3rd-6th October 2014
Dufour Dinners - Autumn 2014
Being a record of the meals aboard our yacht Pollyanna, a Dufour 425 six of us adventurers chartered for a voyage around the Sound of Mull.
We shared the sailing, but I did most of the cooking.

My ex-partner and new best friend Rachel had very kindly volunteered me as ship's cook, and herself as chief bottle-washer, and then proceeded to big me up something chronic. Consequently I felt obligated to put in a good performance, starting with the breakfasts:
I've been wanting to have a crack at making bacon volunteers? :) for a while now, so that was first to go on the list. Then a round of my home-made sausages, and finally that last delicious hunk of my own black pudding from the back of my freezer.

That left two definite meals to plan for, and a third backup meal in case we ran aground or got blown to Ireland and couldn't get off the boat to eat.

I kicked things off with the bacon curing which I began two weeks ahead, I had a practice run making mini sticky toffee puddings, to see how they'd get along being reheated so I could cook them ahead of time. And I also had another go at my clam chowder.

Unfortunately none of the people I invited were available to come along and help me eat it Aidan & Jude, Anuschka & Willy, Colin & Astrid, Dave & Sarah, and Alex Too you know who you are!, so I ended up living on the stuff for the next 7 days. I'm happy to report that:
  1. it reheats quite well
  2. it keeps a surprisingly long time - for fish

Extra-Tomato and some Venison, Sage and Juniper Sausages
Black Pudding
Choice homemade breakfast items.

Dinner One
Karl's Clam Chowder with Irish Soda Bread
followed by
Sticky Toffee Pudding and Vanilla Ice Cream
Pre-cooked apart from the soda bread. Which only takes an hour, so plenty of time to carefully reheat a chowder and dress with coriander leaves.

Dinner Two
Beef Bourguignon with Mashed, Baked Potatoes and Green Beans, Shallots, Garlic and Anchovies
followed by
Flaming Rum Bananas and Butterscotch Sauce
Beautiful. But deadly to curtains.

Backup Dinner
Farfalle with Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Sauce
A meal with ingredients that will keep, just in case we don't make it out to the pub.

Just a bagful of sugar...

Karl's Charter Chowder
Fish soup
main soup fish nautical
Et voilà, after some effort - my West Coast Charter Clam Chowder, production version:

Serves a boat

Make the Stock:
Roughly chop the onion, fennel and celery and sweat gently with any herbs you fancy in a little butter in a large pan until glassy. Add 1 fl oz Ouzo, then toss in the clams (I used Manila) cover tightly and steam, vigorously shaking occasionally, until they've all opened or for no longer than 8 minutes.
Have a bowl of iced water standing by.
Peek in occasionally and as the clams open, hoik them out, scoop out the flash using a teaspoon or oyster knife and drop into the iced water. Discard any clams which do not open after the 8 minutes.
When done, give the cooled clam bodies a good swirl to remove any grit, strain the clam water back into the pan and return the shells and any vegetables. Cut any larger or stringy bits of clam into ½ pieces and set aside.
Simmer the stock for 30 minutes or so, then strain thoroughly through several layers of muslin to remove any grit (there will be grit!). You should end up with about a litre of stock.

Now on to the rest of the soup:
Soak the beans overnight.
Pop their skins off, or at least from the ones you plan on puréeing, drain then simmer in enough of the clam stock to cover until they soften (but don't break apart) - up to an hour.
Set aside.

Steam the clams in a little water or stock, occasionally shaking vigorously until they open, or for 8 minutes at most.
Have a bowl of iced water standing by.
Peek in occasionally and as the clams open, hoik them out, scoop out the flash using a teaspoon or oyster knife and drop into the iced water. Discard any clams which do not open after the 8 minutes.
When done, give the cooled clam bodies a good swirl to remove any grit, and remove. Set aside. Add the water and shells back to the pan, then strain the juices into the stock you will use to make the chowder.

Heat a generous amount of clarified if you like butter in a deep narrow pot and fry the scallops with their coral until they turn milky all the way through and begin to take on a little colour. Cut any large ones across horizontally. Set aside.

