them. So for those of you who have hesitated or who believe you need a machine to make wonderful bread, here are a few tips and recipes for you to try.

1. Proving the yeast. To make sure the yeast is good, put the yeast and a pinch of sugar in a bowl and add half a cup of warm water. The water should be lukewarm, just below body temperature. Test water temperature in the same way you check the temperature of a baby's bottle - a drop on the wrist should feel pleasantly warm but not hot. If the yeast is good, it will foam to the surface after several minutes and the bowl will begin to smell like a brewery. Add the proven yeast to the remaining liquid ingredients.

2. Add flour. Stir in half the flour, adding the rest a half cup at a time. When the dough becomes too difficult to stir with a spoon, turn it out onto a floured board and work in the rest of the flour using your hands. The exact amount of flour will depend on the exact amount of water used, the humidity, and the dampness of the flour. Keep adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky and has the soft, silky feel of a baby's bottom.

3. Knead the dough. Kneading the dough introduces air into it and makes it lighter. You can let the dough rise without kneading it but the bread will be quite dense. Kneading the dough consists of turning it out onto a floured surface, punching it down, rotating it a quarter turn, folding it in half, and punching it down again. Keep adding small amounts of flour, flouring the surface, and kneading until dough is smooth and elastic. The longer the dough is kneaded, the lighter it becomes. For white bread I knead the dough a minimum of eight minutes to ten minutes.

4. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Clean the bowl and grease it with a dollop of olive oil. Spin the dough around the bowl to coat the outside with oil. Cover with a damp towel and put it in a warm place; around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. How long it takes to rise will depend upon the temperature and humidity. In the tropics, the dough may double in as little as 30 minutes. In colder climes, it may take an hour.

5. Punch down and let rise again. After the dough has doubled, punch it down. For really light, evenly textured bread knead it again for several minutes. I usually don't knead whole grain breads the second time. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a loaf, and put it in greased bread pan. Cover with the damp towel and allow dough to double a second time. The second rising is usually longer, around 40 minutes in the tropics.

6. Bake and let cool. If you like a crispy crust, put the bread into a cold oven before turning it on. When done, the loaf should be golden brown all over and when tapped it should sound hollow. Pull it out of the oven and pan, setting it on a rack to cool for at least fifteen minutes before cutting.

Old-Fashioned Potato Bread
  • 1 medium potato - peeled and diced
  • 1 package active dry yeast (or 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 6½ -9 cups all purpose unsifted flour

    Cook potato until tender, drain, reserving liquid. Mash potato. Add enough water to potato liquid to make one cup. Allow to cool to baby bottle temperature. Add yeast and sugar. Prove yeast. Add butter, salt, milk, potato, and three cups flour. Beat until smooth and elastic. Stir in additional flour and knead. Coat in a greased bowl. Cover, let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again until doubled. Shape into two loaves, place in greased pans and let rise until doubled. Bake 375º for 45 minutes.

Mimi's Oatmeal Bread
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1½ cups quick cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons shortening (or butter or margarine)
  • ¾ cup molasses (or ½ cup honey)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup powered milk
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups white flour

    Pour boiling water over oats and let stand until lukewarm. Add shortening, molasses, sugar and milk. Prove yeast using water and sugar, add to mixture. Stir in half of flour then keep adding flour until dough is stiff. Knead then coat in greased bowl. Cover, let rise until doubled. Shape into two loaves, place in greased pans and let rise until doubled. Bake 375º for 45 minutes to an hour.

Mimi's Honey Wheat Bread
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cream style cottage cheese (or yogurt)
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 5½ -6 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

    Heat first four ingredients in a saucepan until warm - baby bottle temperature. Prove yeast in liquid. Combine with 2 cups flour and remaining ingredients. Beat two minutes, stir in remaining flour until dough reaches required consistency. Knead and let rise until doubled. Shape into two loaves, place in greased pans and let rise until doubled. Bake 350º for 40-50 minutes.

Panama's best known feature is the canal and although our main reason for sailing to Panama was to transit the canal, the resplendent coastline and verdant interior of this country produced an exciting culinary experience. From tropical fruits to fruits of the sea - Panama's cuisine is also definitely worth transiting.

