20th June 2011
Cooking On Boats
I'm just back from a loooooong 10 days voyage onboard Erin. We started out with the race to Orkney, which we abandoned in favour of getting on with our holiday due to boredom and a general lack of wind, putting in to Wick harbour for a night of rest, relaxation and scallops. Or rest and relaxation anyway. Aidan scored two dozen great big fresh scallops straight off an unloading fishing boat for a tenner, and I learnt how to open them by holding them with the flat shell uppermost, getting your sturdy sharp knife into a handy gap and cutting the flesh away from the top shell, slicing from the scalloped edge inwards, until the shell opens at the hinge (unlike opening an oyster where you crack open the hinge first). Then you can use your thumbs to pop away the skirt with any grit and black organs to leave the meaty white muscle and the orange/grey coral, which you can cut free and quickly rinse.

Unfortunately I also learnt that you should never attempt a barbecue without using just as much charcoal as it will physically hold.
So we will speak of half-barbecued, leathery scallops no more.

Next stop Stornoway where we picked up our holiday supply of Charles McLeod's most succulent and delicious black pudding. We were a bit worried after a previous disappointing experience with a Stromness butcher's dry and tasteless Orkney black pudding but we needn't have worried. The black pudding of Lewis fully earned its reputation.
I had been charged with the task of developing Erin's signature West Coast dish, and rather fancied attempting a stack of We now had the black pudding, the apples, the limes and of course the bacon, but totally failed to acquire any more fresh scallops on our trip, so this dish is still just a distant dream!
In any case, wouldn't Erin's true signature dish be rather more Dolmio oriented?

Luke and Karl

And so we munched our way around the Outer Hebrides:
- Lunching on Stornoway hot-smoked salmon whilst anchored off the Shiant Islands where we watched Guillemots harrass Golden Eagles attempting to feast on their children.

- Visiting Tobermory and enjoying both the deep-fried scallops from the (quite rightly) Les Routiers award-winning Fish and Chip Van on Fisherman's Pier and the night life at the Mishnish (Hi Alyson Filth! If that's your real name. That's the name I have in my phone anyhow.)

- Stopping off in Lismore to visit Luke's Grandparents and have an idyllic barbecue (using enough coals this time), giving me the chance to snag a bunch of Grandad's herbs and (thanks Luke!) Grandma's fennel kedgeree recipe, and giving Judith a chance to completely block their toilet with an enormous poo.

- Finishing up in Oban, on the sunniest day I've ever seen there, we lunched at EE-USK whose shellfish is just fabulous (More Scallops!), accosted a nice girl heading off to Belfast on the Jubilee Trust's Lord Nelson rust bucket, er, schooner (Hello Emma! If that's your real name).
We finally got the hell out of Dodge in Gus's (if that's his real name) shiny new BMW, sadly constrained by the number and speed of trucks, lorries and FUCKING CARAVANS.

I naturally did my fair share of cooking onboard, getting quite inventive with lime (there are always limes aboard - for the GinAndTonics don't you know) and bovril, foolishly attempting a roast dinner and finally making a nice beef stew on time, so I can now pass on Erin's simple shipboard cooking rules:
  1. All food must be ready to eat the instant the crew is hungry.
  2. There shall be no food ingredients used onboard unknown to Dolmio. A small jar of mixed herbs provides all the adventure cuisine requires.
    1. Corollary: Dishes too Eastern, too Southern, too vegetarian or just too bloody foreign are not to be trusted. Irish stews, stroganoffs, goulashes and (certain) pasta dishes are acceptable, curries, tagines, and kebabs are not.
      Beans (unless of the baked variety when they are compulsory) and, bizarrely, flour are largely frowned upon.
      Spice is a terrifying prospect to be treated with extreme caution.
  3. Each meal is required to include a goodly portion of meat.
    Meat consists of beef, chicken, pork or sausages.
    Lamb, duck or venison are dubious alternatives.
    Mutton, veal, horse, whale, emu or any kind of offal are not meat and are prohibited.
    1. Corollary: Vegetarians must bring their own food.
    2. Corollary: Seafood is prohibited aboard the boat. (I know, boats float above a convenient and endless supply of fish, lobsters and scallops. Go figure.)
  4. There is no possible higher culinary achievement onboard than chicken with peppers and onions in a jar of Dolmio sauce. This may be served over rice or pasta.
  5. Crunchy, firm, Al Dente, tangy, zesty and tart are all terms synonymous with undercooked.
  6. All dishes must contain bacon.
Actually the bacon one is my personal rule, I find a generous supply of bacon in their diet acts much like Valium on the crew mood. Or it did before the VEGETARIAN arrived! (Hi Maggie! If that's your real name)
Despite these explicit restrictions, it is sometimes nice to break out of the Dolmio straitjacket, smuggle some garlic, balsamic vinegar, flour or (shudder) spices on board and just go wild. So for those moments of madness I give you my recommendations for an easy life Cooking On Boats: On the whole, I quite enjoy cooking within the restraints of a small galley, challenging conditions and limited resources, but that enjoyment is not always shared by my crewmates.

