Tuesday, 4 September 2012

2nd Leg Day 15: Dolphins at Dusk and Risotto no 2

 The day dawned yet again on squalls and lumpy seas. Grey and overcast. The sun rising through thick squalls, its rays cutting thin slivers of light through the chinks in the cloud in its battle to light up this dreary scene.

Then it got better. The clouds started clearing and by this afternoon there was only the cumulus clouds left in the west. The ones that one would expect as a result of the warm land mass to our west. The wind had settled into a steady sixteen to twenty knots southeasterly and we were sailing merrily along at over six knots. In fact we covered a distance of eight nautical miles in the hour from twelve noon to one. The word merrily also fits because it mimics the sounds of the water past the boat. The autohelm is still holding out and the boat is surfing down the bigger swells at around eleven knots. Perhaps a bit more controlled than under our hand steering regimes. The sea has settled since sunset and the boat has an easy motion through the water at present.

You can feel that we are in the tropics now. The overnight temperature is around 27ºC/80ºF the daytime a bit higher. The temperature difference being largely dictated by the water temperature around us. The only respite is the cooling effect of the wind.

We started seeing birds again, a sign of the proximity of dry land. The other signs being the increased traffic we encounter. The birds are welcome, the signs of civilisation not.

This appears to be a very typical emotion. That of being averse to other people after this extended period of isolation. You grow closer to the boat and the world that it encompasses. And, if you chance to have kindred spirits as shipmates, you grow into a close-knit little society on board.

This is what you want. Any notes of discord and you wish the voyage was over. These little things tend to grow and eventually erupt into some form of frustration or aggression. Little niggly things that carry on are judged by the psychologists of this world to be the biggest stressors imaginable. A bit like a Chinese torture. You know the one where they tie you down on a bench so you can't dodge, then drip water one drop at a time onto your face for hours on end. Not a trickle, just a drip. Horrors.

Luckily we don't have a drip on board, just a creak. Actually many creaks. And I mean creaks. You can get the idea that you are in a haunted castle in a bad remake of a Frankenstein movie. When the sea is unsettled and the boat goes fast it is difficult to discern the sound of the water rushing past the hull from the immediate background of creaks, moans and groans coming from the panelling as the boat deforms in the swells. Something that you get used to, though. To the extent that you can now tell just how fast we are going by the frequency and volume of sounds in the cabin when you lie in your bunk.

And eventually these sounds grow on you and becomes the lullaby that puts you to sleep along with the gentle rocking of the boat. In your bunk you don't feel the bumps as you are lower than in the saloon or elsewhere, down below the centre of buoyancy of the boat.

Just at dusk today, just as we were finishing dinner, we had a visit from some dusky dolphins. These are smaller than the botttle-nose dolphins frequenting the South African coast line. And they are quite friendly. Jumping quite high out of the water around the boat, playing in the bow wave and slipstream and wake. It is as if they are inviting us to come out and play also. A very positive experience, with the sun setting on the scene in vivid orange hues.

It was my turn at galley duty today. I made our second risotto. Our fresh supplies are getting thin, so I needed to plan ahead a bit for the ingredients of this dish, that I not block out another dish in favour of this one. The dish should take about half an hour to prepare when using arborio rice. In this case I used long grain rice, which takes a long time to cook, so this one took me about an hour.

Of course, nothing goes smooth or according to plan. This time I dropped the camera into the wok when the boat lurched across a swell. I eventually got a nice picture of the food just before we dished up, after having to rescue the camera from piping hot risotto. And cleaned it...

Risotto No 2


250g deboned chicken, cubed into thumb size pieces

1 cup rice. I used normal long grain rice because I don't have arborio rice on board.

2 teaspoons chicken stock granules or 1 cube chicken stock.

1 Onion, chopped

½ hot chili, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh garlic, chopped

1-2 carrots, chopped. I julienned half a carrot just for appearances' sake.

½ cup fresh garden peas

3 dried Chinese mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water, chopped. I kept the hot water as a base for the chicken stock.

¼ cup white wine

¼ cup of fresh cream

1-3 cups additional water, as required

½ cup of grated cheddar cheese. I don't have parmesan cheese, Fiddlesticks!

Dollop of cooking oil, butter or combination thereof.


Fry the chicken and mushrooms in light oil /butter until the chicken is nicely browned. There should be some grits sticking to the pan now. Remove the chicken and mushrooms from the pan and keep aside.

Fry the rest of the fresh ingredients, except the peas, until the onion goes glassy, then add a little bit of water and the uncooked rice. The water mus tbe just enough that the rice don't burn. Stir fry the rice until it starts to change colour, then add the wine and the chicken stock. Keep on stirring the pan to ensure that the rice don't stick to the pan and burns. Keep on adding water a little at a time, keeping the mix in the pan mushy. The rice will keep on soaking up the water as it expands. Test the rice frequently for softness.

When the rice gets close to being cooked. Add back the chicken and mushrooms. Mix the dish properly and bring to the boil again. Simmer this until the rice is done, then add the peas and the cream. Simmer for another five minutes or so, until the peas go al dente. Make sure nothing sticks to the pan and burns. Then add the cream and the grated cheese and dish up.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

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