“Real men don’t eat quiche”. That’s what an Australian friend once told me. He has since tasted a lot of quiches of mine, and so have my men as these open-face savory pies with a custard filling feature on our onboard menu nearly every week. Nothing draws my kids faster to the table, than the aroma of buttery pastry baking!
The pastry is a cinch to make, I often make a double batch and freeze some for later use. The proportion for the custard is always the same. I follow a Julia Child’s recipe which includes 1 egg for every ½ cup of liquid. When I am in a hurry or at sea, using pre-packaged ingredients, it roughly works out as 3 eggs for a 300ml tub of pouring cream. As for the filling, you’re only limited by your imagination. To the traditional bacon and cheese, I have substituted spinach and fetta, crab and lemon, tomato and zucchini…Our latest favourites come from times spent rummaging through the fridge, trying to use these items on their last legs: a lonely bag of porcini mushrooms with a small bunch of forgotten asparagus, and half a wheel of brie no one fancies on crackers anymore paired with a couple of apples. What is your favourite?
Shortcrust pastry for quiche making
Makes for 1 quiche
200g/1 ¾ cup plain flour
100g/ ½ cup/ 1 stick unsalted butter chopped
1 pinch salt
60ml/ 2-3 tbsp iced water
1. Place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and process for 1 minute or until the mixture ressembles breadcrumbs. Add the iced water and process until the dough comes together. Flatten the dough into a disc shape, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate d=for 30 minutes (or freeze for later use). Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper to 4mm thick, line a 24cm quiche or tart dish and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Prick the base of the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with raw beans/rice/baking weights. Bake for 15 minutes, remove paper and weights, and bake for a further 10 mn to brown it very lightly. Set aside while you work on the filling.
3. This pre-baking of the pastry is important to prevent a soggy bottom. I don’t always trim the edges of the pastry, preferring a more “free-form”, unfussy look. However for a neater presentation (i.e a dinner party!!) I would trim the edges, keeping the leftover dough for appetisers.
Mushroom and Asparagus Quiche
1 quantity shortcrust pastry
250g porcini mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
1 small bunch of asparagus ( about 8), cleaned and trimmed
1 pinch of dried herbes de provence
300 ml pouring cream
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Pre-heat oven to 200C(400F). Prepare shortcrust pastry as per recipe above and pre-bake as instructed.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet, sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes, add the asparagus and cook longer until all vegetables are tender and slightly caramelised.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C(375F). Place the eggs, cream and dried herbs in a bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese at the bottom of the pastry shell, place the mushrooms and asparagus on top, pour over the egg mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set. If your oven only heats from the bottom, as mine does, turn on the grill element for the last 5 minutes of cooking, until top is golden.
Apple and Brie Quiche
1 quantity shortcrust pastry
2 red apples, washed, cored, sliced thickly
250g brie cheese, cut in thin wedges, rind trimmed (opt)
1 pinch of dried thyme
300 ml pouring cream
1 cup mozzarella or cheddar cheese
1. Pre-heat oven to 200C(400F). Prepare shortcrust pastry as per recipe above and pre-bake as instructed.
2. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C(375F). Place the eggs, cream and dried thyme in a bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the mozzarella or cheddar cheese at the bottom of the pastry shell, place the apples and brie slices in a pattern on top, pour over the egg mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set. If your oven only heats from the bottom, as mine does, turn on the grill element for the last 5 minutes of cooking, until top is golden.
On passage from Bora Bora to Tonga
It’s a wrap!
We are in the last 5 months of our world cruise, and I am finally realising that my boat pantry is so full, we have enough to feed ourselves all the way to Australia and beyond. This in itself is not so bad, except that our next ports of call in Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu have strict quarantine rules (no doubt, taken out of the Australian book) and will frown upon all fresh and some dried foodstuffs. In over 3 years of cruising, we have never been searched for food and I have accumulated an incredible amount of provisions: many are staples, some are more exotic, and a few may test the goodwill of a quarantine officer…
So from this week on, I have vowed to use up as many of our existing food supplies as possible. It started with a minimal shop in Bora Bora the day before our departure, instead of our usual massive provisioning: a bag of potatoes, 3 baguettes and some pork chops. That took care of day 1.
Next in the locker was a packet of rice flour, bought in Mexico. Back then, I remember wanting to experiment with Agua de Horchata ( Rice water) but today I felt like wraps and decided to try my hands at making rice tortillas. It is so simple : unlike bread making, there is no kneading, rising, or rolling of the dough. Think of it as making crepes, which appeals to my kids. The filling is my take on the exotic “rice paper roll”: a mix of tuna, cabbage, carrot, bean vermicelli, seaweed, in a Vietnamese dressing served with Polynesian sashimi sauce and soy sauce. Add fruit smoothie for dessert (watermelon, papaya, frozen bananas and orange juice, this week’s favourite!) and it is a fresh and healthy way to fill up the crew.
