Saturday, 23 April 2011

Make Your Own Kitchen Knife! I Did.

It’s peeing with rain today and though we were supposed to go out race training, it’s blowing about 50 odd knots out there, so we cancelled. I’m pleased. It’s a lot of hard work when it’s blowing and we get very wet and very tired. It can be exhilarating if it’s a good race with great competition but today we were just training and we’d have been the only ones out and we don’t want our mast to fall down unless in anger.

Actually we don’t want the mast to fall down at all so even in a race, if it get’s too much for our 100 year old, beautiful, Fife design, gaff rigged cutter – we’d go in. We’d run back home to port.

That’s not to say we haven’t pushed it. Last year’s racing at the Pendennis regatta in Falmouth had us harnessed on and life-jacketed up. The wet weather gear remained wet all week and the staysail team (Matty, my hard-working and trusty number 2) and I did a lot of our job underwater. Mind you, I think we saw a lot more air then Will and his runner’s team did. That was an awesome regatta and we held our own and more against the big-boy-schooners. We were brave.

So whilst down-below, dry and safe, I thought I’d tell you about my kitchen knife. (Blimey, sandwiches, her cabin drawers and now her knife – is she trying to get rid of us?) 

But really, stay! I made it myself. I did! And I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough as a one-off arts and crafts project. It’s really not that difficult, although I did get some very helpful guidance from my Fella who has made a few of his own rigging knives. He’s so clever, my Fella. As well as handsome, did I mention that already?

When you first use it for that true culinary purpose you designed it for, it is the most gratifying moment. Pride, I really can’t say more than that other than that you will be swelling with it.

My Knife. A sturdy cutting machine with a lovely rose wood handle and bronze rivets.
Being a ‘Global’ knife fan (weak wrists me, had the carpel tunnel operation done in both now) which are so lovely and light and sleek, I decided I needed something a bit more robust and solid. I’m not a fan of meat cleavers but wanted something of that calibre. So I designed my own ‘demi-cleaver/butchers knife’.

The steel I used is 440 grade, stainless-steel from the metal supermarket. The exciting bit is that this needs to be hardened by you, in your back garden in a fire. Cool eh?

The handle is made from rose wood and a small bit of ebony near the hilt. Rose wood is lovely and has a distinct smell.

So I chose my favourite design, drew it onto my piece of metal and cut that out with a hack-saw. That really didn’t take too long and wasn’t that hard to do surprisingly.  I then drilled 2 holes into the ‘tang’ to fix my handle on after it had been hardened. The trick is to sharpen your knife (I used an angle-grinder but in doing so you must make sure the metal stays below 150 degrees, or thereabouts.) but don’t sharpen it all the way. You finish off the sharpening after you’ve hardened the knife in your cool, homemade forge. Which could be a fire in a wheel-barrow. Hey, it worked.

Our knife hardening forge. Good excercise too.
So the Fella and I used a wheel-barrow as our forge. We put a hole in the bottom of the wheel-barrow and put a dinghy pump hose into the hole (everybody point at the yachties!) so that once we’d built a fire in the wheel barrow, we could pump a constant flow of air into the fire to get the heat right up.

So before this get’s way too boring and I lose you, (Hello? Hello, anybody there?) I’ll just say that you get your knife to a cherry-red colour which means it has reached the desired, hardened temperature and is now hard. You need to quench the knife as soon as it’s out of the fire, in water or oil. I used oil. Then you can complete sharpening it and put on your handle with rivets. I shaped the handle once it was riveted onto the knife, again with an angle grinder (the best tool ever).

And there we have it, see easy. Actually now I’ve written that down I can honestly say I won’t be making one again but also that I will have this knife forever and feel so good every time I use it. Especially when it’s to butcher a whole, road-kill, wild-boar we picked up off the road during the winter. (Wild-Boar recipe described in blog titled ‘A Week Late!’) That was a very special moment for me and my homemade knife.

Road-kill and a handmade knife. Cool.

So have a go, why not? You could always email me for more detailed instruction and I’ll just ask George, the expert.

Apparently we’re still on for race training tomorrow. Let’s hope we get some of what you guys are getting in the UK this Easter weekend. Here we are in the South of France, the sunny Cote D’Azur. Mmm.

Happy Easter! See you soon.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Quick Moroccan Lamb and Cous Cous

Generally speaking, I’m not much of a planner. Planning entails writing lists and sticking to something. I’d say I was a bit more spontaneous (my mum would say, unorganised). My ‘planning ahead’ is doing a weekly shop in the supermarket and picking up some of what looks good, fresh and in season. And then taking it from there.

