Brown Sugar Salmon

The Captain on the boat I’m on came into the galley the other day and said I needed to rename my blog ‘Masa Yummy’ because basically while I’m here I’m documenting all the delicious food I’m cooking for the owner and the crew.

Good Ship Masa Yummy

Good Ship Masa Yummy

Our season is in full swing now and we even had some very special guests on board last week that I couldn’t possibly tell you about (yet!) but who were super exciting to cook for because one of them was FAMOUS!

I can however tell you what they ate….

Brown Sugar Salmon

A large fillet of salmon

Dressing: 100ml soy sauce, 100ml water, 25ml sesame oil, 25ml olive (or rapeseed) oil, 25ml red wine vinegar (or rice wine vinegar if you have it), 2 tbsp honey, 100g brown sugar, 1 tsp chili flakes (more if you like it spicey) – shake all the ingredients together in a jar until the sugar is dissolved. Taste it as you go, it should be sweet and salty

Gimme a little sugar...

Gimme a little sugar…

Marinade the salmon in the dressing for 2 hours before cooking, tuperware is excellent for this. If you have a large fillet that needs to be portioned out, do it before cooking with a sharp knife as it is much easier. Reserve the marinade and place the salmon on to a baking tray and place in the oven at 180 C. For a whole, 500g fillet bake for 20 mins, less time is needed if the fillets are smaller so keep an eye on it. You want a little browning around the edges where the sugar in the marinade is caramelising. Put the rest of the marinade in a saucepan and boil it until its reduced to a thick sauce. Pour over the salmon once just before serving with potatoes, green beans and a leafy green salad.

This sauce is also delicious over salad, once its reduced down, as a dressing. Particularly with bean and lentil based salads that can take a bit of oomphy flavour.

 

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Sea food, eat food

Patient: I am on this new diet, but I don’t seem to be losing any weight…

Doctor: Right, tell me a little more about this diet.

Patient: Well its a sea food diet, if I see food, I eat it!

All right all right, I know its a crap joke but I never was any good at them (just ask my OH…). Sea food is however a very important part of my diet, I love the stuff, and not just the eating. I love catching it, studying it, cooking it AND eating it.

Fish, fish, fish, fish, fishy, make a little dish for meeee!

Fish, fish, fish, fish, fishy, make a little dish for meeee!

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Thrifty Cooking

Thrifty cooking is something that has always been close to my heart. Not just from the budget point of view but also as a method of reducing waste. I hate wasting food, even the tops and tails of veg aren’t wasted when I’m cooking at home, they make excellent stock.

Thrifty cooking starts with thrifty shopping. Before you even go to the shop, start with a weekly menu plan. I plan out roughly what I want to cook for the week, work out who I’m going to be cooking for and whether there is anything they don’t eat or anything they love that I haven’t cooked for awhile. From this menu I can make a shopping list of things I need based on what I already have in the cupboard. For me, as a cook on a boat, this is essential. It means I can let the crew know what’s planned for the week and anyone can raise objections before I go shopping rather than after I’ve cooked the dinner. It also means that when I come to cook the meal, I know I have everything in stock. There is nothing worse than wanting to cook something and realising you’re missing the main ingredients (like on Sunday when I desperately wanted to make brownies but there was no butter and ALL the shops were shut because this is France…).

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Can you cook seven different things?

At the moment I am looking for work on the super yachts. It is a massively competitive industry and so along with the basic qualifications I have had to get for safety reasons, I have also been maximising any other skills I have to make myself look really useful, and therefore employable. One thing I hope to achieve is landing a job that allows me to cook for people. Be it crew or guests, food is the most important thing in my opinion. The guests are going to enjoy their holiday a lot more if the food is exciting and varied, while the meals the crew are eating are what keep them going the long hours expected of them. And, with only one person in the kitchen in many cases, that person needs to have a good repertoire of recipes to keep things exciting, and healthy, especially if there are long stretches between time ashore. So when someone asked me, can you cook seven different meals each week, it made me think, well can I?

