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Such A Goose
Christmas Presents

Finally after all that marmalading, baking and tuiling, Christmas is HERE!
The presents are unwrapped, the stockings are emptied, the liquor miniatures therein have been imbibed, the kids are drunk, and the goose is cooking.

Flora joined us again this year thus making this an unbreakable Christmas tradition (too late now Flora - you can never escape us) and bringing her usual cheesy board, plus some groovy bloody mary vodkas, novelty Christmas recipe ideas, and a surprise collection of leftovers from her school's Christmas party. Kurt and the kids found the oysters particularly challenging. But I enjoyed them - thanks Flora!

Cheeses by Flora:
  • Morbier, famously Comté-like cheese with an ash layer in the middle
  • Rachel - a goats cheese from Somerset. Apparently named after a Rachel who was sweet, curvy and slightly nutty.
      Well Rachel, two out of three ain't bad, right??
  • Moliterno - a raw sheep's milk Pecorino from Sardinia, infused with black truffle after aging
  • Murcia al vino (Murcian wine cheese) - a raw goats milk cheese from Murcia in Spain; washed in red wine during maturation
  • Apres Soleil - an extremely rich and pleasant hard cows milk cheese matured in Swiss caves where they are regularly bathed in sunlight.
As usual I contributed unnecessary extra cheeses of my own to ensure at least some of them would begin mouldering before we could finally finish them off well into January. They sort of fell into my bag while I was shopping for goats cheese at Bradford's only, but quite excellent, delicatessen; Roswithas. Yep, Bradford is an actual cultural desert.

Cheeses by Karl:
  • Smelly Ha'peth - a soft blue cow's milk cheese from The Saddleworth Cheese Company in Lancashire, although tarred on its own website with the appelation artisan it's actually not a bad cheese. From a Coronation Street actor anyway.
  • Old Amsterdam - a Dutch (as far as I can tell) gouda (though not actually made in Gouda) matured for two years, packed with naturally developed salt crystals and a personal favourite of mine.
  • and of course, a gooey slab of Gorgonzola
Other than some tension concerning just how much cleaning the fridge handles really require in the middle of dessert, the dinner went swimmingly, despite:
Stuff we (re-)learned this year:
  • We made our usual mistake of trying to time the goose to be cooked at serving time.
    We should have allowed an hour resting time (such a large goose will still retain plenty of heat wrapped in foil), meaning we could organise the veg and roasties in the final hour to be perfectly cooked, as opposed to somewhat crispy in our case.
    Since our 6kg goose took slightly over 5 hours at Gas Mark 3 we should have started it 6 hours before planning to serve.
  • No-one likes soggy tuiles starters.
  • Good things to do with the inevitable leftover Christmas pud:
    • Fry with savouries like bacon, black pudding or mushrooms
    • Fry and combine with some of that excess Christmas cheese (Smelly Ha'peth is nice)
Happy Goose guzzling y'all.

Tuiles Stuffed with Goat's Cheese Fondant and Red Onion Marmalade
starter veg
Are these rolled wafer cigars tuiles or is the term tuile reserved for those pringle-shapes? You decide!

I pulled the tuile recipe from Mary Berry (though I'm only making her cigar-shapes here, and just using a half-quantity of the recipe below), the idea for the filling from the fabulous Market Bistro in King's Lynn, which now, sadly, seems to have closed :( and the proportions for goats cheese fondant from Adam Talbot. (Be sure to use a soft but fairly strong cheese.)
Little did I guess how much trouble it would be to reproduce as a Christmas dinner appetiser.

For starters (ahem!) I couldn't find a tuile template so I artfully cut my own from a silicon muffin tray but I suspect the real deal would have been considerably thinner, making it very difficult to crisp up my fat discs. This meant I had to spend far too much time practicing getting the cooking time and temperatures right. Perhaps I should have tried cutting down the lid of one of those plastic sweetie tubs?

Secondly, even after turning out a half-dozen acceptably crispy tuiles, once you stuff them with a vaguely moist filling they quickly soften. So they would have needed stuffing almost immediately before being served - not a practical Christmas plan at all then.

To cut a long story short, no one was impressed. Damn soggyphobes.

The tuile paste should make about 20 cigars or tuiles

  • red onion marmalade (other versions are available)

  • For the Tuiles:
  • 200g/7oz butter, softened
  • 175g/6oz icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 large free-range eggs, whites only, lightly beaten
  • 200g/7oz plain flour

  • For the Goats Cheese Fondant:
  • 500g goats cheese (rind trimmed)
  • 50ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
To make the tuiles mixture:
Use a hand-held electric mixer to mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a paste.
Gradually add the egg whites, whisking all the time.
Fold in the flour a little at a time beating with a wooden spoon between each addition.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

To bake the tuiles, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
Line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone sheet and place the tuile template in position.
Spread some of the plain tuile paste over the cut out shapes of the template using a palette knife.
Draw the blade across the template to remove any surplus paste. Remove the template by peeling away from the tray, leaving you with paste shapes on the baking tray.
You should be able to make about 20 discs though rectangles can make better cigars (from the full ingredients list above).

Bake for 5-6 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Remove from the oven and, working very quickly, bend the warm tuiles around wooden spoon handles to make cigar shapes.
You might need to experiment, as I did, with exact oven temperature and cooking times to get the tuiles an all-over golden colour so they crisp once cooled. It could take quite a few sacrificial tuiles to get right, though perhaps it might not be so challenging if the tuiles are rolled thin enough.
I needed to cook them for quite a lot longer at a lower temperature to get them to crisp through without burning at the edges.

If the cooked tuiles start to harden before you have chance to shape them all, return them to the oven for 30 seconds to one minute to soften. They should keep crispy for a day in an airtight container.

To make the goats cheese fondant:
Place the gelatine leaves in cold water for 3 minutes until soft. Meanwhile, warm the milk on the stove and dissolve the soaked gelatine in the warm milk. Place the goat’s cheese, cream and milk mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth.
The mixture will set in the fridge in about 3 hours.

To Serve:
Fill one end of each crisp you wish! tube with fondant using a small spoon. Turn over, push a dollop of red onion marmalade into the centre of the tube, then close the end with more fondant.
Serve immediately.
To pack the fondant into my wafer cigars I had to first fluff the chilled fondant with a fork to loosen it.
If you just want to present the fondant in particular shapes you could use an ice cream scoop to get nice balls, or you could chill the mixture rolled in cling film to produce cylinders.

Blackpool Sea Front

Finally safely harboured in Fleetwood marina near Blackpool for the winter. Don't ask me about Liverpool. Just don't.

Blackpool in mid (or early) winter is a bleak place, though probably no less tacky than it would be in summer.
The famous tower still dominates the landscape and would probably be great to visit if it wasn't so freakishly expensive, and their shoreline tram system is very efficient for getting in and out, particularly since it runs right out to the marina. Plus they run fabulous old heritage trams along the central section which are great entertainment.
At this time of year you can also still find remnants of the celebrated annual Blackpool illuminations. That you just missed. Anything related to Doctor Who clearly being the best.

It's obvious that the seafront has been heavily invested in recent times and is littered with uplifting sculptures and quirky landscaping though I can't help wondering if that money could not have been better spent on infrastructure or the local architecture which is mostly still quite brutalist and feels very run-down (Coral Island excepted). Mind you, I did discover there the best advent calendar in the world from Thorntons - with a delicious individual continental truffle for each day of Advent. So it's not all doom and gloom.
It's the true meaning of Christmas folks - yumsk!
Take note Thorntons - any sponsorship is gratefully received.

