Tuesday, 29 March 2011


It has truly begun. Here I am at the beginning of another season aboard ‘Mariquita’, one of the most beautiful classic yachts in the world (as you can see from her picture, right) and this, her hundredth year.  I am so very proud to be here. In fact, if you’re still with me in a month or so, it wont be for long. For you will be disgusted at my blatant and highly unflattering boasts about how I so have the best job in the world and leave me. Fair enough. But if you don’t leave, I do give you full permission to remind me of this ‘reality-check-blog’, in which I will let on that it’s not all roses. Especially when your 33.

If you read my last one you will know that my Fella, George and I have recently moved out of our ‘Crew House’ up the hill and are now on the boat in Cogolin, a marina just down the way from St Tropez in the South of France. This procedure happens the same time every year in the same way and I enjoy it less with every year (I get older) I’m afraid. For it involves leaving the comforts and space of the ‘crew house’ to the lack of both on the boat. No more double bed and choice of bathrooms. But back to sharing a small cabin with the Fella, 2 drawers for clothes and a crew ‘heads’ (bathroom) to share with 7 others. Joy.

One mustn’t grumble; and so I look as usual to the fridge to cheer myself up. My stomach and my droopy mood needs soup. A soft and friendly soup that still harks back to the colder seasons but is a gentle, encouraging shove into the direction of summer.  I was so happy to find Jerusalem Artichokes in the supermarket still. Their season is coming to a close but they were exactly what I needed. If you have never made Jerusalem Artichoke soup before, I implore you to try it soon. It’s really so easy to make but gentle and warming and light and rich all at the same soup-slurping time. I can taste it now as I write.

Jerusalem Artichokes have nothing to do with Jerusalem and absolutely are not Artichokes and look like fresh root ginger. Which is confusing. In France they call them Topinambour, a way cooler name. But they are also known as Sunchokes or Sunroot.  They are a root vegetable and are a bit like potatoes I guess, or celeriac in texture. But like I said they are a gentle taste so please don’t be afraid to try them if you haven’t already and to cook them like you would a potato, so mash, fry or steam.

I highly recommend the soup. And I highly recommend using a homemade chicken stock, but hey, I know what its like so if it’s a cube that’s cool too.

For 6-8 bowls of soup you will need;

2 small onions or 1 large, chopped small
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
500-600 g Jerusalem artichokes, roughly peeled and chopped into 1 inch bits
(I say roughly because they can be a real faff, depending on their nobblyness. So really don’t sweat it. Do what you can be bothered to do before it’s not cool anymore)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped the same size as the J. Artichokes
about 2 pints of hot chicken or vege stock
½ tsp sugar
Good grating of nutmeg
2-3 tbsp crème fraiche or cream, and its optional depending on how much comfort you're in need of.


  • Gently sauté the chopped onions in some sunflower oil and a small knob of butter. Turn the heat right down low and put the lid on the pan whilst you deal with the Jerusalem Artichokes.

  • Time to peel the Jerusalem Artichokes. I sort of chop them into easier pieces, then peel. Last time I made this, I really barely peeled them and it was a lovely soup and the skin is always highly nutritious.

  • Every now and then take the lid off the pan and stir to check the onions aren’t catching on the bottom. Just before you’re ready to add the Artichokes, add the garlic to the pan and the ½ tsp sugar.

  • Turn the heat up a little and add your J.Artichokes and the potatoes. Stir and get a good sizzle going. Then add the stock to the pan.

  • Bring the soup to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Season with some salt, pepper and a good grating of fresh nutmeg.

  • When your J.Artichokes and potatoes are soft, whiz the soup to a puree with a hand blender. Stir in your cream/crème fraiche.

  • Check your seasoning. This is a delicate flavour so careful not to put too much salt in. And if you have any truffle oil then definitely drizzle the soup with that. I have a vegetarian onboard so I don’t, but this would go very well with some crispy bacon croutons to garnish.

  • Serve with some nice crusty brown bread and butter and prepare to feel much, much better about things.