I begin cooking the crew lunch after morning ‘Smoko’ (coffee break) this the moment I will look in the fridge and make a decision as to what is on the menu that day. Sometimes I may start cooking and not be absolutely sure where it’s all going. I think the crew have learnt not to ask until about half an hour before I serve it, or the response they could get can go; ‘um, well, it’s going to be mushroomy I think, with some tarragon and possibly some potatoes, so maybe a frittata but could always be a pasta…I’m not really sure yet.

Some might find this stressful but I find it keeps me on my creative toes, keeps the menu fresh and I haven’t repeated many meals so the crew don’t get bored with my cooking; a risk that comes from cooking for the same people every day. Mind you I say this and they may well all be pretty bored of my cooking. Bless ‘em though, they’re doing a good job of hiding it. Thanks guys.

So I did actually plan this recipe ahead, a rare occurrence. I had even cooked it last year I think and thought it would be a good one for the blog because it’s easy, quick, very tasty and though I hate to use the word ‘cheap’ with reference to my cooking, it is. Let’s say budget friendly shall we? That sounds a bit less ‘Oliver Twist’.  I guess writing this blog is helping me become more organised. Oh dear.

I was lucky enough to find a reasonably priced shoulder of lamb for sale and decided to do a Moroccan lamb casserole with couscous. Please don’t switch off just because I said couscous. So many people tell me it’s dull and they don’t like it, but you can make it sooooo delicious I promise.  The crew loved this one (again) and they’re big, strong sailor types so don’t be afraid of the couscous. Love the couscous! 

Morrocan Lamb with couscous

And so for my second meat recipe of this entire blog so far, you will need;

A shoulder of lamb, boned, or leg of lamb would do, or shanks.
2 onions peeled and sliced roughly
2 tsp honey
5 carrots peeled and cut into chunks
All lined up and ready to go. Thats not 5 spice by the way, its cumin.
2 sticks of celery cut into chunks
2 aubergines cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, crushed                 
3 tbsp ground almonds               
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp mint sauce or jelly
1 tsp of your homemade Harissa paste (See blog titled ‘A Store Cupboard must have’)
2 tbsp plain flour
1 pint of homemade chicken or lamb stock or use stock cubes if that’s what you have.
I can of drained chick peas
Couscous, wholemeal, medium or whatever is your favourite
Handful of raisins or chopped, dried apricots
½ tsp turmeric
Chicken stock or vege stock
Fresh coriander and mint


  • First begin by searing the lamb in a little sunflower oil. Don’t put too much meat in the pan at once, or it’ll lose its heat and the meat will stew instead of brown.

  • Put the lamb aside once it’s all browned and start sautéing the onions, carrots celery and aubergine all at the same time. Told you this was quick and easy.

  • Once you’ve stir fried the vege’s for a bit, add the garlic and all the spices and let the heat work on the spices for a few moments.

  • Next add the Harissa paste and mint sauce, honey and the flour, let it all combine and then slowly start adding the stock, incorporating all the flour each time you add some stock.

  • Season with salt and pepper, add the ground almonds and chick peas then bring to the boil. Once it has come to the boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer very, very gently for an hour or longer if you have it with a lid on.

  • For the couscous (I rarely weigh this and go by sight which makes it quicker) put the couscous and a small knob of butter or blob of olive oil into a bowl. Add a little salt, ½ tsp turmeric and some harissa paste if you wish and stir to combine. I put some golden raisins in too but you could add dried apricots or prunes. Pour in boiling stock or water till it sits above the level of the couscous by about 1cm. Put on a heavy plate or cling film to seal and leave for about ten minutes.

  • When your nearly ready to serve, you can stir into your couscous some toasted flaked almonds and the chopped fresh coriander and mint. Lovely.

  • Taste and adjust the seasoning of the lamb accordingly and serve with the couscous and some flat breads if you wish.

When it comes to everyday food it really needn’t be any more complicated than that but also needn’t be dull or repetitive. This lamb dish is so tasty and cosy but with a light summer lift when served with the couscous and all its fresh herbs. All nutty and fruity.

Any left-over couscous can be stuffed into half peppers later on in the week with some spices, cheese and baked for lunch. Sweet.

As I write this the sky is beginning to cloud over.We’re sailing again tomorrow and the weathers looking a wee bit boisterous so we could be getting wet. I decided on cherry tomato, mozzarella and pesto wraps and smoked mackerel and tuna mayonnaise baguettes. That should keep them happy if it's a hard day out on the water.  