I'm hoping there will be photos to follow - as usual I failed to bring a camera of my own.
C'mon crewmates - send me your piccies!

Roast Pork Chops Dinner
main side meat nautical
A roast dinner for unreliable ovens on boats.
This dinner will take at least 1½ hours to prepare, more like 2½ hours if you have to hoist spinnakers half way through boiling your veg. On the plus side, once everything is roasting in the oven there isn't a lot to do.

Serves everyone. Eventually.

Heat the oven to whatever approximates Gas 6, put in a roasting tray with a generous amount of olive oil and a couple of slices of bacon see rule 6 above. Peel your vegetables and par-boil them. Drain. Cut into roasting-sized pieces. Add them to the roasting tray. During this process you will burn yourself, burn some of your veg, and if you are really lucky slip and spill boiling oil all over the floor.
Leave them to roast for an hour, basting regularly, or until the proportion of burnt vegetables exceeds the proportion of undercooked vegetables.

Meanwhile get on with the pork:
Line an oven tray with tin foil, fry the pork chops in batches in a little olive oil over a high heat just to give them a little colour. You can skip this step if you don't care that your pork looks slightly anæmic or your crew are vampires.
Add each fried batch to the oven tray.
Peel and finely slice some garlic cloves.
Season the pork chops, smear with mustard and scatter over the garlic.
Tightly cover with tin foil and put into the oven.

Make your apple sauce, which will keep for as long as required.
Serve when the veg is ready.
Don't try this at sea folks.

Savoury Apple Sauce
sauce veg nautical
A nice apple sauce for cooking on boats. That have limes for GinAndTonics.
The onion is an unusual addition, but seemed to work nicely for a slightly savoury sauce to go with pork chops.

Serves 6 on the side.

Peel and finely grate the onion into a small pot and set to simmer gently with a generous knob of butter.
Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and cut into pieces. Add these to the pot.
Add the juice of a lime (or to taste).
Season the sauce, add sugar as desired - maybe a tablespoon - demerara if you have it, and leave to simmer until the apple breaks down and the sauce thickens.
Anne particularly enjoyed this sauce, she likes it tart though, and I hadn't added any sugar.
This is a good shipboard sauce since once it is cooked you can cover and set it aside for as long as needed.
Gently reheat before serving.

Lime and Caper Chicken
main fowl nautical
A one-pot tangy chicken cacciatore for cooking on boats.
You must have limes aboard - otherwise how can you drink your GinAndTonics?

Serves a crew of 6

Cut deep gashes into your chicken pieces, skin on would be best.
Grate the peel and squeeze the juice from 2 limes, Roughly crush a couple of teaspoons of capers. Mix everything together, add half a teaspoon of mixed herbs and season with salt and pepper.
Set aside to marinate for half an hour or so.

Fry a few chopped up slices of smoked bacon in a little olive oil to extract the fat, and when the meat is shrivelled and hard scoop it out and discard.
Shake the chicken pieces free of marinade and fry in the bacon fat until nicely browned.
While the chicken is frying, roughly chop the onions. Then set the fried chicken aside in the warming dish, reheat the pot adding more oil if required and fry the onions until lightly browned.
While the onions are frying, de-seed and roughly chop a couple of bell peppers, add the cooked onion to the serving dish, reheat the pot, add more oil if required and fry the peppers gently until they soften.
While the peppers are frying, peel and slice a few cloves of garlic and throw them in to the pot too.
When the peppers are ready, add everything from the warming dish back to the pot, add any leftover marinade, add the juice of an orange, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has evaporated and sufficiently thickened.