Cut the cod into reasonable chunks, about 1" or so. Set aside.

Chop the pork and vegetables into 1cm chunks, making the fennel perhaps a little smaller. Gently fry the pork in a little butter and olive oil until it begins to collapse and sweat. You can let it take on some colour but don't allow it to brown the pot - it will turn the final soup yellow.
Add the onion, then fennel, then celery, and sweat gently without browning until translucent. Deglaze with about 2 fl oz Ouzo, cover with clam stock and milk (say 50/50), and simmer gently until the vegetables are soft.

If, like me, you accidentally boiled the soup you will now have a very curdled-looking broken liquid, so strain this into a bowl, retaining the solids.
Put about half your cooked, peeled beans (keep the nicest-looking ones whole for the chowder) in a blender, add a little of the milky stock and purée to a smooth paste you'll need to sieve this if you don't remove the skins. Then add the rest of the liquid, in batches if necessary, and blend until it becomes smooth again.

Return the now repaired liquid, the reserved vegetables and clams, cooked whole beans, fried scallops, and raw fish to the pan and reheat gently without boiling. Stir in some cream, season to taste, adjust the level of Ouzo, dress with roughly torn coriander leaves and serve.

Irish Soda Bread
bread veg nautical
This Irish soda-leavened bread recipe is a really fast way of turning out a perfectly palatable loaf, and it's ideal for cooking on boats! The lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to generate carbon dioxide bubbles responsible for raising the dough. You might call it a traditional recipe, but the truth is that this bread has only been possible in Europe since bicarbonate of soda first became available in the mid-19th century. Potash or pearl ash may have been used even earlier by native Americans who passed the technique along to European settlers, but there seems to be fierce disagreement over who invented soda bread proper first.

You should avoid over-kneading the dough which toughens the bread. Handle the dough as gently and as little as possible - no more than half a minute - you're only looking to ensure the ingredients are evenly combined.

Soda bread is supposed to not keep as well as yeasted bread, but I have to say mine was fine for two or three days, which is about as long as my normal bread lasts. Perhaps they're talking about that fortified, over-processed, emulsified, gas-pumped pap your Local Fucking Supermarket™ sells?

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.

Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff Or a little more flour if it's too wet but it should not be too wet or sticky.)

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Briefly!
Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Excellent, and quite forgiving of oven temperatures, though keep an eye on it and turn it down if it looks to be darkening too quickly.

Sticky Toffee Puddings
dessert veg nautical
This supposedly Victorian British dessert was apparently invented in the 1970s in Canada, passed back by a friend of Mrs Martin of The Old Refectory, Lancashire, picked up by Francis Coulson of Ullswater's Sharrow Bay Hotel who then made it famous.

Thanks to Felicity Cloake for the base recipe, and Angela Nilsen for ideas on turning them out individually, and pre-preparing them for cooking later.

Serves 6

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas Mark 4. Butter and flour seven mini pudding tins (each about 200ml/7fl oz) Or a baking dish approximately 24cm x 24cm and sit them on a baking sheet.

Make the sauce by putting all the ingredients into a pan with a pinch of salt and heating slowly until the butter has melted, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil for about 4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
You can pour half the sauce into the base of the dish(es) and then put it in the freezer while you make the rest of the pudding, if you like.
Put the dates, vanilla pod if using - remove after steeping and bicarbonate of soda in a heatproof dish and cover with the boiling water. Leave to soften while you prepare the rest of the pudding.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, and then beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Stir in the flour, baking powder, cloves and a pinch of salt until well combined, and then add the dates and their soaking water, and the walnuts and vanilla essence if using, and mix well. It may look a little curdled at this point and will be like a soft, thick batter. Thick enough to suspend the date pieces. Add more water if it is too thick.

Spoon it evenly between the tins and bake for 20-25 mins or dish for about 30 minutes, until risen and firm.
Use a skewer to test them - the skewer should come out clean as for baking cakes. You don't want to overcook these though - remember they should be sticky especially if you're planning on re-heating them.

