Sea Fare – Victoria Allman in the Galley

Sea Fare: Victoria Allman in the Galley – Spring 2011

Tribal Bartering

By Victoria Allman

“Are they still there?” I asked Patrick as he walked through the galley.

“They haven’t left.” Patrick grabbed a slice of pineapple from the platter in front of me. “We’re surrounded.”

I swatted his hand as he reached for another slice. The fruit tray was for the guests on Pangaea, the 185-foot yacht I was chef of, not for the crew, whether he was my husband or not.

I removed my apron and followed Patrick down the side passageway to our aft deck.  The equatorial sun of Papua New Guinea burned deep into my skin within seconds of leaving the cool air-conditioned environ of my galley. I raised my hand to shade my eyes and squinted out over the tea-colored water.

Patrick was right; we were surrounded. Trailing behind us were half a dozen hand-carved wooden canoes, each holding a dozen tribal men and women.  To our starboard side, another four canoes were packed with dark-skinned naked children. Half of them smiled wide, half crouched behind the gunwale, the whites of their eyes peaking over the rim, too scared to look, too intrigued to glance away.

We were a novelty. A boat our size had never traveled that far up the Sepik River before. We had anchored the night before in the center of the river, unable to navigate farther in the dark. The guest on board had requested a trip up the Sepik, also known as the Amazon of the Pacific, to the center of the country along some of the wildest and remotest terrain on earth to view spirit-houses and tour primitive villages. So far, our journey had twisted through steamy mangrove jungles, untouched dense rainforests and boggy swamps.

The guests were on a National Geographic-like expedition, only, it was being done in the luxury of a twenty million dollar yacht.

Sweat trickled between my breasts before I even reached the swim platform. A mosquito landed on my arm. I swatted it away with one hand while with the other I motioned to one of the canoes to come closer.

A man wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and an elaborate headdress of feathers and vines maneuvered his prow alongside the swim platform of Pangaea. Patrick reached down to steady the dugout vessel.

“Welcome.” The man’s rough smile showed betel nut-stained misshapen teeth. He spit velvet red juice into the muddy-brown water. It swirled a moment and disappeared in the fast-moving current. “We sell bananas and coconut.”

I smiled. The local market had come to me. “How much?”

I had been to Madang, the local town earlier that week and had a rough grasp of how the Kina worked. In such a poor country, five kina bought you almost anything. I had spent more money than the market-sellers had seen in a long time on sweet potatoes, water spinach and papaya to feed our twelve crew and twelve guests.

I pulled coins from my pocket and pointed to the branch of bananas on the rough-hewn floor. I held out my hand, but the man shook his head. The animal bone piercing his nose swung back and forth.

“No good here.” He waved his hand toward the river banks lined with clusters of wheat and wild sugarcane. The village we anchored in front of consisted of stilted one-room huts made of wood and thatch. Jungle forests stretched forever beyond the clearing. Of course, where would he spend the money? On what?

Patrick stepped in. “Batteries?” he asked.

The man nodded. Our local guide on board came down to translate.

Patrick disappeared into the engine room to grab some of our spares while I stood smiling at a two-year old, curly-headed girl draped in a dirty white cloth for a diaper. I wiggled my fingers in a wave that sent her burying her face between her mother’s bare breasts.

I looked from one woman to the next. Each was bare-chested with long, flat, shriveled breasts that hung low and uneven down their bellies. Some wore skirts of grass, some a cloth wrapped around their hips. I felt self-conscious in my white polo with the yacht’s logo stitched on the chest.

Patrick returned with a box of batteries and a plastic container. The man nodded and handed me the branch with dozens of green bananas attached. 

Patrick bent down beside the children in the center of the canoe and held out his hand. One child shrieked and huddled in the far corner, but a boy of about six years tentatively peeked into Patrick’s cupped hand. He reached out a scrawny arm and touched what was inside. He, too, shrieked. But, this one was out of excitement.  The other six children pushed and leaned in to get a view of what the strange white man with hair the color of the surrounding wheat fields had in his hand.

The first boy grabbed at what Patrick held and snuggled it to his chest. Finally, I could see what the excitement was all about. Patrick had brought a container of ice from our ice machine. The children pawed at the ice in the boy’s arms, but within seconds, it had disappeared. All heads turned back to Patrick, wide eyes pleading for more.

Patrick laughed and handed out cubes to all the children. The men from other canoes paddled close to see what the excitement was all about. One by one, each canoe approached the boat and as I traded batteries, an old frying pan and crew t-shirts for tropical fruits from the fields, Patrick entertained the children with the ice.

Within minutes, all the crew and guests had come to trade. Extra clothes were exchanged for carved masks, flashlights for weaved baskets. As the rudimentary bartering progressed, Patrick produced the exchange item of greatest value.

He and our engineer, Scotty, lowered the jet-skis into the water. One-by one, Patrick took each boy for a ride. They straddled the seat behind him; smiling and waving as they passed their village, showing off to those on shore waiting their turn. He taught them to drive our machines in exchange for them teaching a thirty-nine year old man how to balance in their round bottomed vessels.

“Stand in back. Just paddle.” One boy instructed. Patrick rose, balancing like he learned on his surfboard as the hollow tree trunk swayed beneath him.  He teetered right and corrected too quickly to the left.

Splash! He emerged from the muddy water laughing. Children and elders roared with laughter around us. To their immense pleasure, he ended up in the water many times, tipping out of the canoe before he mastered its balance. 

By mid-morning, when we had to pull anchor and continue our voyage up the river, we had emptied our reserves of essentials and loaded in their place a bounty of carvings and fruits.

“You’ve been taken advantage of.”  Our guide shook his head. “Two batteries for something that grows free on trees.”

I disagreed. For me, it was the other way around; two little batteries for the chance of creating our own market aboard.  The smile on the woman’s face when I handed over a pot for boiling water and the memory of children’s laughter at my husband’s ineptitude at mastering the canoe was well worth any amount of trade. I was definitely getting the better end of the deal.

We set off for our next destination leaving a trail of canoes and laughter in our wake and navigated toward our next stop for more tribal bartering.

———-

 

Fruit Salad with Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Fruit Salad with Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Tropical Fruit Salad

with a Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce 

Tropical Fruit Salad of:

 

  •  Pineapples
  •  Mangoes
  •   Papaya
  •   Bananas
  •   Grapefruit
  •   Oranges

 Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce:

 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut rum
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeded

 

In a heavy-bottomed saucepot, cook the sugar and juice of the orange over moderately high heat until it turns a deep caramel color. It will darken quickly so watch closely, once it starts to color be ready to add the rum or the sugar will burn. At this point, the sugar is extremely hot. DO NOT TOUCH.  Remove from the heat and pour in the rum. The caramel will “spit” so stand back and be careful. Add coconut milk and vanilla pod and seeds and return to the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes until the caramel is dissolved.

