Sunday 10 November 2013

Day 32: Crossing The Equator And A Seafood Curry

We crossed the equator today. 00 degrees 00 minutes latitude. From now on, we are in the northern hemisphere. There is about twelve odd days left of our voyage.

The navigation calculations now changes, as the sun is now in a different hemisphere than ourselves. And almost all the angles measure are large, due to our proximity to the sun and the equator. The other reason for the large angles is that there are simply too many clouds on the horizon to allow a lower angle measurement.

The fair winds and current that we experienced during the last three days have now subsided and we are motor-sailing along. We are now crossing the Amazon river delta, some 450 nautical miles ( about 1000 km) across. Three days' sailing at six knots. If you please. The delta makes a bit of a bay inland, so we are further offshore than a day or two ago. This means that the effect of the land is much less and probably accounts for the drop in the current and the wind.

We are expecting a change in the wind direction as we travel further into the northern hemisphere. The prevailing wind in this neck of the woods is normally north-east. We are now sort of in an intermediate zone, depending on local weather patterns. Hopefully we don't hit the doldrums.

Today was my turn to cook. Not having had a chance of a seafood curry, this was the dish of choice for dinner. Our provisions are running low, so I had to make do with perhaps an eclectic selection of ingredients. Frozen Thai style stir fry vegetables from the supermarket in Cape Town, fresh dorado from the sea. Coconut powder and other spices from my stash.

The spicing for this dish is from a mix of Indian and other spices. But all from the Far East. Which, for my South African friends, is further east than Germiston lake.

This dish can be prepared in many ways, but a fusion of Thai and Indian style processes works wonders. The fish is marinated in the masala paste, then fried in light butter. Then put aside to rest while the rest of the dish takes shape. It helps a lot with flavour to cut the fish into smaller cubes. This allows better penetration of the marinade spices.

I also added some vegetable stock. I had a choice between chicken stock and vegetable stock. The veetable stock won the argument. However, the fish rather resembles chicken, both in taste and in texture, so chicken stock will also work. The stock is there mostly as a thickener. You don't want a watery soup. Most of the flavour will end up in the sauce, so a thickener is in order. Use corn flour at the end to get the sauce to the right consistency.

The next part is to fry the rest of the spices in the buttered pan, then the onions, then the thawed vegetables. The vegetables need to be al dente still, else they will cook to a porridge. Add the coconut powder mixed with water, some vegetable stock, then simmer this for five to ten minutes. Then add the fish back into the dish, simmer until everything is cooked through. Thicken the sauce to taste, then allow thirty minutes of repose for the flavours to develop.

The garum masala at the end is a very Indian tradition. I use this as a last boost to the flavours, as some will peter out during the cooking. It adds a little cumin, cinnamon and pepper to the dish. Don't overdo it, this dish needs subtle flavours to add to the safron, not kill it.

I used some brown lentils in the rice to bulk up the dish. This time I used basmati rice to add to the flavours. And because I think the basmati rice rather goes better with this dish than brown rice, which was the other option.


For the curry

600g dorado fillets, cubed

500 g frozen stir fry vegetables

1 1/2 onion, chopped lengthwise in Chinese style

1 teaspoon masala paste (Recipe here)

1 teaspoon masala/curry powder

1 can coconut milk or cream or, in my case

60 g (2 oz) coconut cream powder

1 piece cinnamon bark

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

seeds from two cardamom pods

1 dessert spoon vegetable stock

1 teaspoon saffron essence

1 teaspoon garum masala

salt to taste

1-2 cups water as needed

For the rice

1 cup basmati rice

½ cup brown lentils

1 teaspoon aniseed seeds

salt to taste

3 cups water

Process for the rice

Add all the ingredients in a pot and set to boil. Then lower the heat and allow the rice to simmer until the water has been absorbed. Add salt to taste. Add water if necessary. I had to add about two cups, a little at a time. Check the water level frequently, lest the rice burns. You will not be washing it.

Process for the curry

Marinate the cubed fish in a little cooking oil and the masala paste. Set aside for 30 minutes or so while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Small cubes will suck up flavours quite fast.

Proceed by toasting the coriander seeds and cinnamom bark, then the cardamom seeds in a dry pan. In that order. The cardamom seeds are small and will burn long before the coriander begins to feel warm. The cardamom seeds will toast in a few seconds.

Then add some butter to the pan and the chopped onion. Fry the onion until translucent and beginning to brown, then add the dry masala powder. Fry this for fifteen seconds, then add the marinated fish. Add some butter if the dish is too dry. Fry the fish until about medium done, then remove the fish from the pan and set aside to repose.

Now add the stir fry vegetables and fry until al dente. These will simmer some more in the saauce, so don't overdo it at this stage. Add the coconut milk or -powder dissolved in half a cup of water and the chicken stock. Turn the heat down and simmer this for ten minutes, then add back the fish. Simmer for another five minutes, then add the saffron and the garum masala. Mix thoroughly and check for salt.

At this stage you should check for thickness of the sauce and thicken as required using cornflour.

Allow the dish to repose for thirty minutes or longer before dishing up. This one is actually self-organising: The thick sauce will retain its heat for a long time,aking the dish effectively too hot in temperature to eat.

But I think these warnings are fruitless anyway...

Bon appetit!



Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-10-26

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