Friday, 25 May 2012

Race Training and Thai Curry

Putting in the top mast.

Mariquita went out for her first race-training sail yesterday in the Solent.  And the day went excitingly well which, with 7 months since our last race in St Tropez and a very new crew, is never a guarantee. My team-mate and staysail 2 for the last two years, Matty, is now bowman and I have with me instead the brand new Mr Johnny Rogers, who coincidently, is another lovely and softly spoken American and yes, that really is his name.

But all went well, nothing and nobody broke and it was, as usual, a joy to once again discover that I hadn’t forgotten what I’m supposed to do on deck. So I can relax and ease back into the full swing of a race season onboard a classic racing yacht – chef and staysail 1.

HECTIC!  It has already begun. 3 training days in a row, 40 odd sandwiches a day to make, a team building session, guests to be pampered, the interior to be turned into a 5 star hotel, accounts to be done and then I have to cook dinner every evening and that’s all before Monday. On account of which I haven’t blogged for ages. Apologies.

Maybe I didn’t quite remember everything from last season then – the sheer madness of it all. So a nice easy dinner menu ensues naturally. And at the top of the ‘easy dinner’ list is always a curry is it not? I mean, let’s face it, some chicken breasts, a can of coconut milk and some spices and Bob’s your Uncle, a tasty chicken curry...

Ok, maybe there’s a little more to it than that but basically that’s the essence of it. That and this next recipe is a fish curry. So it’s not at all like that now is it...

 A salmon and butternut Thai fish curry is the most pleasing curry ever. It tastes outrageously good and you can make the sauce in advance if you are a busy bee and then just pop the fish into the heated sauce to cook just before you serve.

I’m surprised I haven’t put a Thai curry recipe on the blog yet considering I make them quite a lot. It makes a great boat meal as it all cooks on the hob and everybody likes them. Now I know the list of ingredients looks long and if you are unfamiliar with some of the ingredients then you might not bother but please, please give it a go! There is always a substitute if you can’t get all the ingredients and anyway if you leave anything out it will still taste awesome. Trust me.

So for a great salmon and butternut Thai curry for 6 you will need;

3 large onions, sliced
5-6 fresh salmon fillets, cut into chunks
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 large bunch of fresh coriander
2-3 red chilli’s – hot or mild depending on your taste
1 large knob of fresh root ginger, grated
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
8 kaffir lime leaves, fresh if possible or dried
1 tsp finely chopped lemon grass (from a fresh stalk or from a jar of ready chopped)
12 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
2 tsp of yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp turmeric
2 cans of coconut milk
8 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 limes, zested and the juice squeezed

  • Begin by slowly sautéing the sliced onions in a little oil and butter in a large non-stick pan. This creates the perfect base flavour for the curry with all its lovely, naturally sweet oniony flavours.  This can take 20 minutes or so of very, very gentle cooking so that the onions begin to turn a lovely golden brown.
  • Once the onions are looking nice and golden stir in the cubed butternut squash and continue to cook on a gentle heat.

  • Now this is the fun bit where you can pretend to be a TV chef with your neat little piles of spices all ready and lined up... or is it just me who does that? Firstly finely chop the stalks from your bunch of coriander. Always use the coriander stalks in a curry and the leaves later at the end. Now put the finely chopped stalks into a nice little pile on your chopping board. Next finely slice your chilli’s and proudly put the little pile next to the coriander stalks. Then grate the fresh root ginger and crush the garlic, adding these to the TV chef display of spices along with the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Now how good does that look!?

  • Next bit is also pretty fun. Get a frying pan nice and hot but with no oil. Add the coriander seeds, the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and the cardamom pods which have been slightly broken open by thwacking them with the flat of a blade or just crushing them with your palm. Let these roast for about 2 minutes in the pan. The smell will be amazing. Then tip the seeds into a pestle and mortar. You will need to open the cardamom pods and take out the little seeds which is a bit fiddly but sooooooo worth it. Then give all the seeds a good grinding until they are pretty much a powder.

  • Turn the heat up a little under the onion and butternut and pour the ground spices in, giving it a good stir. It should all start to have a nice little sizzle and the smell will be making anyone within smell shot, extremely hungry.

  • Now tip in to the pan, in your best TV chef impersonation the chilli’s, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks, ginger, garlic, fennel seeds and the turmeric. Stir it all in well and cook for a few minutes.

  • Pour in the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar, the lime juice and zest. Season with some salt but not too much because the fish sauce and soy sauce are salty too. Bring to a gentle boil then turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer until the butternut is cooked through.

  • When you are pretty ready to serve, add to the simmering pan the fresh salmon. Cook for about 5-8 minutes making sure the salmon is cooked through. Now most importantly taste the curry and adjust the seasoning. It may need a bit more salt or a little bit of sugar. Close your eyes and really figure it out.

  • Stir through the fresh coriander leaves and serve with lots of wedges of lime. Serve with perfectly cooked rice and naan breads (even though they are Indian, have them anyway. I love naan).

Now I know that was pretty long and only a small percentage of you have made it here, Hi Mum, but really once you have made this a few times it becomes easy and better every time. And experiment! That’s the beauty of a curry. If you don’t have all the spices or ingredients it doesn’t matter a jot.

Now I’m off to bed because we’re training tomorrow and I can hear the wind start to pick up and have a little howl through the halyards. Should be fun tomorrow. I feel the wet weather gear and harnesses may become useful.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for reading.


Adam's brilliant gold leafing on the top of the top mast about to be hoisted.
Thats my Fiancé up there! What a hero...