It's not a surprise that that the name Panama means "abundance of fishes" and it surely lived up to it's name as on our final approach to Panama City we caught six yellow fin tuna in quick succession. After a giving a filleting demonstration to Rick, who deftly dealt with the other five fish, I was free to set about preparing some tasty treats, of which Tuna Carpaccio rated very highly.

Tuna Carpaccio
    1 tuna fillet - 16 oz
    1/3 cup olive oil
    2 tablespoons capers
    ¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese*
    ½ sliced onion
    juice of ½ lime or lemon
    salt and pepper

    Tightly wrap fillet in surround warp and place in the freezer for two hours. Using a sharp knife, cut the tuna into paper-thin slices. Cover 4 serving plates with the slices in a thin layer. Scatter with onion, capers and Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil and lime juice, season with fresh ground pepper and salt.

    *I've decided that the best way to shave Parmesan is with my OXO vegetable peeler.

Our five day wait in Balboa for our transit provided time for provisioning, sightseeing and local dining. The central produce market near Balboa is cheap and plentiful but the large amounts tend to be overwhelming for the individual shopper. We did a major shop at the excellent PriceSmart which is similar to Costco, completed the extras at a new local El Rey supermarket, and with the help of our taxi driver stopped by a couple of delightful delis in the Jewish section of Panama City.

Our dinning experience encompassed anyplace that looked busy and interesting from cheap local cafeterias, frozen exotic tropical fruit smoothies stands at the huge new Albrook mall, to the trendy expensive restaurants that have recently sprung up along the canals Flamenco causeway. I quickly discovered that Panamanians enjoy dinning out and that rice and beans are a standard staple. There's the national appetizer of ceviche, and a national soup called sancocho named from the Spanish verb sancochar, which means to parboil. Most stores carried vacuum packs of diced vegetables ready to make sancocho and it certainly featured on many restaurant menus. I wonder what the national dish of America would be.

Sancocho - Chicken Soup
    1 chicken - cut in pieces
    2 quarts chicken stock
    1 onion - chopped
    2 green bell peppers - chopped
    4 garlic cloves - chopped
    1 teaspoon oregano
    4 potatoes - diced
    3 corn cobs - chopped into 2" sections
    ¼ cup chopped cilantro
    hot sauce to taste
    salt and pepper

    Combine chicken, chicken stock, onion, cilantro, oregano and green pepper. Simmer for 40 minutes or pressure cook 8 minutes. Add potatoes and corn simmer 15 minutes more or pressure 7 minutes. Mix in cilantro and season to taste. Serves 6.

It takes a day to transit the canal from the Pacific to Atlantic and if you're transiting from the Atlantic you also spend a night anchored in the middle on Gatun Lake. You are required to have four line handlers, no problem for us as we have six expedition crew, but we also choose to hire Ricardo, a professional line handler for an extra margin of safety. A canal adviser is onboard for the transit and since the canal is in the process of training new advisers you may end up with as many as three. That added up to 12 people to feed for the day.

The last time we transited our advisor had been extremely unhappy that we didn't have any junk food and Coke onboard. I'd then heard stories of advisors ordering out for restaurant lunches to be delivered as they were unsatisfied with the lunch provided on the yachts, with charges of up to $200 for this service subtracted from the yacht's buffer fee. This time I would be prepared and even went about researching Panamanian dishes finding that "Arroz con Pollo" appeared to be the most popular dish.

Arroz con Pollo - Chicken with Rice
This recipe starts on the stovetop and ends in the oven. It can either be made in a large Dutch oven or use a pan for the stove top steps then transfer the ingredients to a metal or ceramic casserole for the oven.
    1 chicken - cut into pieces
    1/3 cup orange juice
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1 onion- diced
    1 green bell pepper - diced
    1 can whole tomatoes
    3 garlic cloves - chopped
    1½ cups brown rice
    3 cups chicken broth
    1 cup white wine
    1 tablespoon paprika
    1 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
    1 jalapeño chili - finely diced
    1 cup frozen peas
    ½ cup green olives
    2 tablespoons capers
    cilantro for garnish

    Season chicken with salt, pepper and orange juice. Let stand I hour. Heat olive oil and brown chicken pieces. Remove chicken, add onion, bell pepper and garlic, sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, rice, broth, wine, paprika, oregano and jalapeno. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place rice and chicken in casserole dish, season with salt and pepper. Cover and bake in a preheat 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Stir in capers, olives and peas. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 8.