Don't worry Mummy, I'll be wearing my harness. Standard issue on our boat and I tested my harness out last year at the Pendennis regatta in Falmouth so I know it works. All good fun! I promise to take lots of photos. Thanks for reading and see you next time.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

It Could Make Or Break Me.

Roast veg awaiting spicy hoummus for my vege option sandwich filling.
Sandwiches. You can’t escape this one I’m afraid. You see, I did some figuring out and a few sums, something I never do lightly or for fun. And yet I thought I needed to do this in order for you to understand why sandwich fillings are a big thing in a typical race season for me. Then, it’ll be done with and I will never, ever talk about it again. (lying).

This year we are racing in 8 regattas. Regattas are typically 4-5 days long and we train before each regatta for at least 2 days. Everybody on board has 2 sandwiches each with a choice of 2 different fillings and (don’t worry it’ll be over very soon) there are usually between 23-28 people on board.

Thus! I will be making around 2920 sandwiches this year. Yipee!

George on the bow.

Natty working on the bow sprit
 Now I’m sure there are people reading this thinking;  ‘So what?’, and you're right, this new insight you have into my job is really not that impressive. Its just that each time I'm 'sandwiching', I’ll be making 60 sandwiches in ,hopefully, one hour then launching myself up on deck to pull up sails and work the staysail (sometimes underwater), work many different lines under speed and in all weathers, then when the race is over, lowering said sails before quickly popping myself back down below to change out of soggy gear, cut up left over sandwiches, join in enthusiastically with a race de-brief then start dinner for the crew, canapés and dinner for any guests we may have and begin on my sandwich fillings for the next day….and now draw breath.
folding sails

So there you have it. I do know I’m not alone in this highly advanced and technical area of yacht chefing. John a brilliant chef who worked on ‘Eleanora’, a large and very pretty schooner, has just retired from doing exactly this. I think he’s not missing it.

Cheese and Pickle. Who’d have thought it but this one is a life saver especially if I team it up with a ‘wild card’ filling like smoked mackerel and prawn mayo (lots of lemon and black pepper and chopped parsley) or even egg mayonnaise. Egg mayo is my favourite but sadly it’s not for everyone and is therefore a ‘wild card’ sandwich.

Roast beef and horseradish teamed with rocket in a wrap will bring you marriage proposals as will Chinese chicken (with hoisin sauce, thin rice noodles and bean sprouts all packed into a chicken wrap).

Basically, most things you can put on a plate, you can put in a sandwich. But look, it’s my second race season aboard the good ship Mariquita, and I’m after inspiration. So any favourite sandwich filling ideas would be gratefully accepted.

I’ll leave you with that one and hope as much as you do that my next blog will be a little more interesting and useful. I put some photos in of our last training sail to help it go down a little easier. Hope it worked.

Phew! Glad that’s over with. Thanks for reading, see you soon and remember, I need hearty sandwich fillings for lots of hungry, rope pulling sailors. I do so enjoy those marriage proposals.  Cheers!

This is what I crawl over to get to my galley at the end of the day.

 If its been a long, wet sail then this is all pretty soggy just to add to the romance of it ...

view at the end of the spinnaker pole.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Homemade Harissa!

I feel it is my duty, as well as a pleasure of course, to add to my must-pass-on recipes this Harissa paste. It isn’t my recipe and I take no credit for it, for it is my Fella, the First Mate aboard the good ship Mariquita, who makes it. I just use it copiously in my cooking and sneakily accept the credit then. I take it where I can get it.

The recipe was passed down from the last chef before me on Mariquita, Emily Kenyon who now lives in N.Z with her hubby Robyn and beautiful baby, Theo. So Thanks for this one Emily, it brings a lot of joy to the crew still.

It is a paste of rich, dark spice. It is a burst of mouth watering heat and exotic flavours, its… well it’s full of chilli and garlic. The crew like it so much they practically smear it onto their toast in the mornings. You can make it as hot as you like, if you're one of those, or use it in many a recipe for added spice and flavour. I find it makes great fajhitta’s when stir-fried with chicken and peppers and served with tortillas. Or mix in with cous-cous, chick-peas and dried apricots and serve with roast lamb. Basically it is a store cupboard must-have and lasts for ages.

                                 But do be aware. Like a woman in her thirties, it gets hotter with age.

You need to know that it took some gentle persuading to be allowed to give you this one. The recipe has been adapted and perfected by the Fella who takes huge pride and care when making it.So do take full advantage  of this rare and unexpected opportunity to spice up your store cupboard life!