Wraps with tuna, seaweed and sesame seeds
Serves 4 for lunch
4 rice tortillas (homemade or store-bought)
4 leaves of nori seaweed
1 large carrot, grated
¼ small cabbage, grated
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
12 mint leaves
2 tbsp chopped chives
80g bean thread vermicelli
1 can tuna in water
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or any other flavorless oil)
1 tbsp sesame oil
Sashimi sauce ( egg mayonnaise mixed with soy sauce, mustard, and a little sugar)
1. In a bowl, soak the vermicelli in warm water for 5 minutes. Drain well.
2. In another large bowl, combine the vermicelli, grated carrots and cabbage, drained tuna, chives, parsley. Season with salt and pepper, add sesame seeds, rice vinegar, sesame and grapeseed oil. Mix thoroughly.
3. Lay a tortilla on a plate, put a nori leaf on top, spread 1 or 2 tbsp of sashimi sauce, lay 3 mint leaves, add 2 tbsp of the tuna and vegetables. Roll up, wrap in clingfilm and keep in the fridge for up to 3 hours.
4. Cut in half, serve with extra sashimi sauce and soya sauce for dipping (after unwrapping the clingfilm, unlike the photo shows). Enjoy!
This is my standard recipe on VOAHANGY for making soft bread rolls: you can shape them any way you wish and turn them into hamburger buns, hot dog rolls, even pizza dough! I occasionally tweak some of the ingredients too: milk can be replaced with water, the texture won’t be as soft. For a more wholesome taste, substitute 1 cup of wholemeal flour for the plain flour.
I use my breadmaker on board to make the dough then shape it and let it rise outside and bake in the oven. Of course the kneading can be done manually or in a food processor, the only difference being that you start with the solid ingredients then add the liquid ones.
Makes 8 hamburger or long rolls, 1 very large or 4 individual pizza bases.
500g (4 cups) plain flour
280ml (1 1/3 cup) milk
50ml (4 tbsp) olive oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp bakers’s yeast (SAF style)
1 tsp salt
1. Assemble all liquid ingredients in the breadmaker’s tin first. Add salt to the milk mixture, so it doesn’t come into contact with the yeast (it will kill it otherwise). Add flour and yeast. Secure the tin in the machine, then put on the QUICK DOUGH cycle (45mn)
2. When the dough cycle is completed, take out of the breadmaker, turn out on a floured surface. Divide the dough in 8 portions and shape into hamburger or long rolls (for pizzas, divide into the number of bases required, and shape into thin discs).
3. Place the dough onto a lightly oiled baking tray, let rise for another 20-30mn (it will double in volume).
4. Pre-heat an oven to 180deg (up to 220deg depending on your oven, mine heats from the bottom and will burn the rolls if too hot!). Bake for 15-20 minutes.
If you don’t use a breadmaker, replace step 1 with the following:
1. Dissolve the yeast in a little warm milk and leave for 10mn. In a large bowl, place the flour, the yeast mixture, salt and olive oil. Start mixing, adding the milk gradually until you end up with a soft ball. Knead for 15 minutes, you will obtain a smooth, slightly sticky ball. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes ( on the galley bench is good enough while in the tropics, in colder climate, use the inside of the oven or wrap in a towel!) When the dough has risen, punch it to deflate, knead briefly on a floured surface, and proceed as in step 2.
After weeks of South American fare and endless versions of fish dishes, here comes the moment I have been waiting for months: Tahiti and its food market! My recollection from 6 years ago was of a vibrant place with stalls brimming with local fruits and vegetables, as well as all kinds of fish on offer. It had been a real treat for us, fans of raw fish, presented with an overwhelming choice: sashimis, carpaccio, poisson cru, tartare, with or without coconut milk, in vanilla sauce, marinated in ginger,…Chinese food features strongly in Tahiti and we enjoyed tasting dishes like Peking duck, maa tinito (pork and red beans), Chinese omelette, chow mein, all served with copious amounts of rice. The kids fell in love with the local snack: “hachis frites” or hamburger patty and French fries in a baguette! At 200f (A$2.50), it was the cheapest meal on the run (if not the healthiest).
This year, Anne and I went one Saturday morning expecting a beehive of activity, and were so disappointed to find that half the market was empty, some stands it seems having fallen victim to high rents: while the tourist shops are still there, half of the food stalls are gone, the remaining ones all displaying the same choice of tomatoes, cucumbers, grapefruits, bananas and papayas…Already well supplied with these exotic ingredients (it says a lot for the quality of the Marquesan products) I walked away with bags of fresh ginger, turmeric and herbs. Not a bad result, but not a great one either, for someone expecting more variety. On the ride home, our cab driver told us that we should have come on weekdays when the town is busy. Well, it was the weekend, and besides food, our crew wanted to shop for clothes, electronics and books. The place to go was to the Puunauia shopping center, conveniently located 5 mn walk from the marina and home to the largest supermarket in French Polynesia. Who would have thought we’d be so glad to find Carrefour?