I spent a few days onboard practicing making Christmas tuiles, and using up more of my boat's barley supplies (see below), but then decamped to my brother's place in Bradford for the rest of the Christmas period. Handy for a helping hand with making up our Christmas red onion marmalade from the kiddies and getting all the Christmas baking done in a real oven. Sheer luxury.

I also felt the need to get a hair cut. First one of the year! Brrrrrr.

Barley with Peas and Mushrooms
veg side
I've been struggling to get through the surprising amount of barley I've accumulated on my boat.
Here's something I did with a cup of it. Like most barley dishes a little goes a long way.
Also, I've noticed that overcooked barley starts to take on an oddly bitter edge, so serve as soon as the grains have softened.

Serves 2-4

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • a dozen button mushrooms, quartered
  • two handfuls of pea pods, podded
  • half an onion, quartered and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 500ml stock
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and sweat the mushrooms until they begin to lose water, add the podded peas and set aside.
Heat another tablespoon of butter and sweat the onions, then add the garlic, cook until they are on the edge of colouring.
Add the barley, cover with stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the stock is absorbed.
Add the mushrooms.
Dress with a little extra butter and stir through.
Meh, s'OK.

Savoy Cabbage with Truffled Cheese
veg side
I was inspired to try making this by King's Lynn's Market Bistro, a true jewel of a restaurant. Richard and Lucy Golding's bistro is small but their food is remarkably thorough - well worth a visit if you're sailing by :)
Though sadly not any more since it seems to have closed :(

If you're lucky enough to have some truffled cheese, you should use it to make this dish. If not you can finely grate some truffle into ordinary cheese. Or if, like me, you have some good truffle oil on hand you can use that, but don't skimp on it, in quality or quantity - it completely makes the dish!

Forget the truffle flavoured oil you'll find at your Local Fucking Supermarket™, which contains no truffle. It's chemically flavoured with such ersatz organosulfur compounds as 2,4-dithiapentane.
If you don't want to make your own truffle oil (or truffle your own cheese) you could try Truffle Hunter's White Truffle Oil which does at least have the benefit of containing some actual truffle. And tastes pretty authentic too.

Serves 4

  • ½ a savoy or spring cabbage.
  • 300g cheese, grated it needs to be well-flavoured and meltable - a strong cheddar, gruyère, emmental possibly
  • 1-2 tablespoons truffle oil that's good truffle oil - nothing produced by your Local Fucking Supermarket™
Halve the cabbage and cut out the stalky parts. Discard the other half. Though I suppose you could use it in another dish :)
Blanch for 1-2 minutes then drain.
Put into an ovenproof dish and slide under the grill until the outer leaves begin to char.
Drizzle with truffle oil, cover with the grated cheese and drizzle with a little more truffle oil.
Return to the grill until the cheese is nicely melted and beginning to brown at the edges.
I'm not sure what the best way to cook the cabbage will be for this dish - I par-boiled mine as above, then I tried baking at 200°C for 20 minutes to dry it out, but it didn't seem to be on the point of crisping enough to melt cheese, so then I put it under the grill instead. I must say it was excellent, if a little watery at the bottom, but I think you could skip the roasting step and go straight for the grilling. I'm not even sure the blanching is required; perhaps you could grill it the whole way?
Maybe I'll try it again and find out.

Chorizo, Cabbage, Beans and Barley Stew
meat main stew
Another step in the process of cleansing my boat of barley. Hurrah!

Serves 4

  • olive oil
  • 2 tsps mixed peppercorns and allspice, ground
  • 2 leeks, green parts sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • a few inches of chorizo
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsps tomato purée
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cups of ale/beer
  • ½ cup barley
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • ½ savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon brined green peppercorns or capers optional
  • 1 tsp salt
Slice the leeks into rounds, wash and drain if necessary, fry gently in a generous amount of olive oil until they begin to collapse.
Add a couple of teaspoons of crushed mixed peppercorns and allspice.
Peel the carrots, halve or quarter and slice. Add to the pan and fry a little.
Remove the chorizo skin, halve or quarter and slice. Add to the pan.
Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Add to the pan.
Add the tomato purée and fry gently to remove any bitterness.
Add the beer, barley, drained kidney beans, de-seeded and roughly chopped green pepper, bay leaves, a teaspoon of salt and bring to a simmer.
Throw in some green peppercorns or capers if you like.
Add the shredded savoy cabbage and cook until the barley softens and the cabbage is cooked.
I thought this was going to be severely under-flavoured but it's actually a surprisingly tasty stew.

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Chorizo and Dolcelatte
pasta meat main
An ideal one-pot boat dish.

Serves 1

  • 4 oz pasta I used fusilli
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2" chorizo, peeled, diced
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, chopped
  • 1 hunk dolcelatte, crumbled
  • 1 tsp capers or green peppercorns in brine if you have any
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
Boil the pasta until al dente in a small saucepan, drain and set aside.
Return the pan to the hob and heat a tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil then sweat the sliced garlic and chopped chorizo.
Add the capers or green peppercorns if you have any!, sund-dried tomatoes, dolcelatte, and sour cream.
Stir, warming until the dolcelatte begins to melt into the sauce.
Remove from the heat, stir in the mayonnaise and the pasta.
Most excellent. Quick, easy and just taste those calories!

Beans with Chocolate and Truffle Oil
veg vegan side
Bloody hell, you find quite a few recipes for white beans with truffle oil, but it actually looks like I might have invented this.
Go me!

Serves 4

  • 1 cup dried beans I used borlotti. I'm sure any dried beans or lentils would work but I think dark, earthy beans will be better.
  • stock I used an Oxo cube. So sue me!
  • pinch of salt
  • a generous grating of 100% cacao chocolate I used some of Willie's Cacao Venezuelan Black..
  • a splash of truffle oil
  • couple of tbsps crème fraîche optional except for vegans
Soak the beans overnight. Drain.
Cover with stock or water with an Oxo cube in it!, add salt to taste, bring to the boil and simmer covered for half to one hour until the beans are soft, then uncover and boil until they are almost dry.
Crush roughly using a potato masher, mix in the grated bitter chocolate, stir through a drizzle of quality truffle oil and serve with a spoon of sour cream.
Really good! Excellent balance of flavours, so good in fact that I just ate them on their own, but I think they'd go well with most meats or fowl.
I can now attest that these crushed beans do go well with fried pork chops, with a creamy mushroom sauce.

Stuffed Flank Steak
main meat
You might use large thin slices of skirt for this recipe (skirt is actually cut from the cow's diaphragm muscle).
Have your butcher thinly slice your flank steak from his giant hunk of flank. I'm a great fan of doing my meat cutting myself, but unless you have a hefty steak to cut into it's very difficult to get sufficiently even and thin slices for yourself. If your butcher doesn't have a hunk of flank find yourself another butcher.

The original Chunky Chef recipe slices up the rolled steak log into short segments (having first strategically tied loops of string around the log), then secures each of these pinwheels with a soaked cocktail stick. She then sears these rolls for 2-3 minutes top and bottom in a cast-iron griddle before roasting them at 350°F for about 10 minutes.
She also uses a mixture of parsley, sage and basil, which sounds quite weird to me.