Here it is boys and girls. I will say this only once;

For 3-4 jars worth, you will need;
50g whole coriander seeds
50g whole cumin seeds
30g whole caraway seeds
50g dried chillis
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp Salt
Olive oil


  • Begin by soaking the chilli’s in a bowl of hot water till soft. (10-15 mins)

  • Toast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds in a large dry frying pan till they start to become very fragrant. About 2 minutes.

  • Put the toasted seeds, garlic and the salt into a blender and pulse until well combined but don’t puree.

  • When the chilli’s have softened add them to the mixture and adding a good glug of olive oil, about a cup, whizz again.

  • Spoon into jars and add a dash of olive oil over the top so that it keeps before putting the lids on.

We went out for our first proper sail train today with about 10 very helpful extra training crew to put our numbers up to 22. Up went the main, the gaffed topsail, staysail, jib and even the jib top went up in stops. It was great to know that even though we haven’t done it since October of last year, it’s a bit like riding a bicycle, you never forget.

We’re out again tomorrow and I think I might have to tell you about racing and sandwiches. Sandwiches are a big and very important part of any race day to all those big, hungry, strong sailors out there. There is even a technique to eating French baguette sandwiches every day for a whole regatta without ripping the roof of your mouth to shreds.

So if your dying to know what that all important, baguette-eating mastery might be then tune in soon for your next addition of 33 Degrees. Cheers!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Spiced Indian-Style Quinoa - Delicious!

My Fella at the helm and smiles all round

Our first sail of the season! I apologise for not writing about it last night. Although we only put up the Main, the Jib and Staysail, I was pooped at the end of the day. (But then have you seen the size of our Mainsail?) We normally train for racing with a full crew, around 23 people, but yesterday we were a mere 11. So crew numbers down, combined with a day of glorious Cannes sunshine, a divine sea breeze, and I’m just about here with you tonight. Match sticks are holding up the eye lids.
There's Natty, trimming the Jib

I began my day by making the sandwiches. But there is plenty of time to bore you with that over the season and I’d rather not talk about it just yet! So I’ll just say that we put some sails up, remembered how it all worked from last year and the rigging was great and nothing fell down and apparently the egg mayonnaise was delicious. A great day out on the water.

Lunch today was fun. We had an early smoko (coffee break to most people; smoko to yachties), so I had 2 hours to make lunch. Whoa.

Now trying to make a hearty vegetarian lunch for a 99 % meat eating crew without that 99% really noticing there’s no meat is a good cooking challenge. It’s not just because I have a vegetarian on board (Nat Lemieux is in de house) but has a lot to do with the budget and their health. Bless ‘em.  I do feel a bit like their mothers sometimes. I hope any Mother’s of said crew that may potentially be reading this blog, feel that their little cherubs are being well tended to…?

Indian style is my vegetarian flavour of choice. And for lunch today I broke out the Saag Aloo and Spicy Quinoa with Cauliflower. Team that up with some natural yoghurt with mint and mango chutney and they were all definitely happy and very healthy vegetarians.

Lots of herbs and spices and lots of flavour and it really is all very easy to make and a great lunch or dinner. You could add chicken or lamb if you wanted but I bet if you served this up to your family or crew, they really wouldn’t mind/care/notice if it was meat free. 

So maybe the challenge is on, give it a go. Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients and methods for these dishes. It’s all just a lot of chucking in of spices and herbs, the making of them is sooooo easy. Honest.

For the Saag Aloo you will need;

1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of fresh root ginger, finely grated
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
Good grating of fresh nutmeg
2 tsp garam masala
1 large bag of fresh spinach or ½ bag of frozen spinach
3 medium, waxy potatoes, chopped into smallish chunks
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
Around ¾ pint of hot vegetable stock
2 tbsp ground almonds


  • Gently sauté the onion, garlic and ginger together in a large, heavy frying pan or wok. Add salt and a tsp sugar. Sautee till the onion is starting to colour, then add all the spices including the nutmeg and continue to sauté until the spices are all becoming quite fragrant. A few minutes.

  • Add the diced potato and stir to coat in all the spicy, oniony mixture on a medium heat. Then add a ladle-full of hot stock, stir, then cover the pan with a lid and leave so the potatoes slowly absorb the liquid. This could take 10 minutes or so, keep checking. Once the liquid has been almost absorbed, add more stock and continue like this until the potatoes become quite soft. This could take up to 30 minutes or more. But that’s pretty much the hard work over with. So whilst that’s going on you can be making the Quinoa dish.