Please try this out if you never have before and let me know what you think. This is a very simple recipe but I’m sure you would be a little more adventurous. I’ll get there soon too. We’re moving to Cannes on Monday and so will be amongst the rich and beautiful and amongst other beautiful classic boats and fellow classic yachties. That’ll get me going into the season, happy to be on the boat again, even at the age of 33.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Wild Boar Daube

I must start by apologising for my absence having posted my first blog a long,whole week ago. The internet in the 'crew house' broke... Im really not sure but apparently it was the modem - or the router, or maybe it was the modem-router  (can you tell I haven't a clue about such things?). But whatever it was we haven't been able to fix it yet.  I am writing this however, my second blog, sitting in the saloon of 'Mariquita', having just moved back onto the boat for the season. Its raining outside which is creating that nice cosy effect of being in a tent. And im reminiscing our winter adventures in La Garde Freinet.

The joys of living in the 'crew house'  in La Garde Freinet during the winter months, are many and various. True, we're not sailing but we need the break aswell as the boat does. Its a period of maintenance for  'Mariquita' and for us.  The best of those joys being that we get weekends off to do things such as mountain biking in the hills which surround us and snowboarding in the nearest of the Alps. We've also been known to go foraging for mushrooms when they are in season, picking fresh, fat cep's in the French countryside. Which had me literally squeeling with delight.

Wild boar, speaking of squeeling, is very delicious and its here and sometimes, very occasionally, if you're as lucky as me, your handsome boyfriend whilst in his landrover, might come across a poor, unfortunate pig who has been knocked down by a car. They fit perfectly in the back of a Landy, dead wild boars. 

Im very sorry if you happen to be a bit squeemish. You might not truely appreciate these photos but please believe me when I say how much fun it is butchering a whole, wild animal. Especially if you're not entirely sure what your doing. The only whole animal I ever butchered before (not including birds) was a goat in the Caribbean. But thats another story.
Thats me doing my best

Boar is delicious. Its full of flavour, not gamey if thats not your thing and takes on other flavours very well. I made a wild boar daube (a french casserole basically) with the meat from one leg and one shoulder to feed 10 for a dinner party. I have included my recipe on this blog for you. You can get wild boar in the UK but if you're struggling, you could easily substitute the boar with beef or venison and it would be just as delicious.  We served our Daube with homemade tagliatelle.
Its really best to start making your daube 2-3 days in advance so that you can marinade the meat. It will absorb all the lovely flavours of the wine and herbs and orange zest. And gets you all excited about cooking it when the time is ready.

For 6-8 people you will need;
2-3 lb/900g-1kg meat, cubed into large sized pieces
bottle of red wine, a good rich one, all dark and spicey, a burgandy perhaps
couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
3-4 bits of orange peel (using a peeler but try not to get any pith)
12 black pepper corns, 12 juniper berries
8 cloves of garlic peeled and slightly squished with the blade of a knife
a few bay leaves

So put all the above ingredients in a nice wide, non-metallic dish and let it sit covered in the fridge for no less than a day, 2-3 if you can. Stir occasionally.

And when you're ready to go;

4 onions, sliced (as you like, thin or thick)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
400 g bacon lardons, not smoked
4-5 carrots peeled and roughly chopped into nice sized chunks, not too small
bunch fresh thyme
few sprigs fresh rosemary
4 bay leaves
4 fresh pieces orange zest
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
extra red wine
4 tbsp cognac
good handful black olives

Drain the meat from the red wine its been sitting happily in for the last few days setting the wine aside for later. Sieve all the herbs out of the wine and discard.

In a large frying pan, sear and brown the boar over a high heat in olive oil and a small knob of butter. Do this in small batches so you dont over-crowd the pan which cools it down too much for searing. When the pieces are nicely browned all over, set aside. If you need to, add more oil.

Once you have seared all the boar, fry the lardons . Set aside with the boar.
Using the bacon fat, turn the heat down and gently sautee the onions for 10 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue sauteeing till the onions are starting to go a nice golden colour. Stir in the carrots.
After a few minutes frying the carrots you can return the bacon and boar to the pan. Turn the heat up a little so it all starts to have a nice sizzle.

Dob in the tomato puree and give it all a good stir.  Add the sugar and some salt and pepper. Then add the red wine from the marinade, topping up with fresh red wine to cover or some beef stock.

Add all the remaining herbs and orange zest.

Cover and cook in the oven at gas mark 3 for about 4-5 hours.