Serves 4

  • 1 large, thin, flank steak about ⅓lb
  • half a dozen cloves of garlic
  • half an onion or a few shallots
  • olive oil
  • a bunch of parsley or other herbs
  • slices of prosciutto
  • salt & pepper
Using a small blender or stick blender, purée the onion (or shallot), garlic and parsley other herbs are also available with enough olive oil to lubricate. Or you could just finely mince the whole lot.
Season with salt and pepper.
Place the steak in between two larger pieces of cling film and bash the hell out of it with a mallet or a rolling pin. Leaving a border at the edges, generously smear the steak with the onion purée (save any leftovers for your minty mung beans. Cover the herb mixture with overlapping paper-thin slices of prosciutto I used Serrano ham. Cover the ham with overlapping, thin, slices of provolone or other melty cheese I used Maasdam. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6, heat an oiled oven tray one with at least a small lip there will be juices. Roll up the steak into a log, arranged so that the meat grain will run along the length of the log. Tie the roll up with loops of string, if it doesn't look as if it will hold together as it is mine was fine, season the outside and dress with a little olive oil, lay on the oven tray seam-side down and roast for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and cooked through. Leave to rest tented in tin foil for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving with a balsamic glaze.
Very good use of flank steak, which can be a bit on the dry side.

Balsamic Glaze
veg vegan sauce
As might be used to glaze a stuffed flank steak.

Makes about a cup

  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp butter optional
Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil, stir until the sugar dissolves (adjust the sugar to (careful!) taste), and simmer until the glaze thickens and is reduced by about half.
Stir in a tablespoon of butter too, if you like.
Drizzle over your meat of choice. Or salmon. Or blue cheese. It goes well with blue cheese, like a rich gastrique. Or vegetables - it would probably go with vegetables too.

Minty Mung Beans
veg vegan side
Goes pretty well with a stuffed flank steak!

  • mung beans
  • garlic
  • shallots or onions
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • fresh mint or mint concentrate
Cover the mung beans, bring them to the boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes until soft. No need to soak.
Blend the chopped shallot (or onion), garlic and parsley with enough olive oil to make a paste.
Boil off any excess water, stir in the shallot mixture and cook a little more.
Stir in the mint or mint concentrate (mint in vinegar) and serve.
Pretty good beans. I added the herb mixture because it was left over from the accompanying stuffed flank steak, but it seemed like a fortuitous addition.
Thou Shall Hev a Fishy on the Littlehampton Dishy
The Needles

Littlehampton is a rather nice West Sussex seaside town and about the only safe haven between Brighton and Chichester Harbour (as the yacht sails).
The pontoons there sit in the tidal Arun river, though, which mostly disappears at low tide and only offers navigable depth for a keel boat for a short time. So you need to plan your passages quite carefully. Particularly if you're departing westwards, hoping to make Portsmouth or Gosport within the day and having to round the notoriously awkward Selsey Bill with its narrow channels and dangerous rocks.
Not surprisingly it was precisely here that my auto-helm decided to pack up, providing me the luxury of rediscovering how damned difficult single-handedly tacking and gybing a full-sized yacht is without one, not to mention the difficulty of stowing sails and setting lines and fenders coming into Gosport marina without the autohelm to take charge of the boat while I worked (sorry HMS Queen Elizabeth).
Absolutely bloody typically the Solent there is the busiest sea area I've yet sailed in. Battleships, cargo ships, yachts (many racing), speedboats, ferries, ocean liners, aircraft carriers, patrol boats absolutely everything absolutely everywhere.
Funnily enough the only vessel which tried to run me down was another sodding yacht who seemed determined to pass as close to me as possible, requiring me to stay out of his way (being windward boat, though since I wasn't racing, the colregs overtaking rule takes precedence) and becoming shouty when I didn't, because I'd reduced sail so much to make it easier to non-auto-helm the boat that when the wind eased at that very moment I lost all steering.
At least he had the good grace to apologise as he raced off into the distance.

Arun District Council commissioned a series of six recipe-engraved waymarkers along Littlehampton's River Walk to reflect the historical use of the local 18th century Oyster Pond (now a boating lake) used to store oysters brought ashore as the trade grew. I include their recipes for your entertainment, maybe I'll try one or two of the less disgusting ones at some future date?
Oddly for a town at the mouth of the river Arun none of the recipes are for the traditional local dish of Arundel Mullet - served with a sauce of anchovies, lemon, red wine, onion, herbs and nutmeg.

I took no photos of Littlehampton itself (well, other than the recipe stones), so instead enjoy these views taken approaching the needles on the far side of the Isle of Wight a week later. Having repaired the auto-helm at Gosport courtesy of the nearby Raymarine dealer.

True story - it turns out to be possible to sail (well, drift) a small keel boat between the needles at the very top of a spring tide. Stupid but possible. It certainly raised eyebrows on the little fishing skiff that was casting lines in the gap. His advice, after I asked him what depth he had, was that I would be mad to attempt the passage, and expressed curiosity as to whether I couldn't bloody well see the horrible sharp rocks under his hull (actually I couldn't). So I ultra-cautiously bobbed through the empty socket left when the (actually) needle-shaped pillar Lot's Wife collapsed in a 1764 storm.

Around full flood the tide really surges through the needles, and you would be foolish indeed to venture too close, but if you pick your moment around high water on a nice day you can casually float between the surviving chalk stacks without risking too violent an impaling. At the shallowest point I had a full half a meter under the keel, though I'm not sure how close pointy bits might have approached my flanks.

Needles and Light House
BETWEEN The Needles, baby!
Needles off the shore

Brighton Rocks
Brighton Pier

Or at least, Brighton Blue cheese rocks.
Brighton not so much.

Just along the coast from my birthplace, on which day the sea froze for the first time in living memory as my Mum never tired of pointing out every time I denied being the anti-Christ, Brighton is another sad reminder of Great Britain's Victorian heyday. Run-down and decrepit, you can still find small signs of it's former grandeur:
The skeletal sea stump remains of the old West Pier, the rusting rails of Volk's electric beach railway, a closed and faded Peter Pan playground, and the endless, endless cast iron and massively cemented seafront parade.
Like an abandoned palace they feel simultaneously magnificent and empty and lonely.

Still, the chavtastic town centre has one irrefutable claim to faim - Real California Burritos & Tacos. Finally!

Brighton marina (a long walk from the town centre) is massive, expensive, but incredibly welcome after the exhausting 60 mile crossing from St Valery-en-Caux. It's also well-catered with a chandlery and an up-market shopping mall, boasting an ersatz delicatessan selling unlikely cured meats and Brighton's Blue cheese.
I made good use of the latter in a few onboard pasta dishes.
And then cooked a few non-blue-cheese pasta dishes just to cleanse my palate.

Blue Cheese Linguine
Simple, tasty, and you don't have to use Brighton Blue cheese.

Serves 1

  • linguine
  • olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • half a dozen cherry tomatoes, quartered or eighthed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • couple teaspoons capers
  • Brighton Blue cheese, cut into pieces or grated
  • mixed peppercorns, ground
  • sea salt, ground
Slightly under-cook the linguine, drain, retaining a couple of tablespoons of pasta water.
Season the pasta with ground mixed peppercorns and ground sea salt, lubricate with a little olive oil and set aside.
Re-using the pasta pot, fry the sliced shallots and garlic in a pool of olive oil until they soften and begin to caramalize around the edges.
Add the tomatoes and lime zest and cook until they begin to soften, then add the capers, thin with some of the pasta water and add the pieces of blue cheese.
Stir until the cheese melts, add the lime juice, mix the sauce through the pasta and serve.
Add to my looooong list of quick 'n' easy cheesy pastas.