A quick trip there made us realize why so many of the locals live on a diet of baguettes, fish, pork, root vegetables and tropical fruits. Any imported products would cost you double the price of local items, and for the items with no local equivalent, then the sky’s the limit: American strawberries 800f, NZ steaks 1500f/kg, French champagne 12000f, latest DVD 3500f…We thought that if we’d stick to local products we would not spend so much, but that was counting without the taxes that are levied on nearly everything. You see, there is no income tax in French Polynesia, so while the Territory (as it is known locally) receives substantial subsidies from mainland France, it supplements its finances by imposing fairly hefty taxes on most products (the Polynesian GST!) After a few days, we caught on with the fact that staples (milk, flour, sugar…) were taxed much lower than “non-essential” items, and our grocery excursions then turned into a hunt for “PPN” (Products of primary necessity). Much to Terry’s despair, beer didn’t come under that classification and would still cost 250f (A$3.00) a can.
We resigned ourselves to the high cost of living, on the basis that we were only here for 3 months, and were fortunate to be able to move on. This issue now resolved, I focused on looking for items I knew would be impossible to find anywhere else: duck foie gras, saucissons, French cheese, cote de boeuf, brick pastry (a cross between filo and puff pastry), preserved duck legs… My breadmaker went on shore leave while we indulged on baguettes, croissants and pains au chocoIat. And that is for the French fare. I refilled the pantry with vietnamese and chinese staples unseen since France (dried lily flowers, cloud mushrooms, nems, black bean garlic sauce,…) and quizzed the locals about the use of local concoctions like Taioro, sashimi sauce and the different tuna species. I spent the best part of a week in this supermarket, is that weird?
Terry certainly thought I had lost my mind when he saw me buy a big tub of chicken livers, wondering what my plan was. They are a delicacy in France, and while they were available in the US and Mexico, I never liked the look of the packaging so stayed away from them. Here in Papeete, surrounded by all things French, I had more confidence in the local butcher and decided to try my hand at cooking a chicken liver mousse from scratch. While browsing thru terrines and pates recipes, I stumbled upon a fish terrine (turban de poisson in French) which looked so yummy, I also had to make it. So stocked up with a fridge full of chicken livers, minced fish, eggs and cream, we left Papeete for the island of Moorea, 20nm away, where I busied myself cooking mousse and terrine while the others swam around the boat.
A night in the fridge later, I had the perfect finger food for sundowners on the boat. Served with slices of fresh baguettes, the family loved it, so did our guests.
Chicken liver pate
This pate has a very soft and smooth texture, perfect for spreading on toast or French baguette.
Serves 15-20, in 2 terrines
700g chicken livers, fresh
200 ml milk
200 ml water
4 pinches pf salt
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp butter
15g maizena (corn flour)
50ml Grand Marnier (or cognac, port, Armagnac, all ok)
100ml chicken stock
150g duck fat (or melted butter)
200ml pouring cream
1. Trim the livers off any sinewy parts. Place in a large bowl, add milk, water and salt. Leave to soak for 3 hours. Drain well
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter on low heat without letting it colour. Add chopped garlic and onion, cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. In a blender, puree the chicken livers for 30 seconds, add the cooked garlic and onion, eggs, salt, thyme, maizena, pepper and Grand Marnier. Blend for a further 3-4 minutes until silky smooth. With the machine still running, gradually pour in the lukewarm chicken stock, duck fat and cream (i.e not hot nor cold).
4. Pour the mixture in a terrine mould (I have a perfect Le Creuset lidded terrine at home, unfortunately too heavy and cumbersome for the boat, so I use a silicon bread pan onboard). Wrap the terrine (or bread pan) in 2 layers of clingfilm, then 2 layers of aluminium foil.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 150 C. Place the terrine in a deep roasting dish. Pour boiling water in the dish, until it reaches 2/3 of the way up the sides of the terrine. Cook for 1 hour.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool. For a fancy presentation, you can pour 150g melted butter over the top, but I don’t bother with it.
7. Place in the fridge for at least 1 day (the flavour deepens with time) and eat within 10 days.
8. Serve for lunch with fresh bread, and gherkins. Also excellent finger food, spread on crackers with a dab of chutney. Enjoy!
French Polynesian supermarket shelves are full of already prepared farce de poisson, minced fish (typically reef fish) seasoned with garlic, shallots and salt. The locals use it for fritters or as vegetable stuffing. I found it perfect for fish terrine, mixing it with pate a choux, choux pastry, which gives the whole dish incredible lightness.