Cool and serve with fruit salad.

Serves 8

———-

Victoria Allman, author SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain, has been following her stomach around the globe for twelve years as a yacht chef.  She writes about her floating culinary odyssey through Europe, the Caribbean, Nepal, Vietnam, Africa and the South Pacific in her first book, Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.

SEAsoned, Victoria’s second book is the hilarious look at a yacht chef’s first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain; trying to stay afloat.

You can read more of her food-driven escapades through her web-site, www.victoriaallman.com

Narrative and recipe Copyright © 2011 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, megayachts, Passagemaking News, People
Victoria Allman Breaks-In a Trawler Galley

Victoria Allman Breaks-In a Trawler Galley

Chef/Author Victoria Allman in the Krogen 55' Expedition Galley -- Photo Courtesy of Kadey-Krogen

Chef/Author Victoria Allman in the Krogen 55' Expedition Galley -- Photo Courtesy of Kadey-Krogen

At last week’s Trawler Fest, our own favorite professional chef, Victoria Allman, treated a group of VIP guests of Kadey-Krogen to an evening of haute cuisine hors d’oeuvres (classy snacks).  For two evenings, Victoria gave the gorgeous galley aboard the Krogen 55′ Expedition a workout.  The Kadey-Krogen folks (author Shannon Band, actually) wrote about the show and the dining delights in their latest blog, which you can read here.  Kadey-Krogen recently upgraded the galley designs and you will now find seriously upscale features, such as Viking ranges and the like on new Kadey-Krogen yachts.

I’m planning to talk with Victoria about not only the Krogen 55′ Expedition galley, but about galley design aboard yachts in general.  As the chef aboard several megayachts for many years now, Victoria knows all about both the hardware and software (food) requirements for fine dining at sea.  If you’ve read her book, “Sea Fare, A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean,” you know she’s a great storyteller with some delectable recipes.  In fact, Victoria just released her second book, “SEAsoned, A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain,” which complements more great recipes with the often-spicy tales of professional life aboard these megayachts.  I wonder if I’m too old to ship out?

Anyway, look for our talk with Victoria about yacht galley design here on OceanLines after we get back from the Miami International Boat Show, in two weeks.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Gear & Apparel, megayachts, People, People & Profiles

Sea Fare Winter 2010-2011 — Victoria Allman in the Galley

—Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the ninth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the destinations and context in which her recipes were developed.  Last month, she was in the South Pacific and her friend Nunu supplied her with the freshest possible Mahi-Mahi.  If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the right sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

———-

The Memory of Jerk
by Victoria Allman

I’ve been stuck in port for too long now. The yacht I work on is for sale and we have been in Lauderdale for the annual boat show. It is a time of sitting and staying in one place; a time when my mind wanders back to earlier travels.

Today, I’ve been thinking about Jamaica; a place of carnal color and debaucherous tales. But, my favorite memories are not so much of climbing the waterfalls at Dunn’s River, jumping off the cliff 45-feet above the Caribbean Sea at Rick’s, or reverberating to the sounds of reggae. My favorite memory is of what came after a trail ride through the ganja fields on a horse called Smoke. Now, before you jump to any conclusions about what that memory may entail, or how hazy it might be, let me tell you about the jerk chicken I had.

Hot and sweaty from the ride, I tied Smoke under the shade of a logwood tree. Not twenty-feet away, a caravan had parked on the side of the road. The sharp smell of chilies from a steel barrel barbecue beside the truck had lured me off the trail and set my mouth to watering.

“You ever had jerk?” A scrawny Jamaican man in long jean shorts and a white tank top held steel tongs in his hand. His brown eyes never left the searing meat on the grill in front of him.

“Not here.” I said. My eyes could barely leave the scene either.

“Den you never had jerk.” He drawled. “Dis where it comes from.” His smile revealed two gold front teeth. He lifted a chicken leg from the grill and bent low to inspect the underside. His beehive of dreadlocks grazed low over the flames, threatening to ignite. “Dis one’s for you.” He wrapped the leg in paper and handed me a Red Stripe.

I sat at a worn and splintered wooden picnic table. The hot sun seared my skin as much as the flames had done the chicken. I took a long pull of the beer before picking up the meal. It was a good thing I did. Once I brought the leg to my mouth, I couldn’t put it down. The flavor exploded in my mouth. Sweetness and spice battled for dominance. Steam rose off the flesh as I tore into it. My tongue burned. Neither the heat nor the spice stopped me from devouring the whole thing in minutes.

The man at he grill glanced over and laughed. “Another one?”

I nodded vigorously.

He began wrapping another piece. “Nobody ever has just one.”

It was that taste I thought of today while planning the menu for lunch. I may not be able to travel while the boat is in Lauderdale, but I sure was going to try and replicate that experience again.

———-

 
 
 

Jamaican Jerk Chicken by Victoria Allman - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Jamaican Jerk Chicken by Victoria Allman - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 bunches green onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • ½ scotch bonnet, minced ***depending on heat tolerance
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 12 chicken thighs
  •  2 limes, juiced
  1. In a food processor, combine the rum, cider vinegar, green onions, garlic, thyme, scotch bonnet, canola oil, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, pepper, brown sugar and ketchup; process to a coarse paste. Pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish, add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before proceeding. 
  2. Light a grill. Grill the chicken over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with lime juice.

Serve with Rice and Peas, Vegetable Salad and Rotis.

Serves 6

Narrative and Recipe Copyright © by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations

Sea Fare August — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the eighth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the destinations and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we savored the sweet tradition of Bahamian sweet coconut bread  In this month’s installment, she is in Hong Kong and her friend Vivian exposes her to the culinary chaos and delight of the dim sum house. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the right sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

While this piece was previously published, we lost it during a move to new servers and so we’re reposting to ensure new readers don’t miss it.

———-

A Lucky Encounter

by Victoria Allman

Maybe it was the rain or the grayness of Vancouver that transported me to another city surrounded by water, not so long ago, just across the ocean.  Physically, we were in sitting down to dim sum in a restaurant in Chinatown engulfed by the clatter of plates and the rumble of the carts rolling past. But, in my mind, I was seated in an identical restaurant in Hong Kong, escaping, not only the rain, but also the chaos of the street.

It was six years earlier and I had been overwhelmed by Hong Kong.  The lights of the city burned neon bright.  The whirl of people passing, rushing to their destination, disoriented me.  My newfound friend Vivian was leading me through her city and was drowning in the confusion. I needed a reprieve. It was a Saturday morning and we ducked into a crowded dim sum restaurant for a meal.

“Har gau, chiu-chao,” a short woman with straight black hair called as she weaved her rickety cart through the labyrinth of tables. The bamboo steamers piled precariously on top jolted forward at an unnatural angle as the cart bumped to a stop against our table leg. The oolong tea in my glass leaped up and over the edge.