Tomato Gastrique and Blue Cheese Linguine
pasta main
A boat filled with many vinegars (not to mention the grains, beans and the hundreds of kinds of flour). What's a sailor to do?

Serves 2

  • linguine
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tblsp honey
  • 2 tblsps red wine vinegar other varieties of vinegar are available
  • half dozen cherry tomatoes, quartered, or eighthed
  • 200g Brighton Blue cheese, chopped or grated other blue cheeses are available
  • mixed peppercorns, ground
  • sea salt, ground
Slightly undercook the linguine, drain retaining a couple of tablespoons of the water, then grate some mixed peppercorns and sea salt into the pasta, lubricate with a knob of butter or olive oil and set aside.
Re-using the pasta pot, add the honey, vinegar, sliced shallots and sliced garlic. Simmer and reduce until the mixture begins to caramelize. The stronger (and less sweet) you like it, the darker you should cook it.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften, loosen the sauce with the reserved pasta water and add the pieces (or gratings) of blue cheese
Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve.
I made it a little bit too sweet - I should probably cook the gastrique down harder.
It does make the boat smell nice though :)

Linguine with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Cream
main pasta fish
  • linguine
  • smoked salmon, chopped
  • red pepper, grilled, peeled
  • horseradish, grated
  • lemon juice
  • salt
  • double cream
  • crème fraîche
  • parmesan optional
Quarter the red pepper, remove core and seeds, lay on an oven tray and grill until the skin chars. Leave to cool in a plastic bag, then remove the skin and cut into chunks.

Grate the horseradish and mix with lemon juice and a little salt, set aside.
Grate a little parmesan for topping if you like.
Cook the pasta, drain, stir through chopped smoked salmon, horseradish mixture, double and sour cream.
Serve dressed with a grating of parmesan if you like.
Another rough-and-ready pasta dish. The red peppers works surprisingly well though.

Pasta con Jalapeño Tequila
Mexican pasta. Ay, Caramba!
meat pasta
I still have a jar of tequila-pickled chillies (not, unfortunately, jalapeños which would have been more appropriate I guess) left over from some David Bann inspired chilli margaritas, so I tried to get rid of them...

  • pasta
  • tequila with chillies or not
  • ham
  • double cream
  • soured cream
  • parmesan, grated
Cut the ham into thick matchsticks, pack into a small bowl and (barely) cover with chilli-flavoured tequila. Leave to marinate for an hour or two.
If you're using tequila with whole chillies in it then feel free to slice in some of them too.
Cook the pasta and drain.
Heat a 50/50 mixture of cream and soured cream without boiling, add some grated parmesan (or other cheese), stir to melt then add the ham and tequila and heat through without boiling. Mix with the pasta.
Serve with additional grated cheese.
The flavour is quite good, kind of a poor Mexican's pasta a la vodka - Ay Caramba!
To be honest I didn't like the hard slices of pickled chillies. I'd skip those next time. Or cut them up really tiny.
There'll Be Bluebirds Over The Brown Cliffs Of Dieppe
Brown Cliffs of Dieppe

Why American bluebirds should be flying over the cliffs of either Dover or Dieppe is anyone's guess - maybe they escaped from a zoo? Anyhoo, they flew us to victory in a World War so who am I to judge?

You can see the coast of France from the shithole that is Dover (it's only about 18 miles away), so I thought I should visit. Well, it would have been rude not to :)

I didn't fancy Calais much, and I wanted to work my way westwards anyway, so I aimed my boat at Boulogne and set sail in a brisk beam breeze.
It wasn't so much that I'd underestimated the Channel tide (which runs at a surprising brisk pace in the middle - reaching over 3 knots at springs) as that I just assumed I would be better able to make up for lost ground when I got closer to France and escaped the strongest tide. So instead of holding my heading for Boulogne I allowed my course to drift eastwards - bearing away for the speed advantage, and ending up on the wrong side of Cap Gris Nez (The Grey Nose) headland with a long beat between me and Boulogne.
My cunning plan of using the bay behind Gris Nez to get out of the adverse tide was defeated by the unexpected (to me) shallowness of the bay, meaning I just had to grit my teeth and sail into the wind for hours, inching my way along the (rather dull) coastline making about half a knot. I finally, and extraordinarily gratefully, arrived at Boulogne's absolutely massive outer harbour in the dark, against a strong wind and heavy sea.
Next time I'll make sure to hold the course I need from the get-go and avoid sacrificing ground for speed.

Funny story, I had always believed the phrase éminence gris meant eminent pig, and so assumed the headland was called (which I thought appropriate)The Pig's Nose.
Until I looked it up.
And then figured out that the former phrase must actually refer to grey men. Live and learn.

The cliffs along the Normandy shoreline around Dieppe (known optimistically as the Alabaster coast) quite closely resemble the more famous cliffs of Dover. Except dirtier-looking. But about as interesting. Fortunately the actual harbour towns are really lovely, authentically historic in a way that British coastal towns are not, having held on fiercely not only to their architecture (they are absolutely littered with chateaux, and nary a cement tower block in sight) but to their traditional markets and small shops.

Between the chateau of Boulogne and the chateau of Dieppe you find the first St Valery, reached by sailing across a very long and tortuous stretch of the Somme, (I doubt we ever fought over it since it spends most of its time underwater. On the other hand - I have seen Blackadder...) and called, not surprisingly, St Valery sur Somme.
The navigable channel is less than obvious and I was relieved to have a yacht to follow in. Though I was less happy when he ran aground in front of me and I had to quickly plan my own course. Turned out he was English anyway, and had no more idea than I did. Or apparently less.

The other side of the chateau of Dieppe (when you can finally escape the first) lies the second Saint Valery - this one en Caux. Quite an old-fashioned harbour town with a thriving local fishing industry (and some fine cheese shops selling fine truffled cheese) where you can find heaps of gleaming whelks for those with more adventurous culinary taste.

For myself, next week I shall be mostly eating this pot of Mae Ploy's Thai green curry paste...

Things I've learned whilst living on a boat:
  1. There may be a reason your toilet smells awful.
  2. The reason your toilet may smell.
  3. You will always discover an item of dirty laundry, immediately you finish doing the laundry.
  4. Boats do not heal themselves. Except for that compass bubble. That healed itself.
Some of these things may not be exclusive to life aboard ship.

The actual reason my toilet smells awful is an unfortunate side-effect of adding a small device to the inlet pipe which, ironically, is supposed to make the toilet smell better.
It's a pot of a hard disinfectant material which dissolves over time into the inlet water colouring and odourising the inlet water in imitation of those blue tablets you get for real toilets.
Unfortunately, once the disinfectant block has completely dissolved, the container makes an ideal trap for sea-going algae, slime and scum to grow and fester.
Somewhat defeating the purpose.

I have no explanation for the disappearance of my compass bubble.

fish starter
Saint Valery-en-Caux on Normandy's Alabaster coast is a medieval fishing port which now does mostly tourism. However, it does still boast an interesting quay of fish stalls where the six local fishing boats offload and sell their wares direct from the sea.