If making the one dish, heat the grill to medium, and poke a few small holes evenly over the surface with a skewer or fork, and then pour over the rest of the sauce. Put briefly under the grill, keeping an eye on it as it can easily burn.
Remove the puddings from the oven. Leave in the tins for a few mins, then loosen them well from the sides of the tins with a small palette knife before turning them out. You can serve them now with the sauce drizzled over, but they'll be even stickier if left for a day or two coated in the sauce. To do this, pour about half the sauce into one or two ovenproof serving dishes. Sit the upturned puddings on the sauce, then pour the rest of the sauce over them. Cover with a loose tent of foil so that the sauce doesn't smudge (no need to chill, though you can freeze them if you want to keep longer).

When ready to serve, heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Warm the puddings through, still covered, for 15-20 mins or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve them on their own, or with cream, ice cream or custard.
Goddamn delicious, is what they are!

Beef Bourguignon
Beef stew
main meat nautical crockpot stew
Following James Martin but with some refinements by Nigel Slater

Serves 4

Season the flour with salt and pepper and toss the beef in it. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat, add one to two tablespoons of olive oil and fry the beef for one to two minutes in batches, removing each batch from the pan when browned and placing it on a plate while you fry the rest, adding more oil as needed. (Too much meat in the pan at once will mean it takes longer to brown).
You can marinate the meat for 8 hours or overnight first as I did, then drain, pat dry and fry it. If adding a pig's trotter then you won't need to coat them in flour.
Add the pancetta and fry for one to two minutes or until golden brown, then tip in the shallot, onions and garlic I just used 3 banana shallots and fry for a further two to three minutes or until browned. Return the cooked beef to the pan and mix well with the other ingredients.

Pour in the brandy though I actually used Jack Daniels - heresy I know! and carefully set it alight to burn off the alcohol, then add the wine and stock and bring to a simmer. I might have gotten a more intense flavour if I'd reduced the wine by half with some carrots, onions, garlic, and a bouquet garni first. Add the bouquet garni, then cover and cook on a low heat for two hours or until tender and thickened. Alternatively, cook in the oven at 140°C/gas mark 1, for two hours, or in a slow cooker for three to four hours.

Half an hour before the meat is cooked, blanch the baby onions in boiling water for 30 seconds, then peel. Place a separate frying pan over a high heat, add the butter and a little olive oil and fry the onions for two to three minutes or until just golden, then add to the casserole for the last 20 minutes of cooking time.
Do the same with the mushrooms.

Just before serving, check the seasoning. Spoon a generous portion of the bourguignon on to each plate and a pile of creamy potato mash alongside, together with some green beans or carrots.

Pretty good. Pretty good, but not exquisite. Which was a bit of a disappointment.
To be honest I did overcook it by about an hour due to waiting for my potatoes to bake in the unpredictable boat oven. I should really have added the onions/mushrooms on schedule then turned it off while the meat was still perfectly tender but still had a bit of flavour to it. I'm sure it would have kept warm enough for long enough.

Penne with Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Sauce
main fish nautical pasta
Though I used farfalle.
If you're looking at commercial cream cheeses then Philadelphia is acceptable, but Boursin works even better.

Recipe from Michael Smith

Serves 4

Cook penne in lots of boiling salted water until al dente — cooked through and tender but still retaining some texture and chew.

Slice the spring onion, pull the dill away from its stalks and chop roughly.
Thinly slice the smoked salmon (if it isn't already), cut into ribbons, then cut up the ribbons to a manageable length.
Slice up the cucumber if using - it goes well enough, but isn't necessary so it's the same as the salmon.
Mash the cream cheese with a fork to soften it up.

Scoop out some of the starchy cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta but not quite all the way. Leave it a bit wet. Put the pasta back into the pot along with a splash or two of the reserved water. or rather stock - see below.

While the pasta is still steaming hot, immediately add the rest of the ingredients except the salmon. reserve some of the dill for decoration. Stir with a wooden spoon as the cheese melts and forms a creamy sauce.

At the last second briefly stir in the smoked salmon; this way it won't break up as much. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
It ain't bad, but it's a little dry and stodgy. You definitely need to loosen the sauce with plenty of pasta water, and I think you'd be better adding some stock. Fish or vegetable. Maybe wine-flavoured.
Yeah wine and stock.