Of course I can, I thought. I then started to think about all the things I can cook and realised my habits tend to fluctuate between certain styles. At the moment, I find myself cooking lots of different types of pasta, however before I came to Italy I used to avoid eating pasta more than once a week. So what did I used to cook that I have stopped cooking since coming here? I like to write things down (obviously…) and as a result I have a Moleskine recipe notebook in which all my favourite recipes are noted down, and looking through this I have re-discovered some things that just six months ago I couldn’t get enough of. One of these recipes is dhal. A lentil curry which is actually one of my father’s favourite curries (however much his Pakistani mother-in-law hates cooking what is considered ‘poor’ food for him when he visits). Dhal varies from place to place and tends to depend on what spices one has to hand at the time. The following recipe is a fairly simple one, and isn’t a particularly traditional one by all accounts, however it is delicious and is a really cheap comfort food that I was fond of on dark, cold evenings in the UK.

Dhal

Onion, garlic, chilli, turmeric, cumin, fresh coriander, lentils and spinach.

Put lentils in a pan with enough water to cover them and bring to the boil. Add turmeric and a pinch of salt then reduce the heat. Cook the lentils until soft and porridgey. Take the lentils off the heat and add a handful of spinach leaves, pop a lid on and allow the heat to wilt the spinach. Dry toast the cumin seeds and chilli then add a little oil and the chopped onions and garlic. Sweat the onions until soft and transparent, don’t allow them to colour. This process can be aided with a little splash of water in the pan – a trick I learnt from the father of the children I look after here in Italy. Stir the onions into the lentils and spinach, leave for a few minutes covered over for the flavours to mingle, dress with chopped coriander and then serve with some hot naan bread. This is a fairly healthy meal and caters to vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/lactose free (you get the point) diets as well and so is a good one to have in one’s collection.

Another meal I haven’t eaten in a while is fish and chips. Again, not the traditional battered fish and soggy chips you might find in Plymouth on the sea front in the rain but rather a delicious fillet of smoked haddock, lightly coated in seasoned flour and fried in butter served with home-made skinny chips and a thick, creamy sage sauce. Sage works incredibly well with smoked fish and the sauce is simply cream heated with fresh, chopped sage and lots of black pepper and then left to thicken as it cools. Reheat just before serving and then pour over the top of the fish, avoiding the chips so they don’t end up too soggy. Not so healthy but extremely tasty and an excellent answer to fish Friday.

Or how about stronganoff, delicious with punchy, dried porcini mushrooms which smell amazing.

Another is griddled pork, certainly one of my favourites, served with a salsa made from sliced, preserved peppers, balsamic vinegar, half a tsp of basil pesto and olive oil, seasoned with lots of black pepper and a pinch of rock salt.

I love fish so another way I have it is baked in tinfoil with a little white wine and then served over quinoa and fresh tomato salad; a recipe adapted from one of Jamie Oliver’s recipe books.

Spiced aubergine has been a firm favourite in the past, and deserves a come back thinking about it as there are the most amazing aubergines for sale in the market at the moment! This is made with tomato, red onion, aubergine and lots of cumin and chilli. Fry the red onion and seeded, chopped tomatoes until they look a bit stewy (good technical term there…), in another pan fry the cubed aubergine until its got a nice bit of colour, then add it to the tomato mix. Dry fry the chilli and cumin then stir that into the mix too. Loosen the sauce a little with some red wine and a splash of balsamic vinegar then serve with rice, chickpeas, cous cous or quinoa.

And finally, for number seven a pasta dish I can’t resist. A recipe taken from the River Cottage Veg book (aka the best cook book of all time). Mushroom and kale lasagna made with goats cheese and tons of parmesan. It is divine, go eat it, right now!!

So how many things can you cook? And if its not at least seven, go and read a cook book and try something new!