Vivian said something in rapid-fire Cantonese and the woman plunked two of the steamers down in front of us.  She grabbed for the paper on the edge of the table and ticked off two boxes before she pushed on, not once breaking a smile.

“This one is pork.”  Vivian used her chopsticks to point at the dumplings nestled on a bed of cabbage. “And, this one is shrimp.”

The pink of the shrimp glowed from within its translucent wrapper.  I worked my chopsticks around the small bundle and prayed it wouldn’t slip from my grip before I had tasted what was inside.  There was a luscious feel on my tongue just before the dumpling slid down my throat like a light slippery noodle.  Startled, and not wanting the sensation to end, I looked back into the steamer.  Empty. Vivian had already eaten the other har gau.

“Just two?” I asked. “Will she be back with more?” I looked around the crowded room hoping to spot the same woman again.

Vivian giggled. “Just wait. There is more to come.” As I tried to grasp the pork bundle in the other steamer, Vivian said, “We will have six, or eight, or maybe nine different things.”

I looked at her, wondering if her strange counting was a mistaken translation to English.  She must have sensed my question and started to explain. “In our culture, lucky numbers are based on Chinese words which sound similar to other Chinese words. All numbers sounding like words with positive connotations are considered auspicious, such as numbers 6, 8 and 9.”  I smiled, liking the idea of having an auspicious meal.  

Another middle-aged woman came by with beef ribs.  Vivian nodded her head and another round steamer was plopped on top of our empty ones along with a plate of steamed Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce.  The smell of ginger emanated from the bamboo.  I sucked the tender five-spice flavored bones as Vivian continued.  “Numbers like 4, 5 and 7 are considered unlucky.” The stem of the broccoli crunched as she bit into it. “Number seven, for example, means spiritual or ghostly.” She reached for another long stalk. “Also, the seventh month of the Chinese calendar is called the ghost month when all the gates of hell are opened for spirits to visit the living.” 

Oh, I didn’t want that.

I counted the plates in front of us, four, and quickly looked around for the next cart. Battered salt and pepper squid appeared, as well as crispy-fried wontons filed with pork and Chinese mushrooms.  I relaxed, knowing we were back to a lucky number of dishes.

“We start with lighter steamed dishes and then move on to fried.” Vivian was a wealth of knowledge.  I was so wrapped up in the history and taste explosions in my mouth that the cacophony going on around me faded.  I was intrigued.

It was that glimpse into her culture that I tried to relate to Patrick back in Vancouver.  I struggled to remember which numbers were the lucky ones. I didn’t want to get it wrong and start our exploration of the Canadian coast on a bad note.  The noisy atmosphere transported me back as I searched my memory for the accurate information. Plates of sticky rice and paper-thin pancakes scattered around our table. The opening of the front door brought a wave of the scent of barbecued duck through the restaurant from the birds hanging in the window. 

I tapped my pointer and middle fingers on the table when a scrawny man in a white dishwashers jacket came by to refill my tea, remembering that was the sign of thanks. I felt like I was back in Hong Kong with Vivian that day. And whether I had five, seven, or nine dishes in front of me, I felt lucky to be eating such delicacies again.

———-

 
 
 
 
 

Dim Sum from Your Own Floating Palace -- Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Dim Sum from Your Own Floating Palace -- Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Har Gow

When I first read this recipe, I thought it was too much work.  But, after the first trial, I realized they were easy, just finicky and definitely worth the time.  I set aside three hours and make enough to freeze for future use.  These are tasty afternoon snacks, hors d’oerves or light lunches.

Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Whisk all together and set aside.

Shrimp Filling:

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and chopped into ¼” dice.
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fatty bacon, minced
  • 3 tablespoons bamboo shoots, rinsed and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, white part only, diced fine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix together diced bacon, bamboo shoots and green onions and mince finely with a knife until well combined.  Mix into shrimp and set aside.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, white pepper, Shaoxing rice wine, and sesame oil. Mix into the shrimp and marinate for 30 minutes while you mix the dough.

Wheat Starch Dough:

  • 1 cup wheat starch
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup boiled water, cooled for 2 minutes
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil 

Mix wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt.  Pour in half the hot water and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.  Add the rest of the hot water and work into dough.  Add canola oil as soon as dough begins to come together and knead with your hands for a minute to make a smooth, play-dough like dough. Divide into four equal balls and cover with saran wrap.  Rest for 5 minutes before rolling. 

Slice a ziplock bag down the sides and brush with canola oil.  Roll one of the portions of dough into a 1” log and divide into 8 portions.  Cover with saran wrap.  Take one portion, roll it into a ball and press between the ziplock bag with a flat-bottomed glass to create a 4” thin circle.  Set aside and cover with saran.  Repeat process with all eight small pieces. 

Making the dumplings:

Place one of the rounds in your slightly cupped hand, gently.  Spoon two teaspoons of filling into the center.  Gently close your hand around the filling to seal the edges of the dough in a half moon.  Place in a bamboo steamer basket lined with baking paper.  Repeat with the rest of the circles. Use a little canola oil on your fingertips and gently crimp the edges of each parcel to make a decorative wave pattern.

Place steamer over boiling water.  Cover and steam for six minutes.

Repeat procedure with the next disk of dough while the dumplings are steaming.

Remove finished dumplings and place on a plate to serve with sweet soy dipping sauce. Or, cool and refrigerate for up to two days or freeze for up to one month.  Re-steam for 3 minutes to heat.

Recipe and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, People

Sea Fare July — Victoria Allman in the Galley

 Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the seventh in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we delighted in the delicate sensation of her Vietnamese Summer Rolls.  In this month’s installment, she is in the Bahamas and her friend Vivian teaches her something about bread and life. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the right sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

———-

Love Da Ting’s You Do       

by Victoria Allman
Author of: “Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean”
www.victoriaallman.com
Victoria on Twitter

“You gots to love da tings you do for people.”  Vivian used her large upper frame to knead the dough. The muscles in her arms told the story of just how many loaves of coconut bread she had rolled in her life. “It isn’t work if you love it.”  It sounded like the mantra every yachting chef should recite.

The weather was bad that week; although, you wouldn’t know it from the view.  The sun shone bright.  Fluffy clouds underlined in lilac, splattered the sky, looking like the meringue I had just whipped for Key Lime Pies. The boat rocked ever so slightly under my feet.  But, on the other side of Staniel Key, the Atlantic was churning a fury. It was nothing we wanted to be sailing through. We snuggled in to wait.

But waiting wasn’t something I did well. If we were going to be stuck in limbo, I wanted to learn how to make the islands famous coconut bread.  After all, that was why I was yachting; to see different cultures cuisines. On our first afternoon, I went to see my friend Vivian.

“Good day to you, baby.”  Vivian greeted me.  She was wearing a New York Yankees t-shirt. A Yamaha ball cap shielded her face, but it could not hide the bright smile.