  • When the potatoes are soft and you have used most of the stock (or not, depends on the spuds), then add the spinach and the diced tomato. I just tip the frozen spinach in straight out the bag if that’s what you’re using and the same with the fresh.

  • Add the ground almonds and if it looks too dry then you can add more stock or some fresh natural yoghurt to shimmy it all up a bit.

  • Season to taste. I could live on this. This and take-away, Peshwari Naan bread. Heaven.

Then for the spicy Quinoa with Cauliflower you will need;

2 medium onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of fresh root ginger, grated
1 finely chopped fresh red chilli or 3-4 small dried red chillis
1 tbsp finely chopped, fresh coriander stalks, the leaves picked off for later
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp turmeric (starting to notice a pattern?)
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 bag of Quinoa for up to 6 people, a whole bag for up to 12
1 small cauliflower broken into small florets
Good handful of fresh roughly chopped coriander
Good handful of fresh roughly chopped mint
About 200 ml hot vege stock


  • Boil up a pan of water and when it’s bubbling away, add your Cauliflower. Let it cook for about 4-5 minutes till still a bit firm-ish, then using a slotted spoon hoik it out and put in a bowl of cold water and some ice cubes or just make sure it cools down very quickly.

  • Bring the same pan of water back to the boil and cook the quinoa in this water. (notes on quinoa at the bottom, meanwhile stick with me its worth it)

  • Whilst this is all happening (you multi-tasker you), as with the Saag Aloo, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in a frying pan till starting to colour. Add all the spices and fry again till fragrant.

  • Then spoon in the Cauliflower and stir to cover in all the oniony, spicy mixture, letting it all sizzle a little.

  • Add the quinoa and a good splash of hot vege stock and stir well to combine.. Season to taste and add the chopped mint and coriander.

  • Serve with some hot naan breads and a big salad, yoghurt and mango chutney. YUMMY.

So Quinoa, if you haven’t used it is sort of a bit like little, round rice. It’s a super-food which means it’s incredibly good for you and has all the complete protein of meat without any of the saturated fats. In fact the fats it does have are the brain-healthy omega fats and top that with the fact that it’s full of fibre and it’s delicious and there’s your no-brainer right there, if you haven’t cooked it yet, here’s your excuse to start. Bung it in boiling water and boil it for around 10 minutes and hey-presto. Eat it cold as a salad or hot as an alternative to rice or pasta.

We're training again on Saturday and this time with feeling. Till then, happy cooking.

The mast base, where I spend alot of time when we're racing

Thats my staysail jigger, leading to my staysail sheet, leading to my staysail.

Sian coiling lines

Monday, 11 April 2011

It Was A Pesto Recovery.

In the end it had to be homemade pesto pasta. Mainly due to what was, or wasn’t in the fridge and the fact that it was Sunday and all the shops in France are well and truly shut on a Sunday.

The pasta definitely did the job and I felt one hundred percent better and healthier. Lots of fragrant basil, the healing oils of garlic, some toasted pinenuts and the cleansing properties of freshly squeezed lemon juice. All perfectly bundled into a steaming bowl of al-dente carbohydrates.

And I’m on top of the world again.

I really wondered about putting this one in though as a recipe. You’ve probably all made it before and it is just pesto. It’s a shame that I think that about such a simple and yet such an amazing recipe. I guess It’s from past lazy, rushed meals and the jar of shop bought stuff making the odd appearence (who me? Never).

But the homemade version is always a revelation and I think you should all try it for the simple, up-lifting experience of it!

Its cheap, its easy and its healthy, need anymore excuses? Here goes;

For 5-8 people you will need;

500g pack spaghetti or more depending on the hunger vibes your getting
Large pan of boiling salted water
A good sized bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked from the stems. We’re talking like a small posy. The smell will have you won over already.
2 good sized cloves of garlic, skins removed and sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
50g lightly toasted pinenuts
100 g grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino
150ml olive oil to start with
Salt and pepper

Just to let you know that these amounts are really just a guide line. You can make your pesto more lemony or more nutty. You really can’t go wrong so play around with it to your liking.


  • Whilst you have a large pan of water on to boil make your pesto. When the water comes to the boil add, roughly, a tbsp of salt to a litre of water. Don’t be shy.

  • Put the basil leaves, garlic, lemon zest and juice, pinenuts, parmesan and the oil into a food blender and whizz till it’s all combined. It shouldn’t be too pureed; a bit of texture is nice. If you only have a hand blender then that will work fine.

