Saturday 9 November 2013

Day 20: Sunshine, Wind And Chicken Risotto

Today dawned on a beautiful and classic Atlantic ocean day. We had about fifteen to twenty knots of wind, twelve over the deck. The skies cleared towards the middle of the morning and we actually saw a deep blue sea, with white horses happily dancing on the swell.

We have been sailing for long enough that we ran a motor just to charge the batteries. I was on watch from twelve to three, so I slept a good bit into the morning before the sun woke me from my slumbers. A blessing indeed.

I also had the opportunity to get proper sun sights from a clear sun for a change. My last fix was not too far different from the GPS and today I had an even better correlation. Eight nautical miles.
Consider that I don't use the info from the ship's instruments, other than an idea of our speed, We have no log on board, so distance covered since the last fix is calculated by dead reckoning. I make an estimate of both the speed and the direction over ground. And I use my own last fix as a starting point for the dead reckoning.

I still hold that the dead reckoning is the most inaccurate part of the calculation, as one has to make some judgement on average speed and direction. The time is derived by direct calculation of the difference in sight times taken to the nearest half hour. I guess that my other estimates are coarser than that, so the error disappears in the third significant digit.

I also get the idea that the errors in my fixes do not compound over the period of the voyage. This from inspection of my fixes and the variation of those from the respective GPS fixes. Perhaps I can persuade some statistician to do a proper ANOVA one day. For now, I have trust in my meagre navigational skills.

It was my turn to cook again. How time flies! I decided on a chicken risotto. Of course, we don't have arborio rice on board so I substituted basmati rice. I also added some fresh vegetables for bulk and some dried shitake mushrooms for flavour.

This dish is perhaps a cross between a paella and a risotto, as I used ingredients from both areas of Europe, as well as the far East to make the dish. Half the onion was chopped in the normal style, the other half chopped lengthwise in Chinese style. Just for texture. I julienned the carrot, also for texture. The chicken stock was made by dissolving 2 liberal teaspoons of chicken stock powder in a cup of hot water.

Again, it is good practice to let the dish repose for ten to fifteen minutes for the flavours to develop and the heat to even out.


1 ½ cup basmati rice
250 g chicken breasts, cubed in thumb size cubes
1 onion, chopped as described
¼ yellow sweet pepper
¼ green sweet pepper
½ carrot, julienned
½ cup cabbage, chopped
½ cup dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water to rehydrate
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon saffron essence
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
¾ cup white wine
3 dessert spoons fresh cream
some salt to taste
3-4 cups water as required
Some butter for frying


Roast the coriander seeds in the dry pan until they start smoking. Now add the chicken cubes and fry them until they start sticking to the dry pan, then add some butter. Keep on frying the chicken until it goes brown, then remove from the pan.

Add the butter and all the onions, garlic and green peppers. Fry these until they are nice and brown and begin to pick up the caramelised chicken from the pan. Now add a little more butter and the raw rice. Fry this until the rice start sticking to the dry pan, then add the wine. Keep on stirring and ensure that nothing sticks to the pan. After the wine has been absorbed, add the mushrooms with the soaking water. Then in turn the chicken stock. Keep stirring.

Add water as required. Do not add sufficient water to make the whole dish into a soup, just keep it moist. The rice will absorb the water and the flavours from the pan.

When the rice is halfway done to your taste, add the saffron essence and paprika. You don't want these to cook for too long, else the flavour cooks away. I diluted the saffron in a cup of water which had to go in the pan anyway. You can add the vegetables at this stage. When the rice is almost done, add the cream and the chicken. Check for salt and add as required. Stir through properly.

The dish should now be quite thick in consistency. And quite flavourful.

When the rice is done to your taste, douse the flame and allow the dish to rest for fifteen minutes while you set the table and call the guests to dinner.

Then dish up. Remember, the best part of the dish is the caramelised bits that stick to the pan. Be first to the pan for afters.

Bon appetit!

There wasn't any leftovers for the watch keepers' midnight snack...

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-10-14