“I was hoping you could teach me how to make coconut bread.”  Vivian made the best on the island.

“Well child, let me sees.  I gots to get someone to grate a coconut for me.”

“I have a bag of pre-shredded on the boat,” I volunteered.

Her face twisted to one side. She pursed her lips together, her eyes squeezed shut as if she just bit into a lemon.  “No, you’se have to use fresh grated coconut.  Lesson number one.”  Then she laughed shaking her head.  What do these crazy white girls know about anything? “Tomorrow’s we make bread.” 

The sweet smell of coconut wafted out the screen door when I arrived the next day.  A wooden bowl with a pile of white, flaked coconut sat on the countertop along with a generic five-pound bag of flour.  “I’s already baked all mornin’ but we’s can make another batch.”  She threw her head back and let out a booming laugh.  “Everybody love when I make bread.”

Without even measuring, Vivian poured flour onto the counter creating a white powder mountain.  She thrust a thick fist into the center to make a well.  From a plastic container she scooped large handfuls of sugar into the center.  “We’s like our bread sweet.  Just like the women here.”  Again she howled.

“This is a breakfast bread then?”  I asked.

“No child. This here is for anytime.  My coconut bread don’t last around here ‘til morning.”

She cut open two envelopes of yeast and poured it into a coffee mug of warm water.  She hummed while she pinched some of the sugar from the pile into the mug.  “This here I just set aside for a minute to start bubblin’.  It works best that way.”   Vivian turned back to her pile and scooped a large wooden spoon full of soft butter from a tin on the counter.  With a flick of her wrist she sent up a flour cloud as the butter buried itself in the center of the well.  She scooped up the wooden bowl of coconut and scraped the wet pile into the flour.

By now the coffee mug had a beige cloud of yeast bubbling on the surface.  She poured the cup into the well and began scooping the sides of flour up and into the center.  She shook salt into the gluey gloop.  Her upper frame jiggled as the dough on the counter began to take shape.  

“Junkanoos a comin’, just around the corner,” she half sang-half hummed.  She stretched out, pushing forward with her palms.  She gathered up the dough and hugged it back towards her body.  She moved in rhythm to her humming.

“You just gots to love the tings you do.  That is what you taste in my bread.  It’s the love.”   She caressed the ball of dough like she would a newborn babies head.  “Now, I just leaves this to set for an hour or so until it is twice this size.  Then I shape it into two dough pans and set it to rise again.  After another hour I bake it.”  She turned to the stove grabbing one of the loaves off the cooling rack.  “And this is what you gets.  Coconut bread.” Her smile beamed like the rays of the sun.

Vivian placed a still warm golden loaf in my hands and handed me a bag of half a dozen more.  “You’se take these to your friends on the boat and tell them this here is the taste of the Bahamas.”

I smiled in thanks.  I too, loved da tings she did.

———-

 
 
 
 
 

Vivian's Coconut Bread by Victoria Allman

Vivian's Coconut Bread by Victoria Allman

Vivian’s Coconut Bread

Makes 2 loaves

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ cup grated coconut with the water (about two coconuts)
  • 5 cups flour (amount of flour may vary depending on how much water is inside the coconuts)
  • ½ stick soft butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes until yeast begins to bubble and look fluffy.  Stir in rest until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and soft (about 6 minutes); add extra flour to prevent dough from sticking to your hands or the surface.

Place dough back in bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand 1½ hours to rise.

Divide dough into two, working with one half at a time roll dough out into a log.  Place into a bread pan that has been sprayed with Pam.  Brush the top of the bread with a scrambled egg to glaze.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, megayachts, Passagemaking News, People & Profiles
Sea Fare June — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Sea Fare June — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the sixth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we devoured the lamb of her Moroccan Mechoui.  In this month’s installment, she is in Vietnam and her guide brings her to a remarkable lunch experience on the Mekong River. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the right sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

 
 
 
 

Vietnamese Elephant Ear Fish Deep Fried. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

Vietnamese Elephant Ear Fish Deep Fried. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

—–

Elephant Ear Fish

By Victoria Allman
Author of: “Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean”
www.victoriaallman.com
Victoria on Twitter

“You have lunch today?” My guide asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Today is special,” Luc told me. “Elephant ear fish.

Elephant ear? I had seen so many different things here in Vietnam, but I had yet to come across any elephant ear fish.

We had been cycling along the mighty Mekong River for four days. I had rented a mountain bike and hired Luc to guide me through the Mekong River Delta, expecting to explore the countryside, get some exercise, and see what life in Vietnam was like. What I hadn’t realized was that we were, above all else, embarking on a culinary adventure.

Each day, we cycled past fertile emerald green rice paddies that stretched around us, as far as the eye could see. Vietnamese women dressed in the traditional long flowing white ao dai and conical hats, shielding their lily-white skin from the fierce sun, bent over the fields. We cycled past old crones, standing out on the side of the road, surrounded by rice drying in the sun. Around the next bend, we went by bamboo mats lying low in the sun with delicate round sheets of rice paper drying on top of them. We had cycled the small dirt roads to village markets where cages of turtles, mice and small puppy dogs were on display, all for that night’s dinner.

The morning we set out for the floating market to eat elephant ear fish was an early one. “Best time to see is between sunrise and 9:00 AM.” Luc told me as we started out. “After that the boats start to go away.”

We rode for an hour before stowing our bikes on the back of the long dragon boat that would take us to the market. A thin bony man stood on the back of the boat, rowing us past waterways overhung with dense vegetation. I settled in to the luxury of someone else providing the sweat for transportation. As we approached the market, I saw dozens of boats gathered together. Large barges anchored in the water, creating lanes, with smaller wooden boats rafted up to them. Villagers from up and down the river traveled through the lanes, their boats laden with branches of bananas and piles of mangoes. Sampans with overflowing baskets of coconuts and bushels of water spinach took over the view.

Each wooden boat’s bow displayed a long pole. “That tells what is for sale.” Luc pointed to a hand of bananas flying above one boat like a flag.

I pointed to the spikes of fushcia skewered through one pole. “How about dragon fruit for breakfast?”  Luc broke into a smile and asked our boatman to stop.

Later that morning, we were taken to see a floating fish farm of the Mekong. From afar, it looked like a one room cottage with a small veranda in front of a single door, the river delta its yard. Inside, a white-haired, hunched back Vietnamese man smiled a wide toothless grin of welcome as I entered the shack. He bent over a trap door in the center of the floor and lifted the hatch to reveal the water below us. His shaky hand was covered in raised veins like a chart of the delta. He reached into a plastic bucket beside the hole in the floor and produced a handful of fish pellets that resembled cat food. Scattering them across the still water, he laughed as I jumped in fright at the sound of hundreds of catfish torpedoing to the surface of the water for the feed. The catfish wrestled and wriggled over one another, creating a boiling pot effect in the water under the house. Within seconds the turbulent thrashing ceased and the water was calm once more.