700g minced fish (cod, parrot fish, grouper….)
2 pinch white pepper
2 pinch nutmeg
150g choux pastry
300ml sour cream (very cold)
1 cup of fresh herbs (parsley, green shallots, chives,…)
Butter for the mould
1. For the choux pastry: place 1 cup of water and ½ cup of butter in a large saucepan, bring to the boil. Add 1 cup plain flour all at once and stir over medium heat until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add 4 medium eggs unbeaten one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reserve 150g for the fish terrine, keep the rest in the fridge for another use.
2. In a large bowl, mix thoroughly minced fish, salt, pepper and nutmeg with la wooden spoon, incorporating a 1/3 of the choux pastry and 100ml of sour cream. Let rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Repeat twice.
3. Test the terrine by cooking a small dumpling in simmering water. Adjust seasoning if necessary, add 1 or 2 tbsp sour cream if too firm. Finally, add the chopped fresh herbs.
4. Transfer the fish mixture into a terrine mould. Wrap the terrine in 2 layers of clingfilm, then 2 layers of aluminium foil.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C. Place the terrine in a deep roasting dish. Pour boiling water in the dish, until it reaches 2/3 of the way up the sides of the terrine. Cook for 1 hour 15, or until the inserted tip of knife comes out hot and dry.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
7. Serve as a starter, in slices with vegetables and a well-seasoned mayonnaise. Also great finger food, cut in small cubes. Enjoy!
Besides coconuts, the main item on the Paumotus diet is seafood. Fish, lobsters, octopus and crabs are all available inside and outside the lagoons, and every local we met is a practised fisherman (or woman). Each visit at Laiza’s kitchen in Hirifa, would bring a surprise: freshly caught lagoon fish turned into carpaccio or an octopus silly enough to swim in front of the house speared and thrown into a coconut curry sauce… This latter one had a twin suffering the same fate, and Laiza offered it to me with the advice to beat it well first, boil until tender THEN cut into pieces and add to the sauce. The expression on Terry’s face when I returned to the boat with my booty was priceless, so was Marc’s when I allocated him the task of tenderising the beast.
Unable to fish outside the reef, due to unkind weather, we decided we would try our luck with a simple hand line from the back of the boat. With great hesitation I handed terry and the kids cheese and salami bits (you have no idea how precious snacks they are on our boat!), and amazingly all sort of lagoon fish were caught: parrot fish, emperors, groupers, amberjacks…Thus became our ritual: the fish would be caught, cleaned and scaled in the evening, I would take a photo and would ask Laiza’s advice in the morning as to its eating suitability. Ciguatera poisoning is a major concern in the islands. It is caused by consumption of tropical fish that have fed on a special algae and affects human’s nervous system. Symptoms include nausea, numbness and other unpleasantness, and it can be fatal. Not all atolls are affected by ciguatera, and why one is plagued and not another 10 miles further, is a mystery. In doubt, it is best to ask the locals, who always know if an otherwise perfectly edible fish is safe to eat or no. Luckily for us, the southern end of Fakarava was free of the disease, so we happily consumed all our fish! Grilled, poached, tartare, and my absolute favourite, carpaccio!
Here are 2 of my favourite seafood dishes, perfect examples of “lagoon to table” cuisine.
This dish reminds me of the first time I tasted octopus marinated in olive oil, it was while cruising in Portugal 10 years ago. A little taste of the Med in the Pacific…
Serves 4-6 as a starter
1 kg octopus, cleaned
1 red (Spanish) onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red capsicum, chopped
1/3 cup (90 ml)extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup ( 60 ml) lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
- Place octopus in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool.
- Transfer octopus in a large bowl with onion, celery, and red capsicum. Pour in oil, juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and mix well. Marinate salad for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before serving.
Carpaccio of fish lagoon fish
Laiza in Hirifa, makes a deliciously simple fish carpaccio with fresh fillets of parrot fish thinly sliced and laced with olive oil, rock salt, wafer-thin slices of tomatoes and cucumber. This is my version with the daily catch of emperor, and a Med-inspired dressing. I could eat this all day, everyday!
Serves 4 as a starter
500g fresh fish fillet (parrot, emperor, grouper, …)
2 tsp capers, chopped finely
2 small gherkins, chopped finely
2 pickled onions (from the gherkins mix, is OK), chopped finely
1 tbsp parsley, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
- Place the fish fillets in the freezer for 30mn. It will firm them up and make it easier to slice. Slice the fillets with a very sharp knife, as thinly as possible. Arrange on a large platter.
- Combine capers, gherkins, picled onions, parlset, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Mix well. Pour over the fish. Chill in the fridge 30mn before serving.