Sunday 16 September 2012

2nd Leg Day 21: Of Bread and Fish and Stirfry Chicken

 A somewhat Biblical day we had today, no less. We have a new novice baker on board. And three exited fishermen. After a few days of very little happening, we had lots of excitement today to make up for the tedium.

Dawid decided that he wants to learn to bake bread. The way he carries on he may just become the baker's apprentice, like the title of the book. However, first things first. We decided on an easy loaf for his first affray into the floury world of dough. The ingredients are simple and you get to experience all the facets of making bread. This recipe makes one loaf.

Simple French Loaf with Brown Bread Flour


2 cups brown bread flour

1 cup white bread flour

½ cup white bread flour for the kneading board

1 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 dessertspoon sugar.


Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon or strong spatula. Add in the water a little at a time. Keep on mixing until all the water has been added. The dough should now be almost too tough to mix by spoon. If not, add a little flour. If too dry, add a little water by dipping the spoon in water and transferring a little water at a time that way.

Now turn the dough out on a kneading board and knead for another 20-30 minutes. You knead by squashing the dough ball flat, then folding the edges inwards and repeating the process. This traps air in the dough and develops the gluten. The dough is now a live organism.

After the dough becomes silky to the touch, wet the hands and just handle the dough to moisten the outside. Then put it in a large plastic bowl and cover with shrink wrap plastic or a plastic bag. We used the lid of the bowl. Put the dough out of harm's way in a warm place to rise until double in volume. This can be as short as 1 hour but normally takes about two odd hours. Dawid went to sleep at this time, as he had just come off watch duty at six this morning.

After the dough had risen, gently ease it out onto a well floured kneading board and knead it down to the original volume. Shape the loaf by squeezing and patting it into the desired shape. Take the edges of the loaf and gently stretch them towards the middle of the loaf to stretch the skin. Turn the loaf over with the crumples underneath and place on a baking sheet, tray or such like. We use a floured sheet of aluminium foil in lieu of such equipment. Store this in the cold oven for another 20 minutes to recuperate and rise again.

Before turning on the oven, make lengthwise or diagonal cuts on top of the crust about 8-10 mm deep to facilitate even oven spring. This means to prevent lopsided rising in the oven during the first part of the baking process. We also painted some water on the top crust to facilitate crust forming. This in lieu of a steam oven and because we want to keep the oven cleaning later to a minimum. Perhaps we are just scared of extra work later.

Put the loaf back in the cold oven, then switch on the oven and set the temperature to 190ºC/ 375ºF.

Bake the loaf for 40 minutes at this setting, then switch off the oven and leave the loaf inside for another 20 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and turn out onto a rack to cool for another 15 minutes. That is if you can keep your discipline and not devour it in one sitting while it is hot.

Congratulations to Dawid on a job well done and a delicious loaf to boot. Which, incidentally, we almost finished in one sitting. Only the tail end was left, which I promptly ate on my 00h00 to 03h00 watch. Perhaps I should buy the book “The Baker's Apprentice” anyway.

We also caught some fish today. Renier had the first turn. He had a good sailfish hooked and was fighting the fish. We furled away the sail and I steered the boat going astern and kept it stern to the fish. With this sort of team work Renier had the fish alongside in short notice and we cut the line to release it. Murphy unfortunately was busy too and we have no pictures of the fish that measured about a meter or so, perhaps 1.2 m (4 feet).

After this I went to sleep for a while before my watch started at 15h00. The very best of British luck is required to do this in these rich fishing waters. I was rudely awakened about half an hour before my watch to come and bring in the next fish.

I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes while fighting the fish. This one was quite big and was taking line off the reel even after I had applied sufficient brake to reel it in. The wind had subsided a bit and the engines were not started for this one. The fish was judged simply not to be large enough to warrant the extra effort. In spite of this it was quite big, as it broached sufficiently to identify it as a large dorado, also over a meter. This one came off the hook after about ten minutes or so, so also no pictures available.

Then, during my watch this afternoon, the reel started running for the third time. This was Dawid's turn and it was a big sailfish. We saw it jump a number of times as Dawid reeled it in. For this one we actually went after the fish in earnest, running the boat astern. Dawid got the fish alongside and again we cut the line to let it go. This fish also did not co-operate in the filming part and so we have but a sketchy piece of video to show for the effort.

Chalk up three more stories of the ones that got away.

I actually managed to get some sun sights in between all the excitement. These reduced to an indistinguishable mess of closely spaced lines of position centered on the dead reckoning cross. It yet again gave me a warm feeling about my sextant practices. The difference from the GPS measured 7 miles.

We forfeit the Uno league tonight after dinner and sat on the trampoline watching the sunset. It sounds tacky, but we are literally sailing into the sunset. A quirk of the season and our route. Tonight was very peaceful. “Muy tranquillo!” a Mexican hotelier once remarked to me in similar conditions. A languid sea, light breeze, a few wisps of cloud and a small sickle moon, waxing to half in a deep indigo sky. The sun slowly sinking below the horizon.

I couldn't agree more.

Tonight was my turn at galley duty. The last fish almost upset my schedule, but I managed by cooking a simple meal that is quick to prepare. I made stir fry chicken vegetables and savoury rice. The rice was an experiment which came out with a resounding success, well worth the effort. You may substitute saffron for the turmeric if you feel in a extravagantly romantic mood. The chicken is a variation on a standard recipe that I already made earlier during the voyage.

Stir Fry Chicken Vegetables with Savoury Rice


Chicken and vegetables

250 gram chicken fillets, cubed

¼ cup cornflour (Maizena)

2 eggs

1 hot chili, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables

1 fresh onion, chopped

1½ cup chopped cabbage

½ cup of frozen garden peas

1 dessert spoon butter or dollop of cooking oil to fry the chicken and vegetables

Glazing Sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

Savoury Rice

¾ cup long grain rice

½ teaspoon aniseed seeds

1 cardamom pod (Elachi), shelled

1 envelope coconut powder or can of coconut milk. I used coconut powder.

Small piece of cinnamon bark

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1-2 cups water


Savoury Rice

Add the coconut milk to a saucepan. In the event of using coconut powder, add the powder to two cups of water. There needs to be sufficient water with the rice to enable the boiling of the rice without decanting water. You simmer the rice until the water has just boiled away. Add the turmeric, salt, cardamom and aniseed seeds. Add the rice. Boil the rice until done. Add water as necessary.

Stir Fry Chicken and Vegetables

Mix the eggs and the cornflour. The batter needs to be quite thick, somewhere between golden syrup and thick pancake batter. Add the cubed chicken to this and make sure all the pieces of chicken are covered in batter.

Add the oil to the wok or saucepan and fry the chicken in this until the batter goes nice and brown. Add the garlic and chili and fry until the chicken is properly flavoured. Remove the chicken from the wok and keep to one side to rest.

Add the vegetables to the wok and stir fry until the vegetables are al dente. Add the chicken back to the wok and add the glazing sauce. Mix the veggies and chicken properly. Simmer the dish until the glazing sauce has the right thickness to your taste, then dish up.

Bon appetit!

This blog also linked to Yeastspotting!

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


  1. Your recipe was easy to follow and I cook it perfect. I hope that you can make also a stir fried chicken because I can't cook it properly on some recipe that I found on the web.