A Word With The Chef
A Flair for Food - Health-Conscious Cooking Is This Chef's Cup Of Tea
A third-generation chef takes advantage of her alternative training to carry out her talents on a midsize sailing yacht
Jun. 22, 2005 03:15 PM
A third-generation chef takes advantage of her alternative training to carry out her talents on a midsize sailing yacht.
Strong breezes met us on our way out of the Yacht Club Marina in Antigua. Although dark clouds portside indicated rain in nearby Montserrat, our afternoon of comfortable sailing onboard the 2004, 82ft Oyster Darling was free of bad weather.
A young crew with two Olympic sailors raised the sails with a thrilling thwack and steered from the double helms as drinks and light snacks were served. We skimmed across the waves, with a cool spray on our faces, headed towards a little deserted bay said to be a favorite hideaway for crew members. Once there, several guests dove off the boat and swam, while others took advantage of the snorkeling gear and explored the crystal clear waters.
On the return to port, we relaxed on deck with freshly blended pina coladas, and were treated to two light fruit-filled desserts. A selection of mini angel cakes with either strawberry, blueberry, or peach preserves topped with fresh cream drew oohs and ahhs, but it was the fruit parcels (see recipe) created by Darling’s chef Sandi J. Harmon that had us promising ourselves that we’d hit the treadmill later, but we just had to have one more. The flaky golden crust had been formed into flat pies filled with flavorful fruit preserves and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.
I savored my third one (I had to taste all the flavors!) as Sandi, who joined us on deck for part of the sail, acquiesced and provided the recipe for YV&C?readers. The secret, she revealed, was the organic ingredients she had used.
Sandi is a very health-conscious chef and uses natural, organic ingredients whenever she can. She finds that more and more guests are requesting light, meat-free choices, although she can prepare a magnificent rack of lamb just as well. Her specialized background also enables her to provide special diets for guests with health problems or food restrictions.
“As a vegan who has studied Asian arts, Zen shiatsu, and whole foods nutrition, I am able to offer day-to-day cuisine that caters to people with various ailments or who are recovering from illnesses and need specific foods,” says Sandi. “I also have practice in many types of diets such as macrobiotics, fruitarian (great in warmer climates), fasts, and purge; not to mention liquid diets, and Atkins and South Beach diets. I am also an instructor in Hatha Vinyasa yoga,” she says.
Although she is very skilled in alternatives, Sandi more often relies on her traditional background when accommodating guests. Her family includes three Cordon Bleu chefs and two pastry chefs.
When she joined the yacht industry, she did so for a number of reasons, but mostly “for the opportunity to travel and meet extraordinary people.” When her captain at the time noticed her flair for food, he encouraged her to pursue it. That’s when her career as a yacht chef took off.
Cooking in a galley was a challenge at first, she admits, “as most galleys are generally designed by people who do not sail.” Therefore, preparation prior to charters and deliveries is key. When she lacked a large freezer space on her last transatlantic trip, she would bake fresh bread at the end of her 4 a.m. watch. She says,“My fellow crewmates could not understand why there was so much cursing coming from the galley. As the boat rolled, so did I, along with my ingredients. You can imagine how entertaining this must have been to the rest of the crew as they witnessed their chef kneading dough, covered head to toe in flour. Cooking under way is a true challenge in itself, but a worthy one. Fresh bread for the crew in the morning, halfway across the Atlantic, makes it all a little easier.”
She particularly enjoys Darling because, she says, “I find that midsize boats (80–110 feet) are a little more relaxed than larger ones, allowing me to become more in touch with guests and able to cater more to their likes and needs. No matter what the size though, having a strong team is the difference between a good boat and an amazing boat,” she says.
Judging from our experience that day, Darling’s team is top-notch!
For this vegetarian recipe, Sandi recommends organic ingredients for a better flavor.
- 3 packs puff pastry (organic) placed in fridge to keep firm
- 2 bags frozen organic blueberries
- 2 bags frozen organic raspberries
- 1 lemon
- Sugar, preferably turbinado (cane) sugar
- Agar-agar seaweed flakes (gelatine)
- 2 egg whites
- Slowly reduce 4 cups berries over medium flame. Berries can bubble a little. Stir every 5–10 minutes so as not to burn.
- Add lemon juice to the berries as they begin to thicken.
- Add 1 cup sugar to the thickened berries.
- Add 4-6 tsp agar-agar, 1 tsp at a time to slowly thicken preserves. (If the berries are a little watery this may take a little longer to thicken and may need a little more agar-agar).
- Preheat oven to 250c; allow preserves to cool.
- Prepare puff pastry: cut puff pastry into desired shape. Spoon preserves into the center of the pastry, close with a second pastry top, and seal edges. Place on a baker glide or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
- Brush top of pastry with egg whites, then sprinkle with cane sugar for a sweet golden presentation.
- Place in preheated oven and bake for 6–10 minutes or until pastry puffs up.Turn oven down to 200c for 5–10 minutes or until brown and flaky on top.
- Allow to cool, and dust with icing sugar if you desire.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or accompany with other fresh tropical fruits. For a great sauce, puree some of the preserves with a little extra lemon juice and funnel into a squeeze bottle. Decorate plate with the sauce, and you’ll be guaranteed to have guests lick their plates.