“Large net under the house penning in the fish” Luc explained to me.

I was muddy, sweaty and sun burnt when we pulled into the guesthouse. I was too tired from a long day’s ride to look at the menu and was glad when Luc reminded me that he had already arranged lunch.

“Remember, elephant ear fish,” he said.

How could I forget?

We sat in the shade of the porch at a small rickety wooden table already set with the ubiquitous bowls of Vietnamese cuisine: nuoc cham, wedges of lime, and chopped chilis. A porcelain doll of a woman approached with a plate of fresh fragrant herbs. Mint, cilantro and basil explosively filled the air. She smiled demurely, her almond eyes cast downward as she placed the plate on the table in front of me.

As the girl scurried back to the kitchen, Luc explained “She make you salad rolls with elephant ear fish from the pond out back. Her family grows fruit for the market in the garden and they have fish for lunch and dinner. Fish being killed now.”

The girl returned a few moments later carrying a fifteen-inch fish shaped like a bass, which was standing straight up in wooden holders. The fish had been fried and its scales were curled and flaking off, creating something of a 3D effect. This piece of art looked as if it were still swimming through a sea of fresh herbs and carved vegetables on the plate.

The woman delicately picked up a pair of wooden chopsticks and expertly flaked the fish’s flesh away from the bones. She made a small pile of the white flaky fish and retreated to the kitchen.

Luc scolded me when I picked up my chopsticks. “Not yet, just wait.”

I looked again to the kitchen. This time the woman appeared with the same rice papers we had seen drying on bamboo mats. They had been softened in water and lay stacked like pancakes awaiting their filling. Again the woman picked up her chopsticks and with nimble hands layered a mixture of the fresh mint, cilantro, basil and fish in the center of one of the rounds. Using only the chopsticks, she tucked the filling in close and rolled the paper-thin wrapper around the contents like a cigar. She placed it on my plate and using hand signs indicated that I should dip the roll into the bowl of nuoc cham and eat.

Fresh and pungent flavors filled my mouth. The saltiness of the fish sauce, the heat of the chilies and the zing of the lime in the nuoc cham mixed perfectly with the fresh herbs and soft fish. The rice paper wrapper added a chewy texture that was so light and fresh I could not help but inhale the whole thing in seconds. “Wow!” I said.

“You like?” The woman inquired as she tucked a strand of her dark shiny hair behind her ear.

“I like.” I said as she giggled and began rolling another. Another salad roll was placed on my plate seconds after I had finished the last, not a minute before. You could not ask for fresher than that.

I was exhausted from the ride and dirtier than I had been in years, but I was being treated like royalty, my lunch being prepared in front of my eyes. Quickly the pile of rice paper wrappers vanished, as did the fish. Soon all that remained were the bones being held aloft by the wooden stand.

The exhaustion I had felt earlier vanished. I was refreshed and ready to tackle another afternoon of riding.

“You follow me?” Luc asked in his questioning command.

“Only if you are leading me to another great meal like that” I said.

He smiled “You like elephant ear?”

“I like elephant ear” I replied.

“Next, we try snake” he said, as I clasped my bike helmet and set off for another culinary adventure.

 

 
 
 
 

Vietnamese Summer Fish Salad Rolls. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

Vietnamese Summer Fish Salad Rolls. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

By Victoria Allman

  • 2 pounds mahi-mahi, red snapper, or tilapia (flaky white fish)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (250 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 cup mint
  • 1 cup Thai or regular basil
  •  1 cup cilantro
  • 16 rice paper wrappers, (have extra on hand in case you rip some)

Combine fish, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.  Marinate 10 minutes.  Pre-heat oven to 350.  Heat a frying pan (or grill pan, if you have one) over high heat and sear fish for 30 seconds on each side.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes until cooked through.  Cool and flake the fish.

In a soup pot, boil 1 liter of water with 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add rice noodles, stirring to separate.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until soft.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water and drain again.  Using scissors, cut into 5-inch lengths.  Set aside.

Slice herbs into thin strips and mix together.

Place 2 rice paper sheets in the soup pot and cover with 6 inches of lukewarm water to soften for 20 seconds.  When soft and pliable remove one carefully and place on a paper towel in front of you.  Place 1 tablespoon of the herbs in the center of the circle 1/3 of the way from the bottom in a rectangular shape (6 inches long by 2 inches high).  Place 2 tablespoons flaked fish on top and 2 tablespoons vermicelli noodles on top of that.  Roll the bottom of the rice paper up and over the filling, tucking the ends in to close, like rolling a cigar.  Fold both right and left flaps into the center, creating blunt ends of a roll.  Be careful not to roll too tightly or the rice paper will rip (which happens often until you get the hang of it).  Roll the filling gently towards the top of the circle, taking care to tuck the filling in to make a snug package.

Repeat with next sheet of rice paper and add 2 more to the soup pot to soften.

Serve with a ramekin of Nuoc Cham (recipe below) for dipping.

Makes 16

Nuoc Cham

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sambal olek (read about sambal here)
  • ½ cup water

Combine all ingredients together and stir.  Taste and adjust flavors until you achieve a balance of sweet, tart, and salty.

Makes 1 ¼ cups
Recipe and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Passagemaking News, People
Sea Fare May — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Sea Fare May — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the fifth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we savored the Santorini Eggplant Salad.  In this month’s installment, her megayacht is in Morocco and the smells of the cooking in the marketplace draw Victoria in. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the left sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

—–

Moroccan Meanderings

by Victoria Allman

The narrow streets of the medina tangled like veins flowing to the heart of the city. The souq (market) was where we were headed. Saffron yellow, burnt-red and tan spices mounded in barrels along the way.  Mule carts laden with bundles of fresh mint, coriander and parsley were parked along the side of the street.

Shopping in the Moroccan Medina - Photo by Victoria Allman

Shopping in the Moroccan Medina - Photo by Victoria Allman

“Just look.  Just look.” Arabian men sat in front of endless stalls like auctioneers bidding us to enter their shops. “Ali Baba, come look.”  Patrick’s blond beard evoked the nickname we heard called to us everywhere.  It stood out as much as the red hair I tucked behind a scarf.  No amount of discretion in this Muslim country would hide the fact we were two pale-skinned people among a darker race.

Our foray into the labyrinth had meaning.  We had a destination.  The problem was we were hopelessly lost.

“Ali Baba, where are you going?”  A man asked.  After an hour of trying to find the correct alley we resigned ourselves to ask for help.

“Mechoui?” Patrick hesitated not sure he was pronouncing it right.

“Yes, come,” he said.  We shrugged off the anxiety of being lost like a shawl from our shoulders and gave ourselves over to the guide. 