I noticed one of the stalls selling mounds of whelks (bulots) which seemed particularly popular with the older locals, so I thought I'd give them a go. The only experience I've had with whelks is eating them pre-cooked and heavily vinegared in English coastal towns where they resemble nothing so much as pickled tumours.
The fisherman managed to convey that I should boil them in water for 10 minutes then eat them with salt and pepper. I soaked mine in a bucket of seawater for a few hours first to let them purge themselves of any grit (easy enough when you live on a boat floating in seawater), then fished them out and gave them a thorough brushing while their little feet were wriggling and extending, to get rid of as much mud and sand as possible.
I'd seen recipes calling for them to be cooked in seawater, but to be honest I've not had much success with cooking things in seawater (though I haven't tried lobster) so I used fresh water, and cooked them for about 8 minutes.

They were delicious! Pity I'd been put off all those years - but they did get a bit boring after a half-dozen. Garlic butter may be required.

You can prise your cooked whelk gently out of its shell with a slight twisting motion using a small knife, fork, pin or cocktail stick, whereupon you'll find various whelky parts:
  • A hard leathery plate called the operculum at the bottom of the foot which seals the shell when the whelk withdraws inside. This part is inedible.
  • The solid foot muscle closest to the opening of the shell, white with black speckles, and definitely the tastiest bit.
  • A mass of yellow, gelatinous, black-streaked and vaguely translucent guts, gills and organs which resembles the insides of a mussel and surrounds the top of the foot muscle like a hooded cowl. Edible. Probably.
  • A darker purple tubular proboscis which connects these latter two and is likely full of grit - this is the whelk's toothed feeding tube which you can pull out and discard
Allegedly you can eat the whole thing (apart from the operculum) once you've extracted it from its shell, but I suspect that depends on how large it is. The choicest part is definitely the foot muscle, and in my opinion for best results you should discard the innards, like those of a scallop. I found these to have a slightly unpleasant flat, dead flavour and they're easily pulled away from the solid foot if you want to get rid of them. Make sure you get the proboscis tube too.

As you eat them, try not to think of pickled tumours. Or foetuses. Or warts.

You'll need 4-6 per person

  • whelks

  • Dressings:
  • malt vinegar The classic British accompaniment. If you like that kind of thing.
  • melted garlic butter
  • aïoli
Thoroughly brush off and rinse your whelks - if you can soak them for a few hours (or days) first in seawater (or salted water) all the better.
Simmer the whelks in plenty of water (possibly salted) for 5-10 minutes.
Prise the whelk out of its shell, pull free the solid white muscle and discard the leathery foot pad.
Surprisingly pleasant once you've got rid of all the yeuchy bits. Either that or eat them with your eyes closed.

Snails in Garlic Butter
meat starter
First catch your snails - about a dozen per person, depending on their size. Big fat juicy diners will require more snails.
Or you could have them donated by a kindly Belgian couple in France who were given them in turn by some locals who picked them off the beach - where they were snacking on some tasty seaweed they'd found above the tide-line.

Now they need to be purged since some of the algae and detritus they feast on might not agree with the human digestive system. Rinse them off with fresh water, then feed them on nice food for three days, rinsing them off in-between feeds. Cornmeal, oatmeal, flour or lettuce is good. Herbs might also work - particularly dill, (snails end up tasting of what they've been eating apparently). You should see a lot of poo.

Finally they need to be dried for three days. Hanging them in a net would be ideal - I used a plastic bag with (small) holes punched in it. There should be more poo.
Now they are ready to cook.

Serve a dozen per person

  • snails
  • butter
  • garlic
  • lots of time
Throw your purged, dried snails in boiling water and simmer for 3 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain. Gently prise the snails bodies out of their shells and wash in heavily salted cold water for 10-15 minutes, then rinse.
I didn't like the look of the green-tinged and mucousy snails' bellies (feet?) so I cut them away. This might have been the hepatopancreas (digestive gland) which I've read is usually removed in larger snails (Gros Gris) but can be eaten in smaller varieties (Petit Gris).
I chose not to.
The best part is definitely the curly snail meat.
I also heard that after the drying you should cut away any crust which forms around the shell opening. I didn't do this - I don't know if the issues are related.
Meanwhile clean the shells thoroughly (I boiled them in the salted soaking water afterwards). Mash finely chopped or pressed garlic with good butter. Press some into a few choice snail shells, then push in a snail body. If you have one of those fancy restaurant oven dishes with the little snail dimples, now is the time to use it. Otherwise dot a small ovenproof pot or ramekin with some of the garlic butter, fill with the snails and a few stuffed shells for effect, then top with the rest of the butter.
I found it too fiddly to bother cooking (and eating) all the snails in their shells, so I just filled a few token ones.
Bake at 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for about 15 minutes until the garlic begins to cook down and take a little colour.
Serve with some nice crusty bread and a really tiny fork.
Classic! And ready in under a week.

London's Barbecuing
Tower Bridge

My uni friends Chris and Cathy came by for dinner.
I was moored in Limehouse marina on the Isle of Dogs at the time - near Canary Wharf. A surprisingly salubrious area considering its proximity to Tower Hamlets, and walking distance from the new Billingsgate Fish Market which moved there from the City of London in 1982 - handy for me! Not so handy is the fact that you have to shop there between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and though they do sell to the public, they're not interested in cutting anything up. So you can buy a whole lobster, a whole crab, a whole salmon, a half-dozen scallops in their shell or anything by the ton, but if you want a few monkfish steaks you have to shop elsewhere; say the Canary Wharf branch of Waitrose, just around the corner.

My ex-skipper John kindly donated me a boat barbecue before I left Edinburgh - one of those which clamps onto your boat's stern rails. I wasn't completely convinced that it wouldn't just swivel round and dump the entire contents of the barbecue into the sea. Or worse, onto the hull and set fire to it. But it tested out pretty well with a whole (un-burning) bag of charcoal sitting on the grill so considering the extremely favourable weather, and having the approval of the marina, I decided that this was the time to crank it up. And it worked like a charm!

I'd originally been considering en-papillotte dishes - I was thinking of something like salt cod or monkfish with chorizo on a bed of carrots, flavoured with anise for Chris - the carnivore. Plus a bag with salmon, asparagus, and vodka flavoured with liquorice or perhaps vanilla, along these lines, for Cathy - the pesky tarian. I thought I could do these on the barbecue easily enough, but when I discovered that Billingsgate didn't sell fish by the piece I decided to mainly go with a whole-fish theme.
I also abandoned my plans for panna cotta dessert - partly because it started to feel like overkill and partly 'cos I couldn't be bothered figuring out how to substitute agar agar for the gelatine to suit someone strangely averse to boiled cows' hooves.

Given how hot it's been recently, and how hot it was forecast to be on Saturday, I thought it might be pleasant to have a couple of cold dishes too - which gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a dish I've been wanting to take a bash at ever since eating it at Edinburgh's Castle Terrace restaurant: a salmon tartar with puffed rice and wasabi ice cream.
Popping the rice turned out not to be such a problem, having read up on how to do it. Basically you cook some rice as normal (doesn't seem important what kind - I used Thai jasmine), then dry it (I baked it in the oven), then you deep-fry it to make it pop. Apparently you can puff wholegrain rice without pre-boiling since it explodes out of the husk, but I didn't try that.
That worked pretty well, though because the oil temperature has to be very high, and the rice scooped out almost instantly, you can only really fry very small batches. Fortunately this dish doesn't require very much puffed rice so that's not such an issue, and you can just pick out the grains which burn or don't pop.
The real problem for me was how to make ice cream on a boat with only a fridge!??
Well, since the temperature control knob in my fridge has seized up at arctic the element freezes solid, which means I can lay a small freezer bag of ice cream mixture on top of it, squidging the bag around occasionally to break up the ice crystals as it sets. Fortunately this dish doesn't need much ice cream either.
I also threw in a new (to me) Nigel Slater recipe for chilled crab soup.