  • Season with a little salt and a good grinding of pepper remembering that the parmesan can be salty. Add more olive oil if it needs to be loosened.

  • Taste and adjust the flavours as you wish.

  • When the spaghetti is ready, strain it but keep roughly 3 tbsp of the pasta water to mix in with the pesto.

  • Tip the pasta back into the pan and add the pesto and pasta water. Stir to combine and serve with lots of salad and some nice crusty bread.

  • And there end’eth your hangover.

You can use walnuts if you wish to really boost the health benefits. I have a nut allergy on board so I stick to the pinenuts. Also if you don’t like the idea of so much raw garlic (maybe you have a date), then you could roast the whole cloves in their skins in the oven which makes the garlic a little sweeter before adding to your pesto.

We’re going out for our first trial-sail of the year tomorrow. Very exciting. I hope I remember how to do it and which bits of rope to pull and when. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck and see you soon.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Well that was messy. But fun too. (Thanks Holly)  And most of Saturday was a bit of a right-off.(Shame on me, sorry Ma) I might have mentioned in my last blog that the possibilities of copious amounts of rose being consumed when in the close vicinity of classic yacht sailors were high. I lied. It turned out to be copious amounts of cheap vin rouge, by the glass; ouch.

It was a large chocolate Haagen-Dazs milk-shake that kicked the hangover into touch, followed a little later on with some great sushi; a great aspect of Cannes, plenty of sushi restaurants.

So I'm back on track today and wondering what the ultimate apres-hangover meal might be. What soul-food is waiting for me in my cupboards? Something soothing, refreshing, nutritious. Sounds like flavours from the Thai department to me. I'll go have a gander and let you know what I come up with.

Would love to know what your ultimate hangover food is in the meantime... Please leave helpful suggestions in the comment box below and I'll be back later with mine.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cheese and Chutney Pie

We looking a bit out of place there? And small.
Next week we get to move down the quay a bit so that we'll fit in a bit more with the neighbours. Which is great because the neighbours will be the likes of beautiful classics such as Mariette, Cambria and Altair amongst others. The only downside I know from many past experinces is that there'll be alot more socialising in the copious-amounts-of-rose type. Well shucks...

So off I went to the market this morning. I needed to get a few bits and bobs for lunch. I had to be quick because I was needed to help varnish the rail, so only bought some tomatoes. We were there pretty early as you can see. These pictures aren't exactly a true representation of the full Cannes Market Experience. Normally you can't move for French ladies, their small dogs and trolleys, loudly hollering for bargains, proclaiming how good or how bad a stall's produce is as they skillfully hammer the price down.

(I have a trolley. Im aware that back home this is not cool. Especially at the tender age of 33. However, when shopping for lots of hungry people with no transport, let me tell you that in physical-effort terms, they're cool Ok) 

I wish I could do that at the Cannes market, banter the price down. Do you know how much these tomatoes cost?   Cannes market is great fun to go to but unless you have plenty of time and a huge budget, its for taking pretty pictures and maybe learning the odd bit of French.

The Most Expensive Tomatoes In The World
So because I was on varnishing duty, I decided to do an easy sandwich lunch. I made a bowl of egg mayonnaise, tuna mayonnaise and huge green salad. A platter of hams and salamis, those 4 Euro tomatoes with mozzerella, dried figs and apricots. Then I decided to make a cheese and onion pie which was absolutely no effort whatsoever. Try it.

I had 2 rolls of ready made shortcrust pastry which you can get ready rolled in France. So the pie took literally 20 minutes to make and 10 people had plenty what with the other bits and bobs they had to eat.

You will need;

2 rounds of ready made shortcrust
2 onions sliced
Goats cheese
2 tbsp of any chutney you may have
2 tsp of dried thyme
an egg or milk for glazing
Sprinkling of sesamee seeds.

  • Fry the onions in a little oil and season with salt and a little sugar. 
  • Fry till they are just starting to go a nice golden colour.
  • Lay the first round of pastry out on a non-stick baking sheet and smear the chutney over the base leaving an edge of about an inch un-chutneyed.
  • Pour over your onions and then scatter the goats cheese over that in an even layer.
  • sprinkle with the dried thyme. Then with a pastry brush wet the outside edge of the pastry with water so that the top layer of pastry will stick to it.
  • plonk over your top layer of pastry and roughly scrunch together the 2 edges so that you know the pie is well sealed. Brush with beaten egg or milk and scatter with the sesamee seeds.
  • Wih a sharp knife, poke 2 holes into the pastry lid so that steam can escape.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven at gas mark 5/190 degrees for 35-40 minutes
  • Hey presto, pie for 8-10 people and a nice picnic lunch.