Hazzid had the soft features of a Berber man.  His dark tight curls were trimmed close to the scalp, his skin a latte color.  His dress of black jeans and a Western jacket told the all too familiar tale of a man who left the mountain village to work in the larger city.  He wove us down serpentine alleyways and around corners.  He walked fast, glancing back to make sure we followed close. 

“Watch, Victoria.  Watch here.”  He pointed out every misplaced stone that maimed the street, caring for me like he would his own child. 

The hot smoky smell of roasted meat alerted us that he’d found the place. A row of tables heaving with cuts of lamb spread out in front of us.  Eyes stared at us from roasted sockets as we passed the first stall.  The second table was identical to the first, a mountain of legs, ribs and rumps.  The scent of cumin followed us from stall to stall. 

Finally we stopped.  “My family,” Hazzid introduced us to two men in white chef’s jackets, their bellies stained with grease.

“La bes,” I ventured a Berber greeting.  They laughed in unison.

“Hello.  Big welcome.”  Smiles erupted on their faces. 

Hazzid stepped behind his brothers and lifted a round stone from the floor. “Victoria, look.”  This time he wasn’t cautioning me.  This time he showed me how the lamb was cooked.  Through the manhole was a pit dug deep under the street.  In the center of the chamber embers of a long-burning fire glowed, lighting the space.  A dozen lamb carcasses hung from hooks above the coals.  Heavily scented smoke clouded the space, permeating the meat with its flavor.  The earth-oven had cooked the lamb slowly, for hours, melting away fat and leaving moist, tender meat.

“Mechoui,” Hazzid stated in way of an explanation.

“You try?” One of the men asked.

“Yes, please.”  This is what we came for.  He raised a large cleaver.  With one stroke he split the lamb in front of him through the backbone.  Another blow sectioned off a hunk for us.  Tendrils of steam rose from the chopping process.  Using the knife and his free hand, he scraped and scooped the meat onto one side of a scale, on the other he stacked weights.

The spices of the Moroccan Market Place - Photo by Victoria Allman

The spices of the Moroccan Market Place - Photo by Victoria Allman

“One kilo.  Good for you.”  He heaped more meat than I could imagine eating onto a paper plate and loaded the top with two rounds of Moroccan pita bread.  I reached for the plate, but Hazzid quickly grabbed it from me.  It was clear he was now our host.  He carried the meat up the stairs to the open-air terrace above the stall.

We wasted no time.  Soft pieces of meat fell from the bones.  Custom dictated we eat only with our right hand; something that proved harder than mastering chopsticks.  We dipped the meat into dishes of cumin salt.  Succulent flavor filled my mouth and coated the inside with silk.  Hot juice glistened my fingers.  Patrick groaned.  This was good.  We devoured the whole plate and I wondered if Muslim customs would frown on a woman sucking the bones in public.  It took a great deal of inner strength to resist the urge.

Hazzid returned with a tray of tea.  He held the ornate silver teapot at a great height, pouring clear brown liquid in an elaborate show of service into the tiny glasses below.  The high pour brought new aromas to the air.  Fresh mint replaced the smell of roasted lamb making my mouth water again.

Hazzid held his cup high.  “Big welcome.” And with that we were left on our own to meander the streets home, our bellies pregnant with the flavor of Morocco.

Moroccan Mechoui

By Victoria Allman
Author of: Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean
www.victoriaallman.com
Victoria on Twitter

  • 1 whole leg of lamb (or shoulder) on the bone, 6-8 pounds
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 11/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika 
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin

Trim excess fat from the leg of lamb, and make a dozen or more cuts deep into the meat with the tip of a sharp knife.

Combine the olive oil with the garlic, and spices through to paprika. Spread the mixture over the entire leg of lamb, working some into the incisions made with the knife.

Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan.

Preheat an oven to 250°F (120/130°C).

Cover the lamb with foil, sealing the edges tightly. Roast the lamb, basting hourly and resealing the foil each time, for 7 hours, or until the juices run clear and the meat is tender enough to pinch off the bone.

Transfer the lamb to a platter and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before serving. If desired, the juices can be poured over and around the lamb.

Mix cumin with sea salt and serve in dishes on the side for dipping.

Recipe and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom
Writers on the Water

Writers on the Water

Okay, so it’s not quite as memorable (yet?) as “Riders on the Storm,” the 1971 hit by The Doors, but a new blog by writers Christine Kling and Mike Jastrzebski  called Write on the Water, is a place to talk about the intersection of writing and living and working on the water. I was the guest author there today and I’m thrilled and honored that they asked me to write something for them.

New Blog Write On The Water

New Blog Write On The Water

Chris is already a famous (to me at least) author of a great mystery series featuring the fictional tug captain Seychelle Sullivan. And Mike is a full-time writer living on his 36′ sailboat, Roughdraft. OceanLines’ own guest author Victoria Allman, who writes our “Sea Fare” series of recipes for the cruiser and who wrote “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”

I know from talking with readers of OceanLines that many of you are also writers. Remember, the definition of “a writer” is “someone who writes.” Don’t buy the stodgy nonsense that you have to have been published to be considered a true writer. Writers write. Period. And from what I’ve read, some of you are very good writers.

One definition of a good writer is someone who can tell a compelling story. Our community has those by the drove. People like Ken Williams, John and Maria Torelli, and others who have compiled their writings into books.  And others, like Milt Baker and John Marshall and a host of other current cruisers, tell great stories in their blogs.  Of course, there are also the classic “nautical writers” of the age of sail, like Melville, Conrad and Dana. They were all seamen before they were writers. Derek Lundy points that out in his great book “The Way of a Ship,” which is is a fantastic account of his ancestor’s passage aboard the Beara Head, an iron-hulled square-rigger, that took a load of coal around Cape Horn.

If you’ve written about your time on the water, we’d like to hear about it and share it with our other readers. Send us a link to your blog or a book you’ve written and we’ll put together a page with everyone’s links on it. I know you’re out there, typing away on some kind of keyboard. Let’s hear about it! And stop by Write On The Water when you get a chance.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, Sailboats, seamanship
Sea Fare April — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Sea Fare April — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the fourth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we devoured her classic Genovese Pesto.  In this month’s installment, her megayacht is in Santorini and Victoria and a friend happen upon a fantastic eggplant recipe. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the left sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

—– 

 

Victoria Allman's Santorini Eggplant Salad. Photo Courtesy of Shalimar Orlanes.

Victoria Allman's Santorini Eggplant Salad. Photo Courtesy of Shalimar Orlanes.

This is Greece!

by Victoria Allman

“Are we there yet?” I whined like a six-year-old on Christmas Eve. We were racing from the crowded town of Oia to the fishing village of Ammoundi to taste the local grilled octopus that we had fallen in love with all over Greece. 

“Almost.” Patrick was giddy with excitement too.