Worried that my guests might not have enough to eat Ha Ha!, or at least that they might like something to soak up all the garlic juices, I had a Pyrex bowl of seasoned couscous standing by to which I'd added grated lemon peel and chopped parsley. In the end no one seemed desperate for more food and I didn't get around to making it. It's a handy thing to have ready though - all you need to do is add water!

Beforehand I put two whole heads of garlic in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes in a moderate oven (160°C/Gas Mark 3) until they softened, then squidged out the cloves into a bowl. I mixed half the roast garlic with butter, chopped parsley and salt & pepper then warmed it in a small saucepan for brushing over the fish on the barbecue you could add lemon zest and chilli flakes too if you liked. The other garlic head I kept for filling aubergines.
I didn't want to bake the (smallish) aubergines from scratch on the barbecue as I figured it would take too long and my barbecue is too small to dedicate so much space for so long. So I pre-cooked them in the microwave boo! hiss! for 2-3 minutes until they softened. I also threw them in the oven with the steak to warm back up again probably not necessary before cutting a slice out of the top of each, stuffing with garlic and crumbled feta cheese, and finishing them off on the barbecue.

The steak I also partly pre-cooked in the oven since it was so large I was afraid to burn the outside before warming it through on the barbecue, and didn't want to cut it down first.

I made up three barbecue flavourings, the first I kept warm in a small saucepan and the latter two I poured into plastic squeezy bottles for ease of delivery: And here's the result...

On The Barbecue
A simply enormous Lobster
Rock Lobster!
With my favourite butter flavour of roast garlic and parsley.
Monkfish with St Agur
Monkfish steaks brushed with our ubiquitous roast garlic butter, grilled, then slathered with blue cheese.
And by God are they delicious!
Brushed with roast garlic butter, grilled, then squirted with lime juice or some of the lemon and Ricard dressing.
Freshly shelled, perfectly cooked, and not in the least bit leathery.
An 18oz Picanha Steak
Such an enormous thick hunk of Argentinian Picanha-cut cow rump that it needed pre-warming in a low oven before barbecuing to finish it off. Cut into manageable chunks and doused with the soy sauce dressing.
Tuna Steaks
Seasoned with salt and pepper and brushed with oil. Grilled, then dressed with the lemon and Ricard dressing.
Is how I'd have done them, if I'd bought any.
Salmon Steaks
I had intended to buy some tuna steaks to serve as above, but since Billingsgate Market only sells fish by the fish (or the case of fish) I'd ended up with a lot of salmon. So I served some grilled salmon steaks instead. Lightly seasoned and oiled before grilling - they'd've been OK with the lemon and Ricard dressing but they were delicious with wasabi ice cream (with extra wasabi!).

Salmon Tartar with Puffed Rice and Wasabi Ice Cream
My pièce de resistance.
Chilled Crab and Cucumber Soup
A refreshing break from hot food in the hot sun.
Seedy Bread
Made with seed & grain white flour according to Dan Lepard's technique for wholemeal bread.
Which works just as well with strong white flour.
Watermelon, Feta and Block Olive Salad
Served on rocket dressed with lemon and Ricard dressing, or at least it would have been if I'd remembered.
A handful of asparagus stalks thrown onto the barbecue every so often to char - they go well with everything.
Baked Aubergines
Stuffed with roast garlic and topped with feta cheese, in this case, since I already had some for the salad and couldn't be bothered also buying goat's cheese.
Though I admit that would have tasted significantly better.
Couscous with Parsley and Lemon Zest
Just in case :)

Barbecued Pineapple Slices
Fat slices of pineapple left on the dying barbecue until they began to blacken a little.
The perfect barbecue end. Well, possibly excepting another round of Sailor Jerry's rum and ginger beer (thanks Chris!).

Presto Pesto and Other Stories.
King's Lynn Across the Ouse.

There aren't that many places on the Wash that a yacht with a keel (or a mast) can sail into. Like its namesake across the Atlantic, Boston used to be a great fishing and trading port, but it no longer offers harbour for boats that can't drop their masts. Fosdyke and Wisbech are a long way inland, and I'm not even sure they're accessible for yachts. Which pretty much leaves King's Lynn, which offers a rather nice pontoon in the heavily tidal river Ooze Ouse in a spot with just enough water to keep my boat afloat at low water. The meandering passage from the wash across shallow mud flats into the river is just short enough make it in over a high tide. So I decided to pay a visit.

King's Lynn is also close enough to Cambridge to visit with my old friend Professor Nick. Bonus.
Nick invited me back to his place in Cambridge to spend the night and catch up with his lovely wife Belgium and his precocious children, though he didn't go so far as to offer me his washing machine to do all my smelly laundry.
Still, we had a gay old time revisiting our old university haunts, drinking 'til it hurt, and marvelling at the hordes of hipster douche-bags infesting the bars with lumberjack flannel and jihadi beards.

Back in King's Lynn, Nick and I went for lunch and discovered a completely a completely brilliant little restaurant - Richard and Lucy Golding's Market Bistro, which now seems, sadly, to have closed :( so good I had to revisit later to eat the rest of the menu.
It's a small place, and some of their tables are a little cramped, but they more than make up for it with their locally sourced, brilliantly inventive and incredibly thorough food. Their attention to detail is astonishing - I couldn't understand why the black pudding served with their rare breed pork collar course was so succulent , until they explained that they had taken a local black pudding, pureéd it, calcified it, reverse spherified it, then floured and deep-fried it to serve.
And this is just one of the four side dishes that come with the meat, bear in mind.
Now that's dedication!

Richard's chefery inspired me to attempt to reproduce both his luxurious spring cabbage with truffled cheese (an optional side dish) and his throwaway amuse bouche - goats cheese and onion marmalade tuile. With mixed success :)
So delicious.

Unfortunately next week I will be mostly eating pesto...

Pesto Salmon en Croûte
fish main
I made mine with a ½kg salmon fillet using a jar The Shame, The Shame! of roasted red pepper pesto, but a sun-dried tomato based version would be equally good.
Or green pesto - that will work too, though be careful not to overdo it.

Serves 4

  • pesto
  • a side of salmon (about 1kg), skinned, de-boned
  • puff pastry, rolled
  • parmesan, grated
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Skin the side of salmon and check for bones with your fingers. Remove any you find with fish tweezers.
Cut the salmon in half across its width.
Roll out a large enough sheet of puff pastry to wrap the salmon and lay one half of the salmon, skinned-side down, in the centre.
Season the salmon and smear with pesto, about a ½ inch thickness. Cover with a generous grating of parmesan. Lay the second piece of salmon on top skinned-side up, but reversed so that fat ends mate with thin ends, giving an even thickness all along the length.
Fold over the puff pastry and seal the salmon in you can brush on a little milk or beaten egg to help if you like. Turn over the salmon parcel, and cut a few slits in the pastry to release any steam.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put the parcel to chill, loosely covered, for 15 minutes to help the pastry to crisp, if you can be bothered. Especially if you aren't ready to cook it yet.
If you like you can cut small fish shapes out of any leftover pastry and use them to decorate the salmon parcel. You can also brush it with beaten egg, which will give it a golden glaze when cooked.
Lay the salmon parcel on an oiled baking sheet, seam-side down, and bake for about 30 minutes until cooked. You want the pastry to turn colour without overcooking the salmon. Use a skewer to test the middle of the fish - it should feel warm for medium salmon, piping hot when the fish is well done or overdone, as I would call it. You may have to adjust the oven temperature to get the pastry and fish ready at the same time.
I served mine with creamed spinach and dill salad potatoes (potatoes boiled, quartered, seasoned, and mixed with sour cream, mayonnaise, chopped dill. Probably a little mustard would work too).
If you'd like (and you will), serve with cauliflower with creamy pesto sauce, or with just the sauce made by heating a pint of double cream and stirring in the juice of a lemon, 4 tbsps red pesto and 4 tbsps chopped basil.
Ve hav vays of making you eat red pesto.