At 0815 the pilot launch came alongside and delivered Carlos, a full canal pilot and Thomas, a pilot advisor in training. "Full speed for Miraflores Lock and two coffees!" was their simultaneous greeting. As we opened the throttle to make eight knots against current I scurried below to make coffee. We locked up with the US Navy warship 43, Fort McHenry for the first three locks and in between chambers I had time to heat up empanadas in the skillet for morning tea.

It was lunch time by the time we'd finished locking up and entered the narrow Gaillard Cut. Deciding that "Arroz con Pollo" was going to be too time consuming to prepare I'd purchased two roasted chickens from PriceSmart. I reheated the chicken in the oven with the addition of a tamarind sauce, cooked up a pot of rice and beans and assembled a tray of cheeses, fruits and vegetable crudités. Carlos was thrilled with lunch but Thomas was quick to inform me that he didn't eat anything that made a noise or walked. I was puzzled. Yep, he didn't eat meat or chicken and "the walking" also ruled out the national delicacy of iguana. But he was happy with the assortment and a slice of reheated pizza, although he did critique me on my canned beans tossed into to rice saying that "Panamanians like their rice and beans served separately, so they can create their own favorite beans to rice mix and ratio"

Once through the canal it was nice to be able to catch our breath at the Panama Yacht Club before sailing to the Caribbean. But at latitude 9 degrees north my large stock of produce, kept in the bilge, was quickly perishing. I'd come across this recipe a few years ago but had never had the abundance of fresh fruit to make it until now. What a winner!

Tropical Gazpacho
    3 cups orange juice
    1 cup tomato juice
    3 mangoes - peeled and chopped
    1 fresh pineapple - chopped or 1 can of crushed pineapple
    ½ cantaloupe - peeled and diced
    1 bell pepper - diced
    1 cucumber - peeled, seeded and diced
    ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
    ¼ cup of fresh lime juice
    ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
    dash of Tabasco sauce
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ¼ teaspoon black pepper
    Combine all ingredients and chill before serving. Serves 6.

I was excited to be back in the BVI's as my first visit, six year ago, amongst sandy beaches, stiff trades and turquoise seas also held many culinary delights - my favorite being the spices.

Stepping ashore in Road Town, Tortola there are two stores that best promote the flavor of the West Indies - Pusser's and Sunny Caribbee. What a treasure trove of goodies. I was certainly in seventh heaven after visiting both stores and stocking up not only on my own provisions and menu ideas, but also Christmas presents.

With my new found inspirations I became rather creative in the galley assembling a collection of recipes to inspire you to ease sheets and tack away from traditional Thanksgiving fare. With the addition of a shake of jazzy jerk seasoning you can easily utilize the last of summer's fresh produce, liven up the Thanksgiving Turkey, or create a spicy BBQ sauce.

Caribbean Jerk Seasoning
Although this recipe for jerk seasoning has a long list of ingredients it possible to omit a few of then if you don't have them. Curry powder, garlic powder and sugar may also be added for variety. Keep jerk seasoning in an airtight container.
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon celery powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

    Mix spices together until well blended. Makes ¼ cup.

Vegetable Jerk Burritos
  • 5 new potatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper - diced
  • 1 red bell pepper - diced
  • 2 garlic cloves - crushed
  • kernels of 2 corn cobs
  • 1 zucchini or yellow squash - diced
  • 1 jalapeño chili - finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons jerk seasoning
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ pound cheese - grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tortillas
  • 2 cups fresh tomato salsa

    Par boil potatoes on salted water for 5 minutes. Drain, cool slightly, then dice into ½" cubes. Sauté onions, bell peppers and potatoes for 5 minutes. Add garlic, corn, zucchini, jalapeño and jerk seasoning and cook, until zucchini begins to soften, 5 minutes. Stir in broth and cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm tortilla's in dry frying pan, place one-quarter of the vegetable mix in the center of each tortilla and top with 2 tablespoons of salsa. Wrap the tortilla's edges around the filling to form burritos, serving extra salsa on the side.
Jumbie Pumpkin and Black Beans
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion - chopped
  • 1 cup - 1 inch cubes peeled pumpkin
  • 1 clove garlic - crushed
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups black beans - cooked
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons jerk seasoning
  • 1 scallion - sliced
  • salt and pepper

    Sauté onion and pumpkin - 5 minutes. Add garlic, sherry and broth. Simmer until pumpkin is tender, about 12 minutes. Add beans, vinegar and jerk seasoning, simmer 5 more minutes. Stir in scallion and season with salt and pepper.

Jerk-rubbed Roast Turkey
  • 1 turkey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons jerk seasoning
  • salt and pepper

    Prepare and clean the turkey for roasting. Loosen the turkey skin and rub jerk seasoning on the meat and inside body cavity. Rub the turkey skin with jerk seasoning then rub olive oil onto the turkey, this give the turkey and attractive sheen. Roast turkey until cooked - 160 degrees internal temperature, around 2-4 hours depending on the size.

Voodoo Barbeque Sauce
This hot and spicy barbeque sauce can make a tasty dip for grilled shrimp, add a zing to barbeque ribs or be stirred onto a lentil-vegetable stew for a surprising flavor.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion - finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco
  • ½ teaspoon salt

    Sauté onion 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients in a pot, add onions and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 2 cups. Keeps in the fridge for at least a month.

Shrimp Rundown
Rundown, a cooking style that originated in Jamaica, combines local seafood, fiery peppers, spices and coconut to create a taste unique to the Caribbean. Any white firm fish or seafood such as scallops can replace the shrimp in this recipe.
  • 1½ lb shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 1 onion - diced
  • fresh thyme leaves - from 3 sprigs
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 red bell pepper - diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper - diced
  • 1 green bell pepper - diced
  • 1 habanero pepper - finely minced
  • 5 tomatoes - diced
  • salt and pepper
    Season shrimp with jerk seasoning. Simmer onion, thyme in wine until liquid is reduced by ½.Add coconut milk and continue to simmer until sauce is reduced by ½. Melt butter in a pan and heat to a light brown. Add peppers and sauté 4 minutes. Add shrimp, sauté 1 minute. Add sauce and tomatoes and simmer 4 minutes. Serve with rice or pasta. Serves 6

If you're looking for a special touch of the Caribbean be sure to check out Pusser's and Sunny Caribbee.

Pusser's West Indies, based in Tortola, is known throughout the Caribbean for their spices, restaurants and rum - which Britain's Royal Navy drank onboard their ships for more than 300 years. Many of Pusser's spices are derived from old family recipes that have been handed down through generations of West Indian cooks whose simple cooking style is easily adaptable. Pusser's also have a store in Annapolis.

Sunny Caribbee truly captures the magic of The Islands with a combination of arts and flavors. Their culinary collection bursts with over 300 items - spices, seasoning, sauces, condiments and preserves, that along with their Sunshine Style cookbook provide delicious results.

Along with Christmas and holidays December also brings a flood of greeting cards from friends. Most contain processed letters and photos of what everyone has accomplished in the past year but recently a large plain brown envelope with exotic Christmas stamps poked out of the mail pile. Upon taking a closer look I discovered that the packet was from Luganville, Vanuatu, South Pacific. Who did I know there?

I opened the envelope and read the following letter.

Hello and Greetings
It's me, Annies Varu. I know it's been a long time but let me bring your memory back to the year 2003. You walk inside this Chinese shop with John and you wanted an island dress. So I help you with your dress and ribbons. John told me you had a cook book and I asked if I could buy it as I like to cook. You said if I wanted it you would give it to me for free if I give you some of my local recipes. So I said yes.

You left the book at the work counter the following day and I got the book and was very happy for it and wished I could thank you in person. I went home and showed it to Mum and Dad and we started writing down recipes and everything is going so well. We put the recipes in the envelope and I went to find the address. But there was no address, no book, no everything. We looked and looked but no book. I was very sad and didn't know what to do.