We were on the island of Santorini, high above the Aegean Sea and making our way towards it.  Hardly noticing, we passed the blue domes and whitewashed walls of the buildings nestled into the side of the sunken volcano.  The dramatic view over the caldera was lost on me.  I could see nothing but the narrow steep steps under my feet as we descended.  We reached the bottom and collapsed into the plastic chairs of the first tavern we came to, our stomachs growling. A man with shoulder-length dark curls approached with bottles of water in his hand.  I smiled—my own Greek God.

We ordered Mythos beers, a plate of octopus, another of calamari, and an eggplant salad.

The Adonis returned with our meal.  Famished, we ravaged the plates in quick succession.  The octopus disappeared in seconds.  I don’t even remember the calamari, it was gone so fast.  I took a breath and leaned back from the table. The blistering Mediterranean sun blazed down, scorching my skin. Small wooden fishing boats painted bright red and green bobbed in the sapphire water.  Rhythmic waves flooded the pebbled beach.  It was quiet and peaceful, in stark contrast from the crazed mob overhead.

Relaxed this time, I picked up my fork to taste the eggplant salad.  It was juicy and smooth in my mouth.  I took another forkful to be sure.  It was not bitter or biting like eggplant can be.  This was sweet and velvety smooth.

The classic blue domes and white homes of Santorini. Photo courtesy of Shalimar Orlanes.

The classic blue domes and white homes of Santorini. Photo courtesy of Shalimar Orlanes.

“Yum.”  The sentiment escaped my lips without me knowing.  The waiter had returned, more beers in hand.  “This is good, no?”  I nodded and he started to explain. “We use white aubergines, from the fire.”  He pointed to the wood-burning grill that our octopus had come from.

“They’re sweet.”  I said.  He smiled; the whiteness of his teeth shone bright against the dark olive-tone of his skin. “They grow like this, with the earth of the volcano.”

“You don’t add anything else?”  I thought there had to be sugar.

“Of course!  This is Greece. Lemon and olive oil, always.” He shook his head in laughter and retreated back inside the tavern.

I looked over my shoulder skyward.  The crowds were gathering above to watch the sunset.

“How about another dish of that salad?”  I asked Patrick, unwilling to leave our sanctuary and join the chaos.  He nodded and smiled slyly.  “And one more octopus?”

“Of course!  This is Greece!”

Santorini Eggplant Salad

By Victoria Allman
Author of: Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean
www.victoriaallman.com

2 white eggplants
1 onion, unpeeled
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prick the skin of the eggplant and roast in a 400 oven with the onion and the garlic cloves for 1 hour until they are all soft. Cool and peel the garlic and onion. Peel the eggplant and place in a colander. Mash the eggplant with a potato masher to press out the juices. Place everything in a processor and blend until slightly smooth texture is achieved. Taste for seasoning and serve with cucumber slices, feta cheese, kalamata olives and pita breads.

Serves 6

Recipe and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman. Photography copyright Shalimar Orlanes (http://www.shalimarorlanes.com)

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Passagemaking News, People

Sea Fare March — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the third in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we devoured her Seared Cod with Provençal Ratatouille.  In this month’s installment, her megayacht is in Genoa and Victoria meets the magic of the classic Genovese pesto. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the left sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

—–

The Essence of Genovese Pesto as Prepared by Victoria Allman

The Essence of Genovese Pesto as Prepared by Victoria Allman

Re-Discovering Pesto

By Victoria Allman

For the past year and a half, the memory of one dish of pasta has haunted me.

It was our first and only night in Genoa, Italy.  We arrived tired and worn from a long day on the train.  We lugged our bags, heavy from everything we would need for the next two years of travel on the boat, down narrow streets to the busy port.  Frustrated by lack of taxis and grumpy from empty growling stomachs, we stopped at the first restaurant we came to.

It was nothing special, just a few plastic patio tables and chairs overlooking the commercial port. A laminated menu translated a handful of pizzas and half a dozen pastas into a comical form of English. Smelly Blue Cheese seated on Linguine was the one that made me smile.  But, I opted for a simple dish of Pesto Pasta that I ordered with Drink Water.  I was too tired to try and think of anything more exciting.

When my dish arrived, I was surprised by the color.  When I make pesto, a dark green paste is produced.  It is strong and bites with the licorice taste of basil.  This, in front of me, was creamier and a softer green.  I took a bite.  It was not as sharp as my version.  It was rich in flavor, but smooth and well-balanced.  With each bite, a taste of what I could only describe as green filled my senses.  I ate the dish with wonder and relished each bite.  I wish I could have eaten more.

We left the restaurant and sailed away the next day, but I had not forgotten that one perfect pesto dish.  It played in the back of my mind every time I’ve made pesto since.

When the boat returned to Genoa I danced on my toes, excited to go find the secrets of the regions most famous dish. I started at the market, where all good food discoveries begin.  Italian men in stretched and misshapen white tank tops called out their greetings to me.

 “Buongiorno,” I replied, trying out the few words of Italian I could remember.  “Basilico?”  I raised my eyebrow, hoping they would understand.

“Si, si.”  A man waved me over, wearing no more than a white apron over his faded baby blue boxers and the bright orange clogs that Mario Batali made famous. He handed me a bunch of small-leafed emerald green basil.  The tiny delicate leaves meant the plant could be no more than a few days old.  He broke off the heart of a stem and rubbed the leaves between his thick rough fingers.  He brought them to his face and breathed deeply, shutting his eyes and smiling. He was lost in thought.  He opened his eyes in a dreamy lulled way and broke into an Italian soliloquy for the next three minutes.  I did not understand a word he said, but his voice sounded like music. I smiled and nodded.

Maybe he knew I didn’t understand him.  Instead of repeating, he cupped his hand gently behind my head and held the basil out for me to smell. It was a sensual act.  I leaned in, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The aroma nudged my memory.

It was different than the basil I had known.  It was sweet smelling and mellow.  I smiled with the same hazy look he had had. “Due.”  I held up two fingers to make sure he knew what I wanted. As I walked away, in search of the Parmesan and pine nuts I needed to complete my dish, the man broke into song.  His deep baritone voice reverberated an opera through the market. It could not have been a more Italian scene if a director set it up.

No wonder the pasta tasted so good.  In Italy, there is life and love in everything.

The Pesto of a Midsummer Dream by Victoria Allman

The Pesto of a Midsummer Dream by Victoria Allman

Pesto

By Victoria Allman
Author of: Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean
www.victoriaallman.com

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup olive oil

In a heavy bottomed frying pan, sauté the pine nuts over medium heat.  Shake the pan constantly so they do not burn.  Toast until they turn golden.  Remove from heat and cool.

To create the soft creamy pesto of Genoa, grind the garlic cloves and salt in a mortar and pestle (hence the name pesto).  Add the basil leaves and press until a rough paste is achieved.

