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Friday, September 6, 2013

2013, 08-30 Cooking in Fiji

One of the best things about staying in Fiji for the winter months is it's finally cool enough to enjoy a bit of cooking. We're spending days on end at anchor which means lots of meals to cook and I've been dying to start playing with the Indian spices I've seen in piles in market stalls for months now. Every market has a section with bins and bags heaped with Turmeric, fennel seeds and powder, kalonji seeds, garam masala, curry powder mixes and cardamom, cinnamon, whole cloves and nutmegs. Can't you just smell it?

Now of course yachtie cooking is always sort of an adaptation of home cooking what with the limits on space and gadgets aboard. We run a pretty basic boat with the extent of my appliances being a small electric hand mixer, a toaster and one small and one large pressure cooker so if it can't be done by hand and done without fancy gadgets it's not going to make it to any plate. So with winter bringing cool air it's been a great time to experiment. But winter here also means prime cruising time which brought us to the Lau Group which is far away from major provisioning (strike one,) and since we are spending long days at anchor my access to ingredients is more limited by the day (strike two.) Additionally we have been without internet since Viani Bay when someone who will remain nameless left the cell phone, our only means of accessing the internet (when we can even find it) in their shorts pocket when they jumped out of the dinghy for a trip into Lomaloma town- so we have no access to the internet and hence no access to its infinite trove of recipes (strike three) so my cooking has taken on a sort of seat of your pants style.

I took a cooking class in Savusavu which gave me some basics and got me revved up and ready to jump in to trying a few new things. There we made prawn curry, coconut fish, vegetable curry with eggplant and potatoes, Kokonda the Fijian equivalent to ceviche and roti the basic Indian flat bread. Nothing entirely new but it was a fun way to link up American spice names with the local names and characteristics and someone to ask some basic questions of. Between the cooking class and our penchant for tasting our way through each new country we visit I've managed to come up with some pretty authentic dishes and have enjoyed the chance to play with my ever growing stockpile of spices.

One dish which turned out especially good was fresh fish from the Bay of Islands courtesy of Bill, a bag of custom mixed spices that was a gift from Brian of S/v Ursa Minor another cooking class attendee, my last can of French Polynesian coconut cream and part of a box of spaghetti sauce with mushrooms left over from our time in Mexico. Cooked together Fijian curry style along with a pot of the last of my American brown rice with homemade yogurt on top (a yummy way to enjoy nutty brown rice I learned from my daughter-in-law) and a batch of my new recipe home-made garlic naan it was a truly international dish. Since then I have been cooking our way through loads of fresh fish and turning out some pretty interesting curry dishes along with more than 5 kilo's worth of Fijian "Normal" flour turned into roti and naan to scoop everything up with. Add a bowl full of fresh papaya and we've been eating pretty well out here. Kat

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