 Did I mention how much those tomatoes cost?

Its friday tomorrow and we have the weekend off. I might have to start drinking some rose then. Have a good one. I'll let you know how mine goes. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Pumpkin Lasagne

We arrived in Cannes yesterday afternoon, gracefully motoring in as Arnold Schwarzenegger finished up his tea on one of the big Super Yachts and left with his entourage of body guards…was it something we said? Anyway, this is what it’s all about here. Its all glamour and sparkly, shiny, expensive boats and women.  I might have to start brushing my hair in the morning.

On the opposite end of the glamour scale, I’ve had a few requests for the recipe for my kitchen-sink-lasagne which featured briefly in my last blog.  It may not be very ‘Cote D'azure’, but is a great way to feed lots of hungry mouths in a very short space of time. Everything but the kitchen sink can go in it, hence the name (I’m sure you hadn’t guessed that) And it costs nothing to make. Ace.

More often than not, I find myself with around 90 minutes to cook lunch for 12 people  and can’t afford to take the time to go to the shops. Kitchen-sink-lasagne day I looked into the fridge to find 4 courgettes, a quarter of a bit of a pumpkin, and some very odd bits of cheese. Thus followed a huge lasagne!  So here it is and obviously you can use most left over vege’s that are in the fridge. If you have onions, you can make a feast out of anything in my book;

For a lasagne for 6-10 people you will need;

3-4 onions, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 medium sized potatoes, chopped into small cubes
Pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and chopped as small as the potato
4 courgettes, grated; the water squeezed out of them
100 g pinenuts, dry fried in a pan till golden
A box of dried lasagne sheets (or fresh if you have)
A white sauce (bought or homemade, instructions below)
Any bits of left over cheese, rind and all!
tsp of fennel seeds

  •         Because you’re probably in a hurry, the lasagne will cook quicker if it’s soaked first, so put a load of the pasta sheets in a dish of water. Unless you have fresh in which case skip that bit.
  •         Gently sauté your onions in some olive oil or sunflower oil with ½ tsp sugar. (I usually do this with onions, I find it helps drawer out their sweetness and helps round off the flavour of most dishes. My grandma taught me that)
  •         In another pan, at the same time as your onions sauté the pumpkin and potatoes in some oil until soft. Don’t fry them too hard, they don’t want to be browned, just soft. Add the fennel seeds and continue sautéing for a few more minutes. Add to your onions.
  •         Squeeze as much of the water out of the grated courgettes as you can. Fry this in some oil for a few minutes then add to the rest of the vege mixture along with the toasted pinenuts. Season with some salt and pepper. 

For the white sauce

¾ pint of milk
2 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp plain flour
A dash of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
100-150g of bits and bobs of cheese,
  •         Now for the tasty, cheesy white sauce bit;  If you have a carton or jar of white sauce then just heat gently and add your finely chopped or grated bits of cheese. I used some goat’s cheese, parmesan and some French Cantal but cheddar or anything would be great too.
  •         To make the sauce from scratch plop a good tbsp or about 50g butter into a small-ish saucepan. Melt the butter then add 2 wooden spoons worth of flour or 2 heaped tbsp. Stir into the butter on a medium heat so that’s its sizzling. When it looks a bit honey-combed or granular then take off the heat. Now start adding some milk bit by bit, stirring loads with a wooden spoon or whisk to incorporate it fully into the flour and butter after each addition. It gets a bit doughy but that’s cool. Eventually it’ll start turning into a nice looking sauce. When you have incorporated all the milk put back onto a medium heat and keep stirring all the time till its thickened. When it has thickened nicely, let it simmer gently for about 5 minutes.
  •         Take off the heat and then add you cheese, nutmeg and seasoning till you're very happy with the taste. Please use freshly grated nutmeg. The pre-grated stuff is truly useless. Make sure your sauce is not too thick; you need a good amount of spreadable cheesy, creamy sauce.
  •         Now you can start layering. Spread a few spoonfuls of the veg mixture across the base of your dish. Just a light smearing of it is all you need to start off with. Lay your sheets of soaked lasagne sheets over the vege's so that there are no gaps.
  •         Next spoon about a third of the vege mixture over the lasagne sheets. Then pour over a good dribble of the cheese sauce till it thinly covers the vege mixture. Top this with more lasagne sheets.
  •         Keep repeating this process till you have come to the top of your dish. I like to finish off with a last layer of pasta sheets then a final topping of cheese sauce and some grated cheese.
  •         Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, till nice and golden and bubbly on top.