Cauliflower with Creamy Pesto Sauce
side veg
I've got a jar of red pesto to use up - can you tell?

Serves 4

  • 1 cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 pint double cream
  • 4 tbsps red pesto
  • 4 tbsps sliced basil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Break the cauliflower into florets and simmer until tender.
Press or purée the garlic and mix with the cream. Heat to a simmer, then add the pesto.
Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and lemon juice.
Pour over the cauliflower (or make the whole thing in one pot).
Yep, more pesto used.

Fantasy Cabbage Rolls
main meat
As transcribed from a bag of Nishiki sushi rice.
Sounds a bit mundane (not to mention un-roll-like) for it's exuberant title. Wonder how it would turn out.

Serves 5

  • 1 lb pound lean, ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 x 14½ oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¾ cup sushi rice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon oregano, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon basil, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ lb green cabbage, cut into bite-sized chunks (about 4 cups)
Heat large frying pan over high heat.
Add beef; sauté 3 to 4 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Add onion and garlic; sauté 1 minute longer.
Mix in tomatoes (undrained), breaking up with a spoon, rice, soy sauce, oregano, basil, pepper and 1-1¼ cups water.
Arrange cabbage on top. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
Cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
Stir cabbage into beef mixture.
Cover and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Boat Grub
Boat Grub

A random collection of food I cooked up on the boat, from savoury bread puddings to treacle puddings.
And some recipes that aren't puddings.
When I moved aboard I emptied the contents of my kitchen into the boat and now I should be doing all I can to use it all up. Trouble is, whenever I buy fresh food I end up using that first. And bacon sandwiches are sooooo delicious. I'm going to have to resist and force myself to improvise with the stores I have aboard, though I usually do manage to squeeze some dried beans or at least flour into every meal.
As you can see below, I don't always succeed but it does make for a fragrant vessel :)

Spaetzle (or Spätzle)
German egg noodles
staple pasta
Basically German pasta, and a good way to use up some flour. Unlike the Italian version you can use ordinary flour, not durum flour or semolina, and the mixture is made a lot sloppier with milk or water (milk produces a richer Spaetzle). Though the exact proportions of flour, egg and milk don't seem terribly important (I've seen recipes which treble the number of eggs) the mixture should end up like a very thick pancake batter - loose enough to pour slowly, but firm enough not to run through the tines of a fork. You can flavour the noodles with herbs (parsley for e.g.), garlic, spices (nutmeg is typical in Germany), or even add puréed squash to the mix.

There are a number of ways of creating the noodles from the batter, and a number of specialised tools available too. You can press the mixture through a colander or the back of a fat cheese grater using a spatula (slow, awkward and messy), or you could try using a potato ricer, though the holes are a little small and too closely spaced so the noodle strands tend to clump together.

Serves 4-6

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat flour)
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/280ml milk or water
  • ¼ cup/70ml additional milk or water, as required

  • Optional Flavourings:
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg traditional
  • other spices (e.g. paprika)
  • chopped herbs
  • puréed garlic
Add the flour, salt and flavourings to a bowl. Stir to combine. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them. Whisk in the main quantity of milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Use a wooden spoon, or a mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead the dough for 16-20 minutes, or until bubbles appear. Add as much additional milk as required to achieve the consistency of muffin batter. After 15 minutes or less of beating, use a wooden spoon to scoop and pull the dough. If bubbles/holes appear, the dough is done.
The purpose of this is to develop the gluten in the flour, though I've seen other recipes which just leave the dough to sit for 15 minutes, so I'm not quite sure how critical the beating is. Anyway - you'll end up with a suggestion of chewing gum about the final consistency.
Bring at least 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Using the Spätzle maker of your choice, cut the noodles into the simmering water. They will sink to to bottom. When they float to the surface after a minute or two, they're done (though they may need a nudge to free them from the bottom of the pan). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the noodles to a colander, and then dump the noodles in a large bowl of ice water. Drain thoroughly again.
They can be stored in the fridge for at least a couple of days before using.

To serve, heat some butter in a large frying pan and toss in the spätzle to heat through. Season again if you like.
Good, a nice consistency. Works well with tuna fish and horseradish sauce.

Baked Beans Curry
veg side curry
Every yacht has a collection of tinned baked beans, and mine is no exception.
Unfortunately I don't really like plain old baked beans. Hence the search for other palatable dishes in which to use them up, together with some ageing sauce sachets.

Serves 2

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsps ground ginger
  • 2 tsps coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • oil or ghee
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp pressed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ savoy cabbage finely shredded
  • 1 tub/sachet barbecue sauce
  • 1 tub/sachet Frank's hot sauce
  • 1 400g tin baked beans
Mix the ground spices with enough water to make a thick paste. Heat a generous amount of oil or ghee in a small pan and cook the paste over a gentle heat until the raw aroma goes and the oil separates.
Add finely chopped red onion and fry a little until the onion begins to crinkle but don't burn the spices.
Stir through crushed dried fenugreek leaves, add quartered tomatoes and pressed garlic and cook until the tomatoes begin to collapse.
Throw in the cabbage and cook briefly until it begins to collapse.
Add a tub of barbecue sauce (one of those you get free from a burger joint) and a tub of hot sauce (or their equivalent from bottles!).
Add the baked beans, and stir until heated through.
Quite palatable. As baked beans go.
So That Was Christmas
Christmas Teddies

Hope it was a good one!

This year Flora joined my brother, his kids and me for our traditional Christmas celebrations, bringing with her a very nice bottle of Pouillon's demi-sec champagne, a jar of ersatz caviar, the largest vacuum pack of smoked salmon I've ever seen, and Christmas presents galore.
She also forced us, rather uncharacteristically, out of the house to see Bradford's Christmas panto (Peter Pan at the Alhambra for your information). Oh Yes She Did!
Flora has ways of making you jolly :)

We enjoyed all the usual Christmas day fayre - the goose, the PERFECT stuffing, the sprouts, the bread sauce, the roasties and the gravy. Oh the gravy.
Turns out that 6 hours of gravy-making (first kill your chicken...) can really make a yacht moist. I hope she's dried out by the time I get back to her in the new year.

For the starter this year I thought I'd have a go at some smoked salmon panna cottas, but wasn't too enamoured of the result (though I might revisit them when I have more time and inclination - I'm quite keen on the idea of savoury panna cottas) so I went for a starter made from an earlier recipe for Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Mousse rolls. This time though I pressed the horseradish flavoured cream through a sieve to remove the lumps, and added a little vodka too - well hell, it IS Christmas.
We sliced the rolls into rounds and served them with spring onions and mixed salad leaves on miniature blinis, and scattered Flora's caviar well, Onuga, on top. They went down very well, though that might have had something to do with how hungry we were waiting for the bread sauce!