Before serving the boar, ladle about as much of the liquid into a saucepan as you can. Bring to a rolling boil (a good bubbling boil) and stir in the cognac, a tablespoon of redcurrent jelly or crab apple if you have any and let it reduce and thicken. This should take about 20 minutes.

If you'd like to thicken the sauce further then put a tbsp of cornflour into a cup and add 2-3 tbsp of cold water to mix into a smooth, thin paste. then add 2-3 tbsp of the reduced, red wine sauce to the cup and mix. Pour it all back into the saucepan, stir till the cornflour has thickened the sauce and check for seasoning before finally returning your  red wine sauce back into the casserole. Finish off by adding the black olives.

Always good to have another final seasoning check before serving the Daube with taglietelle, green salad and a nice hunk of fresh bread to mop up that delicious red wine gravy.

Enjoy! And by the way, there is no reason why you shouldn't cook and eat this in the coming summer months. Or maybe I really am just dragging my heels into summer this year. I've not even spent one night onboard yet and im missing my nice big bedroom, wardrobe and choice of 3 bathrooms already....

Thanks 'Crew House'. That was a great winter. See you again in October. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

An Explanation Of Sorts

Its a funny thing when you think about it. Or rather, for those of us who haven't written anything more public then a facebook status, its somewhat unnerving, that anyone might be at all interested in reading about what 'Im' doing.  I should comfort myself with the thought that right now at least and maybe for a while yet, I am without doubt writing to...well myself. And maybe my Mum. Phew. I can relax and crack on. She says I look good in a sack so she'll like it.

I'll be bold and consider myself an attractive 5 minutes read. I dont wish to take up too much of your time. I've been reading some blogs and some of them dont half go on a bit. I think my blog is  going to be interesting but I dont want to push it. Little and often will be my phrase!  Talking of which, thats how one should eat apparently; which leads us nicely onto the subject which brings me here in the first place - Food, Glorious Food!

Haha!, Lovely, lovely. Even writing the word 'food' had me downstairs making a pot of fresh coffee and breaking off some still-warm, french bread, smearing it with butter and honey. I eat alot (lots and often in fact) and the reason my french bread was still warm is because I picked it up from the market this morning. And the reason I did that is because I am currently living in a house in 'La Garde Freinet'; a small-ish village in the South of France near St Tropez (darling) And One does that when One is in France on a sunday morning.

The house is fondly known as 'The Crew House'. And this time of year its occupants are growing in numbers to make up what will be 'the Crew'.  We are the lucky crew who work on a beautiful classic yacht called 'Mariquita' (pictured). This year she will celebrate her 100th Birthday. 

Our season really starts hotting up around April when all the crew will have arrived from far flung places. We move onto the boat and soon we will start our race training. Without going into it too much, we are primarily a race boat and we'lll be racing in 8 Classic yacht regattas this year around the Mediterranean. Its hard work. And its great fun. Its all done as classically as possible which means we pull everything up by hand without the aid of electric winches. Block and tackle, jiggers and stoppers and best of all, we get to sing sea shanties. No, really, we do.

Whats all this got to do with food? Well I am the cook. Im also Staysail number 1, when we're racing, but primarily I get to cook for 12 hungry sailors on a boat, on a budget and sometimes on an angle. My little 'Force Ten', gimbled oven and I have had some adventures, not always good and there may have been some words, usually not good. Cooking in a kitchen thats being thrown around in every direction can be a challenge and isn't for everyone. But despite what my oven might think, I like that. 

So my blog will be about the recipes I mostly tend to create for 6-12 people, using ingredients from around the Med and some that we have 'plucked' from the sea and actually my first recipe may well be a 'road-kill' wild boar daube, that we scraped off the tarmac not far from here. (my second amateur butchering experience)

For unlike some big boats, we dont have a nice, big budget. But thats more fun, realistic and a good thing and again, I like the challenge.

Why 33 Degrees?  Nothing technical and Im no Mason. Im just 33 years old, (that was honest!) cook with degrees heat, sometimes on an angle and well, hey, I thought it had a nice ring to it. So please join me for cooking experiences, recipes, and sailing adventures. 

Cooking on a beautiful classic sailing yacht. My life at 33 degrees.