Serve with rice, or potatoes, or mash or pasta or even couscous. I suppose.
A bit tangy for some tastes, perhaps, but a nice change from Dolmio!

Bovril Broccoli
side nautical
Broccoli. Now with added Bovril. Perfect for cooking on boats.
Got a spare Bovril (or Oxo) cube on board? Don't waste it - add it to your broccoli!

Serves a crew

Mix the Bovril cube with just enough boiling water to dissolve it into a thick black sludge.
Separate the broccoli into florets and halve or quarter them as necessary.
Juice the orange.
Put everything in a small pot, add a generous grind of pepper, bring to the boil, cover, simmer until the broccoli is overcooked.
Drain off all evidence of Bovril.
Remember crew - shipboard vegetables must be cooked until limp and disintegrating or they are poison.
By the way, when you are cooking up a pot of mushrooms in butter for breakfast or as a side dish it's quite nice to just crumble a stock cube over them for extra flavour.

Oxo Mushrooms
side nautical
Mushrooms. Now with added Oxo. Perfect for cooking on boats.
Still not finished up all the Oxo?
Use the rest to give your mushrooms a deliciously deep and rich flavour.
Other stock cube varieties are also available.

Serves a crew

Wipe the mushrooms and cut in half or quarters if they're large. Pop them in a pan with a generous knob of butter, crumble over an unseemly amount of Oxo cube, cover tightly and let them simmer up gently until the mushrooms begin to collapse.
Excellent with breakfast.

Beef Bourguignot
main meat nautical stew
Like Beef Bourguignon. But not. A quick beef stew with port for cooking on boats.
Like Beef Bourguignon, but not. A very straight-forward, but tasty stew, and a good way to use up some of that left-over port you have washing around on board.

Serves a crew of 6

Heat a pressure cooker pot over high heat. Cut the bacon into lardons and fry with a little olive oil until they release their fat. Scoop out the cooked (but not shrivelled) bacon, leaving the fat, into a large warming dish and set aside.
While the bacon is frying, cut the stewing steak into reasonable chunks, about 1". Reheat the pot. Brown the steak in batches in the pot reheating and adding more olive oil as required. Set each batch aside into the dish when it is browned or starts leaking water like a steam engine.
While the steak is browning, roughly chop the onions, reheat the pot, add more oil and fry them next.
While the onions are turning glassy and beginning to caramelise, wash and quarter the leeks and chop into rough pieces, add the onions to the dish with the meat and start frying the leeks.
While the leeks are frying, peel the apples, cut them into eighths and remove the section of core. add the leeks to the dish, reheat the pan, add more oil as necessary and caramelise the apples.
While the apples are caramelising, peel and roughly slice the garlic, then add to the pot with the apples until they start to release their aroma.
Deglaze the pan with the port, let it bubble for a while and scrape off any browned bits from the pot then add back the contents of the warming dish.
Whilst the pot is reheating, peel and chop your carrots into chunks (or open the tin) and add to the pot.
Peel the potatoes, cut into eighths and add to the pot.
Wipe the mushrooms, cut into quarters and add to the pot.
Add a teaspoon or two of mustard, season to taste, add a little water if necessary which you can use to rinse the warming dish, I think you could also add a squeezed orange or two and some soy sauce if you have any I wanted an inch or two of liquid in the bottom, but not too much - and certainly not to cover. Put the lid on the pressure cooker, get it up to temperature and leave to cook for 30 minutes.
Give it a good shake every ten minutes to make sure nothing is sticking and burning.
Wash everything up, clean the surfaces, set the table.
Serve the stew. It won't need anything extra (though I did consider couscous - quick and easy) - the potatoes will have started to break down nicely and it should be rich and thick.
There was none of this leftover - which is definitely a good sign.

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