When simple is sometimes the best
I’ve always said that what I love about our travelling is the opportunity to experience new and different cultures first hand. Learning languages, tasting exotic foods…total immersion is the way to go in my books. But meeting new people has to be on top of the list of “by-products” of our global roaming. Locals, holidaymakers , fellow cruisers or relocated expats…Puerto Aventuras, where we have been for the past 6 months, is a big village full of fascinating people.
A few weekends ago we invited an American family over for a BBQ on the boat. As often happens these days, the kids met first and forged relationships, and it wasn’t until 3 months later that we made the parents’ acquaintance at a house party. We hit it off, Terry and Joe sharing the same interest for flying and business, Kelly and I swapping travel stories and “the joy of taking your family along” anecdotes. They had many guests to attend that day, so we parted with a promise to get together again and chat some more. Soon. Life went on, both our families busy with school and boat issues (us), or business travel (them). It took another 3 months to find the time to resume our previous chat, which turned out to be even more fascinating than the first! Our floating home and lifestyle is always a source of curiosity for people, and a first time visit on board invariably includes a guided tour and answers to many “how do you…??” type of questions. From weather to anchorages, engineering issues to our favourite destinations, we’re always happy to share our experience. But my favourite has to be when asked about fishing and food! We have so many fishing stories and recipes to share, I could write a book about it. Until I do, I am happy to include fish on the menu whenever we have guests.
We were lucky to have scored some mahi-mahi fillets (dorado/dolphin fish) from a friend’s boat the day before, freshly frozen only a few days ago (i.e. frozen immediately after being caught). I had a craving for sashimi, but you need super fresh fish for that (read, not defrosted). So the mahi-mahi would require cooking, but still, I wanted a starter with the texture of raw fish. Challenge? I poured over my collection of cookbooks (the ones Terry allowed me to take on board, the other 100 are in storage in Sydney) and found this recipe for pepper-crusted tataki with hoisin vinaigrette, in the book Terrific Pacific by Anya Von Bremzen. Terry bought it for me as a gift 17 years ago, before setting off on our first Pacific crossing. A brilliant collection of recipes from South East Asia, it has become my bible, evidenced by the many dog ear marked curry stained pages, all held together by an elastic band. The original recipe calls for fresh yellowfin tuna, covered in a spicy pepper paste. I substituted the mahi-mahi and omitted the pepper paste as one of our guests suffers from severe food allergies. The fish had to be plain. The key is in the method of cooking: it’s seared very quickly in a dry skillet, wrapped in plastic wrap, and allowed to finish “cooking” to just the right degree of doneness. Paired with an oriental flavoured dressing, and served on corn chips (for a Mexican twist! ), it made for a delicious appetiser, the boys fighting over the last piece.
In keeping with the plain BBQ theme, we grilled some pork spare ribs and chicken thighs, baked some potatoes, all simply sprinkled with salt and pepper. The colour accents were provided courtesy of a spinach and tomato salad, and bowls of papaya chutney. Dessert in comparison was rich, a luscious coconut flan bathed in caramel which the still hungry adored, but our food sensitive guest could not have. Note to self: find a dairy-free, egg-free, version for the next time.
Pepper–Crusted Tataki of Mahi-Mahi with Hoisin Vinaigrette
Adapted from Terrific Pacific, by Anya Von bremzen
1 ½ tbsp green peppercorn (optional)
1 ½ tbsp black peppercorn (optional)
1 ½ tbsp pink peppercorn (optional)
2 ½ tbsp virgin olive oil
2 pieces fresh mahi-mahi or yellowfin tuna ( defrosted frozen is Ok, as long as there are no freezer burns)
- Rub the olive oil all over the fish.
- If using the peppercorns: using a mortar and pestle or small food processor, grind the peppercorns with the oil to a paste. Spread the mixture over the fish, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Preheat the grill or the skillet.
- Grill the fish just to sear, about 1 minute on each side. Wrap in plastic wrap, allow to cool, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice into medium-thin slices.
- To serve as finger food: lay the fish slices on a platter, serve a pile of corn chips or wonton wrapper and the hoisin vinaigrette separately. To eat, dip a fish slice in the vinaigrette and place on a chip.To serve as a starter: divide some salad greens among 4 plates, fan out the fish slices and drizzle with the vinaigrette.
Makes 2/3 cup
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 ½ tsp soy sauce
1 ½ Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 tsps minced fresh ginger
1 ½ tsp ground white pepper
Salt, to taste
6 tbsp light olive oil or neutral vegetable oil (do not use virgin or extra virgin, too strong!)
In a bowl, mix together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, mustard, vinegar, garlic , ginger, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking until emulsified. Let stand for 30 minutes for the flavors to develop.