In the year 2005 went to my home island to see my grandparents and cousin. I'm sorry for taking your time in reading my letter but I have to tell you that I find the book in my cousin's bag. I got so mad at her I left the same day and went back to Luganville and told my Mum and Dad. They told me to write to you that day and say I'm sorry for not sending the recipes earlier. I now have recipes for you and I hope you like it and I promise I'll always be careful.

Please write back so that I know that you forgive me. Here is a picture of me incase you forgot how I looked.

Thankyou for your time in reading my letter..
Good by
Yours Sincerely
Annies Varu

How delighted I was to receive Annies's letter and be transported back to a lovely meeting with a very friendly and effervescent young lady. I remember the day well as Annies worked in the largest Chinese store on the one main street in the town of Luganville. Whenever I've worn my flowing island "Mother Hubbard" dress I've had fond memories of its purchase and fleeting thoughts as to how Annies is doing and did she get my book. I've sent a reply to Annies and await another letter, in the mean time I have tried my hand at the numerous recipes she enclosed with her letter.

Here's a recipe from Annies Varu and three others inspired from my sailings in Vanuatu.

Curried Fish in Coconut Cream
  • 1 large red mullet or any other fish
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 coconuts (2 cups of coconut cream)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 spoons (tablespoons) full of curry powder
  • salt and pepper

    Clean and scale the fish, cut it into pieces - in a cooker put the oil and pieces of fish till they are brown - whilst these are browning, scrape 3 coconuts and press the coconut in a white cloth so as to extract the coconut cream. In a cocotte (cooker) heat oil and then brown the onion, garlic and curry powder adding then the coconut cream seasoned with salt and pepper - then add the fish leaving this to simmer till it begins to boil and then remove from the fire. Serve with rice.

Sweet Potato Crab Cakes with Garlic Mayonnaise
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • ½ lb potatoes
  • 1 egg - beaten
  • ¾ cup crab meat
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • oil for sautéing
  • salt and pepper
  • salad greens - to serve

    Peel potatoes and cook in boiling water until soft, drain and mash. Mix in beaten egg, crabmeat, paprika, flour and season with salt and pepper. With floured hands shape mixture into cakes. Chill for 1 hour. Heat oil in pan and sauté cakes until golden and heated through. Serves 4

Garlic Mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves - crushed
  • 1 red chili - deseeded and chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil

    Whisk together garlic, chili, egg yolk and vinegar. Beginning a drop at a time, whisk in oil. As it emulsifies add oil a little faster, in slow thin stream.
Turkey Chili Poblano
Although this recipe originates in South America it also worked well in Vanuatu as hot chilies and tomatoes are readily available in most markets and remote villages, while imported frozen turkey breast could be bought in the capital of Port Villa.
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • ½ tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon fennel or aniseed
  • 4 large dried chilies
  • 1 green jalapeno chili - chopped
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 can)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions - chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic - crushed
  • 1 ½ lbs turkey fillets - finely sliced or cubed
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup chopped bitter dark chocolate
  • handful of coriander
    Toast the first eight ingredients in a dry pan for 5 minutes, tossing the pan a couple of times. Remove from the pan and grind the nuts and spices into a coarse mixture. Add chopped green chili and grind once more until well mixed. Combine spice mix with tomatoes and raisins. Sauté onion, garlic and turkey until the turkey is browned. Remove turkey and add spice mix, stirring frequently until the spice paste has heated through and begun to brown, about 5 minutes. Add stock and chocolate and simmer until chocolate melts. Reduce heat, return turkey and mix well. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes, adding extra water if the sauce begins to dry out. Garnish with chopped red and green chilies and coriander. Serves 6.

Fresh Mango Chutney
We happened to be cruising Vanuatu in mango season and they were most certainly a welcome gift from the locals. If I had a few extra mangoes I'd make this chutney as a vibrant companion to a curry. Covered and refrigerated it keeps for 3 weeks.

  • 2 large mangoes - peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple - peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup diced crystallized ginger
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
    Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer, stir occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the liquids thicken to a light syrup, approximately 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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