What we (re-)learned this year:
  • Your bread sauce might take up to 2 hours at the bottom of the goose oven, especially if you've made a double quantity, and didn't pre-heat the milk.
  • Our stuffed 14lb goose took 5 hours at Gas Mark 3 in Kurt's oven (which I think runs a little hot) to be perfectly cooked well, perfectly cooked for Kurt - slightly overdone for my taste. In fact, I had to turn the oven down a little and cover the goose in foil due to waiting for the bread sauce.
  • You can overdo the apple in the Perfect Christmas stuffing recipe - one apple (as written) is just right
  • Christmas Gravy is even better if you first poach your chicken for 45 minutes in white wine and water flavoured with herbs, peppercorns, allspice, and orange zest and then use the carcass and poaching liquid as the basis for the stock. (And the rest of the chicken for a tasty Thai soup.)
  • You can use your leftover gravy as stock for your pilaf. In fact, you probably should.
  • It's easy to curdle brandy butter as you blend it, though it still tastes fine. Unfortunately, despite the fact he requested it, your brother won't eat it anyway.
  • Starting the twelve days of Christmas mornings with a Bloody Mary definitely helps to make your brother's kids more bearable :)

Christmas is rounded off by our traditional, if slightly melancholy, pilaf, into which goes everything we have left.
Boo Ho Ho!

Smoked Salmon Panna Cotta
fish starter
I fancied a savoury panna cotta to try out as a Christmas start so I thought I might enhance Bluestem's smoked salmon panna cottas with a little horseradish flavour and some buttermilk sourness. Actually I didn't really like the sourness, so maybe give the buttermilk a miss next time. Sour cream instead perhaps. The consistency was good, but perhaps set a little hard so try a touch less gelatine - not sure how little is actually required to set cream?

Makes 2 large or 8 small servings

  • 300ml double cream
  • 5 oz smoked salmon
  • 2 tblsps horseradish
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 1 tblsp sugar
  • 2 tsp/1 pack gelatine powder
  • a splash of vodka

  • To Serve:
  • mixed leaf salad with spring onions
Grate the horseradish into the buttermilk and stir. Leave to infuse for an hour or two.
Pour the cream into a small saucepan and sprinkle over the powdered gelatin. Let it sit for a few minutes to bloom.
Heat the cream over medium-high heat to dissolve the gelatin. Add the salmon and sugar and turn the heat to high. As soon as the cream comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and blend until smooth.
Once cooled, add the horseradish buttermilk and the vodka, then strain through a couple of layers of muslin or a fine sieve. You should be left with quite a lot of fibrous salmon.
Pour into moulds or ramekins and set to cool in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.
This will fill either two large ramekins or 8-10 one inch moulds.
Alternatively you can chill a sheet of the panna cotta and use rings to cut out servings when set.
To serve, loosen the moulds by dipping briefly in hot water, and run a knife around the edge to turn them out.
Serve with spring onions, bread and perhaps a leafy salad.
Less buttermilk I think. Good idea though - nice texture. I may have forgotten the sugar, which would have helped I think.

Brandy Butter
A little brandy butter goes a long way, especially if the brother that specifically requested it decides he doesn't actually like it and won't eat any. This 200g quantity is easily enough for 4 people's Christmas pudding portions.

Icing sugar is most typically used, but you can use any other kind of sugar if you like.
Nigel Slater's tips on the subject:
Have your butter cool and firm rather than rock hard. I take it out about 30 minutes before I start. Cut the butter in small dice, as this will help it to marry with the sugar more successfully. Cream the butter a little before you add the sugar. Don't overmix, which will send the sauce "oily". Always add any extras such as ground almonds only after the butter and sugar have been thoroughly creamed. Make the butter a day or more in advance and store, tightly covered, in the fridge. You can freeze it too. To prevent it from curdling add the brandy slowly, beating in a tbsp or two at a time. Too much brandy will make the sauce bitter.

Makes 200g for 5-6 People

  • 100g butter
  • 100g sugar or icing sugar
  • 1½tbsp brandy

  • Optional Extras:
  • ¼ vanilla pod, scraped
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 25g ground almonds
Dice the butter and add an equal weight of sugar. Beat until soft, without over-working. Stir in grated orange or lemon zest, or the scrapings from inside a vanilla pod. Slowly add the brandy. Add ground almonds if you wish.
Cover and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
I made mine with vanilla and a little lemon zest, and despite some curdling it still tasted good. It's pretty rich stuff though.
On A Roll
Harmony At Eyemouth

Had a lovely chicken dinner, lovely.
Though some of that might have been down to the bottle and a half of wine I'd worked through in celebration of leaving wavy Port Edgar and making it the 50 miles to Eyemouth. Hurrah!

I followed Simon Hopkinson's instructions in Roast Chicken and Other Stories except that I felt the chicken wanted to keep going at 230°C for the whole time, or at least as close as I could get my boat oven to it, so I didn't reduce the temperature. Well not deliberately anyway.

My roast potatoes (Charlottes, boiled until soft, halved, seasoned, thrown into an oven tin of hot goose fat) were (almost) ready too early, so I scooped them out with a slotted spoon, wrapped them in kitchen paper until the chicken was cooked, then returned them to the hot roasting tin to finish off.
And they came out perfectly. Who says you can't hold your roasties?!

I thought I already had a bunch of thyme for the chicken, but when I unwrapped it they'd gone mouldy - the trials of living on a boat. So I used some of the coriander dressing (with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil) I'd made up and stashed in the fridge to stop the coriander going the same way. A couple of tablespoons ladled into the chicken along with the crushed garlic cloves and lemon halves.
Oh, and a quartered chunk of ginger that need using up too.
Here's how Simon makes his chicken.

I made creamed leeks to go with and added a sprinkling of epazote to them. Either the wine was really effective, or the leeks were really good. Here's what I did:
Fry a good heaped tablespoon of plain flour in a generous amount of butter. Add fat rings of 2 well-washed, drained, leeks. Fry until softened. Add salt, a generous grind of white pepper, half a teaspoon of epazote. Stir in milk until you get a thick sauce.

Last weekend I cooked dinner for Chic and Nicky - not least in return for the lovely roast pork (and whisky salad) they'd pity-fed me previously.
My second boat dinner was somewhat more chaotic than the first, since I hadn't managed to get everything quite so well organised in advance, what with having to sail down to Granton during the day to pick up a new gas bottle. This Camping Gaz is a bit niche, it seems.

Salmon with Soy Sauce and Yuzu Dressing
Lemon Teriyaki Chicken
with Sesame Broccoli and Coriander Rice
Baked Apples
Stuffed with raisins and dates and served with (leftover) Pear Reduction

So there was a good deal more chopping and prepping in front of the guests, but it mostly went off pretty well. Though I thought my coriander Jasmine rice was terrible. Chic kindly claimed that all the rice he'd had in Thailand was just the same, but I think it would have helped if I'd rinsed the rice more thoroughly (or at all) before cooking, and avoided over-cooking it slightly so it turned to glue.

Speaking of over-cooking, my baked apples completely collapsed. They tasted just fine (I stuffed them with raisins and chopped dates and drizzled them with Calvados), but I should obviously have kept more of an eye on them :)

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