I’ll be off to the Cannes market as soon as possible so I’ll be coming up with some slightly more, good looking, Cannes worthy dishes for the crew. And it’s getting hot, slowly but surely. So it’s definitely salad time of year again.

Please do use the comment box below if you have any requests for recipes or you tried a dish and wish to tell me how it went. I'd love to know. Cheers!
See you soon and hopefully with a bit more of a tan. I really need to try to fit in a bit more round here. But then I would still like to keep eating so I'll let you know how it goes. Who really cares about being a size 8 still at the age of 33?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A Quick Tour

I thought I’d give you a quick tour of my galley and my cabin. It won’t take long because there’s not a huge amount to show you.  We’ll start with the galley.

My oven is known as a ‘Force Ten’. I really think that it’s perhaps designed to cook on boats that are less than 60ft long for no more than 8 people on the occasional, nice weekend’s outing on the Solent. And there I am, cooking for 12 every day, sometimes on deliveries, for days at a time on an angle of various degrees. Last year, ‘Mr Oven’, (he’s definitely a male. So difficult when I least need it) got the chance to live up to his name; ‘Force-Ten’ (said with movie trailer voice). He failed.

We sailed the boat from here, St Tropez to the UK. Most of the 3 week trip was great, catching fish and making sushi. But then the coast of Portugal brought weather that sent the fruit bowl flying (amongst anything else on the boat that wasn’t glued down or lashed to the deck) so that whilst trying to stay up-right, hold on, keep a non-sea-sick head and cook stir fried vege’s and egg noodles, I also had to avoid a pineapple, apples and some kiwi’s all hurtling through the galley in various directions. And then the oven door kept flying open, whilst my one and only port hole started to leak all over the floor I was already struggling to stand up on……

‘Oh, how we laughed!’, she says with a small, its-all-in-the-distant-past kind of a chuckle.

So here we are, the crew queuing up for lunch whilst in port. So if you were thinking of downing some Stugeron, hold back, its all flat and calm again.
Tim and Matty diving into 'kitchen-sink-lasagne'

You’ll no doubt get to know this lot quite well over the next few months. I’ll remember not to complain about their eating habits too much. We work, live, eat and play in such close quarters, its probably wise to say nothing but the nicest of things. To be honest, I’m very lucky. I have one vegetarian, one nut allergy, and the odd, few dis-likes. Oh and the captain can’t eat too much shellfish or drink green wine but that’s his story and I definitely need to keep him sweet.

Moving onto my cabin then; sorry, our cabin.  The Fella and I have now spent a week, back in our cabin quarters. Now, you may think from these pictures that it all looks quite nice! And you’d be right. We’re very, very lucky. 4 members of the crew sleep in the forepeak. They have ‘cots’ which fold down on pullies. And a space under a seat to put their stuff in (crew uniform, pants etc). So Billy, Joe etc, if you’re reading this then please forgive me my whinging.

maybe I could have tidied a bit more...
We all spend about 7-8 months living in this manner. And let me tell you that you can love your partner/boyfriend/spouse more than anything in the world and yet, I assure you, you will be tested by this arrangement. The Fella and I sleep head to toe in our bunk. George is 6ft 3 and very broad in the shoulder (don’t want to brag about how butch my man is…oh, ooops!).  And I…well I am no slim, tiny, slip of a thing, Hey man,I’m a foody!  So we simply can not lie next to each other and not, quite literally, hate each other by the early hours. It’s a small single bed in normal, land-bed-sized terms.
Thank God I love the Fella’s feet.

Showing my drawers on the internet eh? Anyway, there they are. 2 whole drawers. Its amazing how as a chic, you can put the most amazing amount of stuff away in 2 drawers. The problem comes when you need a particular top or pair of jeans. It all has to come out or you’ve no hope of getting dressed any time soon.

 My life for the next 8 months basically is all right there. Obviously I haven’t shown you any of the cool on deck sailing stuff yet, but don’t worry, we’ll get there soon. We move the boat to Cannes on Monday and start race training in a few weeks. There you’ll get to meet my fabulous stewardess who I couldn’t live without as we peel off wet clothes after a hard day’s sailing, make tea and snacks for the rest of the crew, looking like we never had a hair out of place all day, cooking dinner and sandwich fillings for the next day’s sail… Its my turn to buy the next bottle of Gin Sian, don’t worry I’m on it.

Hope you can join us for it, its going to be an amazing season.