I hardly bake on land, but long days on passage, profusion of fruits and endless requests from the kids for baking cakes (one of Anne’s favourite school activities), mean that our sweets repertoire has steadily grown.
Here is a recipe for the most popular sweet on board. Anne and Marc request banana bread at least once a week, and I have found that other boat’s kids ( and some of the parents) can’t get enough of it. I am always happy to oblige only to use up all the bananas which have a habit of ripening at the same time.
I know every Australian home and nearly every boat make their own version of banana bread. This particular recipe has been my favourite for years, as you only need 1 egg and no butter, so can be put together with minimum ingredients and fuss !
The same recipe can be used to make muffins instead of a loaf, only bake for 20 mn then.
Makes 1 large loaf
1 ½ cup plain flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/3 cup sunflower oil (or any odourless oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large ripe bananas (if small, double the quantity)
A handful of walnuts or pecan nuts (optional)
1. Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Beat together egg, oil, vanilla extract in a small bowl.
3. Mash up the bananas, with a squeeze of lime if desired.
4. Make a well in the flour bowl, add the egg mixture and the bananas, fold in the flour. Mix until just combined, do not overmix or the bread will be too chewy.
5. Pour the batter in a large loaf pan (or a 6 muffins tin), and bake at 180 deg for 50 minutes (or 20 minutes for muffins).
Though we mostly cook from scratch onboard, I also keep a small amount of “convenience items”. I have a hidden stash of them: Hersheys chocolate bars, packets of Chicharonnes, smoked almonds, marshmallows…They’re what I call Happy Food because they remind us of friends and good times. I save them for special occasions, happy or sad. They help us celebrate a milestone or cheer up an otherwise ordinary day. The same way that ordering take away on land used to be a treat.
Day 4 of the passage from Panama to Marquesas was one of these days. The crew was in bad mood. Our captain was complaining about the lack of wind and fish, both totally unrelated conditions. The kids were hot and bothered, missed their friends, and claimed that they would not survive this 3 weeks passage! My urging them to take this opportunity to get ahead with their school work seemed to make things worse. So reading the signs, I switched gears and asked them if they’d like a Mexican lunch. Marc and Anne’s faces lit up at the prospect, Terry’s not so much but went along anyway (he probably thought his day could not get any worse!)
April is always an eventful month in our family. We have a few family birthdays, including mine, and it is generally when Easter occurs so we’re busy eating nearly as many chocolates as we do at Christmas!
This year was special though. The whole month was spent either preparing the boat in Panama for our Trans-Pacific crossing or onboard, during the crossing itself: 4000NM or 8000KM of nothing but ocean, for weeks on end. Three to be exact.
That is 21 ½ days, 64 meals to cook and serve to an often bored and always hungry crew. My daily entries would be too tedious to read, so I have picked the weekly highlights of this floating culinary journey of ours.
Inspired by Colombian seafood dishes (coconut sauce) and red snapper from San Blas fishermen (off Coco Banderos Cays).
Colombians traditionally deep fry individual fish, but I prefer to bake a bigger fish. Serve with plain rice and green vegetables. The sauce is so good it can be made on its own. Also left over fish and sauce mixed with mayonnaise make beautiful cold spread on tartines for lunch! All the family loves it.
2.5 kgs ( or 4 individual) red snapper, cleaned, gutted and scaled
1 cup sliced onion
½ cup minced green shallots
¼ cup lime juice
1 tbsp minced parsley
1 tsp mashed garlic
1 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
½ fish stock cube (opt)
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp pepper
1. Make 3 or 4 slashes along the sides of the fish, all the way down to the bones
2. Combine sliced onion, green shallots, lime juice, garlic, parsley and salt. Rub the mixture inside the cuts and the belly of the fish.
3. Refrigerate, covered in the fridge for 15mn or ready to bake.
4. When ready, remove the onion mixture from the fish and drain the lime juice out. Discard the liquid and keep the rest aside. Paint the fish on both sides with olive oil
5. Bake the fish in a preheated 230 deg C for 10mn on each side, or when the flesh easily flakes when inserting a knife. The skin will not crisp up, rather it will fall off and be a little soggy, but that’s OK.
6. While the fish in baking, in a sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and sauté the onion mixture you removed from the fish. Cook on medium heat, until the onion is translucent, about 7mn. Add the coconut milk, fish stock cube (if using), curry powder, cumin, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook briefly to blend the flavours, do not let it boil.
7. Place the fish on a large platter, let guests help themselves (or slice off a piece for them , as I do, it’s easier). Spoon the coconut sauce over fish and rice.