Add the pine nuts and Parmesan and press to incorporate.  Slowly add the olive oil to emulsify into the mix.

You can also use a food processor for larger batches, but the blades will bruise the basil leaves and the color will darken.

Makes 2 cups pesto

Recipe, photography and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Charter, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, People, Powerboats, Sailboats

Sea Fare February – Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the second in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we savored her Spanish Clams with Sherry and Iberico Ham.  In this month’s installment, the yacht has called on a French port. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in our left sidebar and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

———-

The Return of Summer

By Victoria Allman

 A feast of summer colors assaulted me as I entered the Forville Marche in Cannes, France.  Market tables sagged with tomatoes, the color of fast cars. The shine of the eggplants deep purple, almost black skin sat as backdrop to the emerald green slender zucchini.  We had just cruised into port and I couldn’t wait to head back to this particular market. 

I collected the freshest seasonal vegetables from tables laden with grey-green bulbs of baby artichokes still on the stalk. Mounds of wild mushrooms, gathered from the nearby woods, were heaped in wooden baskets. I picked up a long braid of garlic from the table in front of me, brought it under my nose and breathed deeply. The heady smell invaded my senses.  “S’il vous plait.” I handed it to the market woman.

I passed tables piled high with over twenty varieties olives. Black wrinkled ones cured in sea salt sat next to pale green ones mixed with snipped herbs and whole cloves of garlic. Others floated in brine or were chopped to a fine paste to be used as a spread on baguettes. I popped a youthful fat olive with smooth skin into my mouth as I selected more than I would use that day.

Next, I visited the woman who grew all her own herbs. I couldn’t escape the distinctive citric smell of lemon balm, the herbaceous smell of rosemary, and the lingering scent of fresh dill. This was the way to begin a day. Brightly colored vegetables accosted me at every turn. “Victoria!” A woman behind me squealed. “Ca va?”  I turned and was wrapped in a hug by Ana, the voluptuous fruit seller. She stepped back and placed her dirt-stained hands on my shoulders, rounding her self in to kiss each cheek.   “Cheri, you have come back home.” 

This is what I missed. Every day last summer, this same woman had filled my basket with a dozen, fist-sized white peaches from her garden. Each day, I had devoured more than my share, standing over the galley sink, juice dribbling down my chin. I gobbled the subtle flesh as sweetness swirled through my mouth. I would finish one and reach for another. By the end of the day, they had all disappeared. The next morning, I would return to Ana to start the cycle again.  I am someone who loves the change of seasons, but I was more than a little sad to see last summer end. We sailed away and found new cuisines to explore, but now, here I was, back for more.

“Hola.” I stammered. “I mean, Bonjour.” Switching countries is a confusing way to shop.  She giggled and picked up a peach. “For you, cheri.”  I smiled, knowing what lay ahead. By the time I had walked home to the boat, I had sticky hands from the first of many of this season’s white peaches, and had planned my day’s menu around the vegetables bursting from my cloth bags.

I loved being back in France once more.

 

Victoria Allman's Seared Cod with Ratattouile

Victoria Allman's Seared Cod with Ratattouile

Seared Cod with Provençal Ratatouille

By Victoria Allman
Author of: Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean
www.victoriaallman.com

 
6-6 oz fillets of cod
sea salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
    
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 zucchini
1 yellow crookneck squash
1/2 eggplant
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 tomatoes
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon thyme
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and pepper

Arugula leaves

Dice all the vegetables into a small one-inch dice.  Sauté the onions and the garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes over medium heat until they are soft. Add the peppers and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, squash, and eggplant. Sauté another 5 minutes.  Season with the sea salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar, thyme and bay leaves.  Combine the rest and stew for 20 minutes over low heat.  Season with more vinegar, salt and pepper if necessary.

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Season the cod with sea salt and pepper. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat.  Add olive oil to the pan and sear the cod, presentation-side down for 3 minutes until a golden crust occurs.  Remove the cod to a baking dish, presentation-side up and repeat with the rest of the cod.  Bake for 5 more minutes or until cod is at desired doneness.

Pool the ratatouille on a plate and top with arugula salad and fish.
Serves 6

Recipe, photography and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, megayachts, People, People & Profiles

Sea Fare – Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.” She has graciously agreed to write a periodic column here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed (or adopted as you will see in this first installment). If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in our left sidebar and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

———-

A Culinary Theatre

 by Victoria Allman
www.victoriaallman.com

It was already a late hour by the time we secured the lines and straightened the fenders, but Spain does not even consider eating until long after the sun has retired for the evening.  Famished from a long crossing, we wandered through the old Roman streets of Barcelona dizzy with hunger.  We passed stone buildings with more history than we could remember, to a tiny square where tapas bars crowded every corner.
 
In the one we chose, dark-haired men stood behind a long counter, backs to us, hunkered over a stove.  They were busy submerging squid in oil and tossing peppers in a smoking hot cast-iron pan.  We pulled bar stools up to the high counter and watched the action of the cooks like we were following a soccer match. Our necks craned to see a plate of sausage and beans being delivered to couple across the room. Razor clams sizzled on hot skillets.  A tortilla passed so close that we could have reached out and taken a bite. We followed it with our eyes.
 
A round of steaming clams were set just to the right of us; their smell filled the small space. We immediately ordered a bowl and watched as one of the cooks, with a heavy pan, flicked his wrist sending a dozen muscles and their juices flying through the air.  He caught the wave of shellfish and broth without spilling a drop.
 
Without a word, he placed the bowl in front of us and cut thick slices of chewy bread, rubbing the surface with a half tomato to spread its sweet flavor like butter.  He picked up a slender bottle of olive oil and drizzled a golden sheen on top.  The bread glistened. He leaned in close, pinching sea salt between his thick fingers and sprinkled it over the bread like an artist applying the finishing touch to his masterpiece.
  
By my first bite, I had already fallen in love with Spain.

Spanish Clams with Sherry and Iberico Ham by Victoria Allman

Spanish Clams with Sherry and Iberico Ham by Victoria Allman

Spanish Clams with Sherry and Iberico Ham
by Victoria Allman

1 1/2 pounds fresh clams
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
4 cups cold water

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
¼ cup Iberico ham, finely chopped (or Serrano ham)
¼ cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Scrub clams and soak them in water and coarse salt for 45 minutes.
 
Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over high heat.  Add olive oil, Iberico ham, onions, and garlic.  Saute 3 minutes until the onions are soft.  Drain the clams and add to the pot with sherry.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes until the shells have opened.  Discard any that remain closed.

Toss with parsley and ladle into bowls.

Serve with crusty bread, rubbed with tomato and drizzled in olive oil, and a glass of wine.

Serves 4

recipe and article Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman

Sea Fare: A Chef's Journey Across the Ocean, by Victoria Allman

Sea Fare: A Chef's Journey Across the Ocean, by Victoria Allman

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom