Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Meaty Moussaka.

I just made chocolate pecan pie. It’s in the oven as we speak. I had some chocolate berry sauce left over from the ‘Sweet Sushi Woo’ day, and one can not waste good chocolate can one? There must be some kind of law against that. So I gently melted it and when it was cool enough, mixed in 2 tubs of mascarpone, some cream, two eggs and an extra egg yolk, a knob of butter, a tbsp of flour and poured it into a blind-baked pastry case on top of a layer of pecans. Popped the little tin of naughty-ness in the oven on low for 30 minutes and hey presto! The crew can’t quite believe they’re getting spoons twice in one week.

We’ve been at anchor now for ages. It’s Okay really, you get used to it but I am certainly looking forward to when we leave for Barcelona and have a proper berth attached to the hard stuff, the land. I’ll be able to wander off the boat willy-nilly for little food shops, or for a nice little stroll whenever I please. Ah, the little things in life.

It’s the exercise I miss the most. My waste-line is talking to me and putting a chocolate pecan pie in the oven is really not going to help things is it?

I’ll never learn when it comes to food. I’m obsessed. I really need to tell you about my moussaka too. Delia Smith’s recipe from one of her ‘How to Cook’ series was the best and easiest I have ever made. Actually, it was the first moussaka I ever made, all those years ago, learning to cook. So I must pass it onto you. It’s a real crew pleaser and is a lovely summer night supper with a lovely salad and a glass of wine. I’ve made a few little alterations of my own. I struggle to get minced lamb in France when I don’t have access to a butchers, so last week I made it with cubed leg of lamb instead and it was seriously delicious. Also Delia’s recipe says it will feed 4-6 people; she can’t have ever cooked for a bunch of sailor boys because you need to at least double her recipe to feed 6. So my recipe is bigger and made with cubed lamb instead of minced but essentially this is Delia’s and it is great. Thanks Delia.

You will need;

600-700g lamb, leg steaks or a good equivalent
2 medium onions finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
3 large aubergines
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp cinnamon
500 ml red wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 quantity béchamel sauce (see blog, ‘A Glamorous Lunch In Cannes’ for recipe)
500g pot of ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
Parmesan cheese


  • Heat your oven to about gas mark 6. Slice the aubergines into slices a few millimetres thick. Lay them on a baking tray and brush the sides facing up with olive oil. Give them all a little sprinkling of salt and pop into the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them. They can burn in seconds when you’re not looking. When they are lightly browned and just about cooked, remove them from the oven and put aside for now.

  • Turn the oven down to gas mark 4.

  • Cut the lamb into smallish pieces, just smaller than bite sized. Sear in a hot pan with some sunflower oil and season. Fry till the lamb is browned all over. Set aside whilst you cook the onions.

  • In the same pan with all the lovely lamby juices still in it, heat some more sunflower oil. Sautee the onions with the tsp of sugar and a sprinkling of salt till they are lightly browned. Add the garlic and the chopped fresh herbs and mix. Pour in the red wine, tomato puree, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon. Tip the lamb back into the pan with the onions and red wine and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and season accordingly. It might seem quite thick but this is good.

  • Add the ricotta to the béchamel sauce and take it off the heat to cool before adding the beaten egg. Season and grate in some fresh nutmeg.

  • Tip the aubergine slices into the bottom of your chosen baking dish. Cover with the lamb sauce then pour on the ricotta sauce. Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over the top and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. The ricotta topping will puff up slightly and go a lovely golden colour.

There we are. It is a very good meal with a lovely salad, some crusty warmed bread and a good red wine. I have been known to put slices of par-cooked potato in this before to bulk it out for large amounts of people. And although it may seem like a lot of aubergine to slice up and cook, believe me, it’s worth it. This is one of those meals where my ‘full-up’ message stops working and I could just keep going and going.

I really should start running again. And stop making pies. Speaking of which, I’d better take it out of the oven. I’ll let the boys have it and refrain myself…  oh bother, why is it so hard!? If you could smell it too, you’d understand.

Weak in the presence of good food. Hey-ho, we’ll be racing in a few weeks in Barcelona. Did I mention how excited about that I was?

Thanks for reading, see you before we depart for pastures new and Spanish.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Sweet Sushi Woo

Yesterday was Saturday and I was on watch. There is a watch rota when the boat is either in a non-secure marina or we’re at anchor. And yesterday it was my turn which was fine by me. I had plans. Sweet sushi plans. I’ve never made sweet sushi before and got the idea whilst looking at a French cooking magazine. What I thought was sushi filled with fruit turned out to be some kind of cream cheese filled with fruit but my imagination was already on fire. Why had I never thought of this before?! The possibilities for sweet sushi are endless. I had to limit my ideas down so that I wouldn’t explode with excitement and wreak absolute havoc in the galley all in one go. One step at a time, Suzy. Mind you, the crew thought it was great of course. They don’t always get spoons at dinner time (or in this case; chopsticks)

It was the Nori seaweed I was most unsure about but looking ‘sweet sushi’ up online showed me that you can still use the seaweed to roll. The flavour of the seaweed is fairly inconsequential once the sushi filling is involved and all the other bits and bobs that go with it.

So I boiled my uber list of flavour possibilities down to a manageable, one day experiment and ‘Woo-Hoo’, I was off! I know this looks like a lot of ingredients and work but it’s really all pretty straight forward to make and the pay off is in the eating I can assure you.

My flavour ideas;

Coconut and cardamom infused, sweet sushi rice
Mango and mint sushi
Fruits of the forest sushi
Gooseberry, lime and wasabi puree
Dark Chocolate and red berry dipping sauce
Green tea and ginger spiced poached pears with star anise

Oh yeah.

If you have never made sushi before then this would be a fun way to start I reckon. It isn’t at all tricky; the thing with sushi is that it’s not normally the quickest of meals to prepare. But because this one is a desert and not a main meal, I only needed a small amount. Two rolls of two different flavoured sushi was definitely good for 4-5 people. Sweet sushi could be made in advance and served either that night or at a push, the next day. The great thing about the fruit sushi is that you don’t have the freshness of the raw fish to worry about so you can make it ahead of time and serve when you’re ready. And your hands don’t smell all fishy after you’ve made it. Bonus.

So these were my chosen flavour combinations but you could really go wild with all the potential flavours you could use. Tell you what though; gooseberry, lime and wasabi make the most fantastic puree ever. I had some gooseberries in the freezer and have wanted to use them for something exciting for months now. Gooseberries are so tangy and tart and that lovely bright green that it seemed so obvious to try them with the wasabi, a bit of lime juice and sweetened of course with some vanilla sugar.

It was all pretty simple to make and although it wasn’t the quickest thing to make, now I’ve experimented once, I’ll be even quicker next time.

For Sweet Sushi you will need;

For the rice;
1 cup of sushi rice
1 ¼ cups of coconut milk
8 cardamom pods
4 tbsp of sugar

For the mint and mango sushi;
1 ripe mango
Fresh mint leaves
Cream cheese
100g pistachio nuts, shelled and finely chopped with 2 tbsp of chocolate vermicelli added. 

For the Fruits of the Forest sushi;
1 cup of frozen, mixed red berries. Or a mixture of fresh red currents, black currents, black berries, blueberries etc. Just give them a gentle simmer in a tbsp of juice or water.

Nori seaweed

For the Gooseberry, Lime and Wasabi puree;
1 tsp wasabi paste
1 cup gooseberries, topped and tailed
Juice and zest of ½ lime
3-4 tbsp of vanilla sugar (or use plain sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract)

For the chocolate sauce;
1 250g bar of dark chocolate

For the poached green tea and ginger spiced pears;
4 large pieces of crystallised ginger
2 small firm pears
1 green tea bag
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
½ vanilla pod
2 star anise


  • Definitely start by making the rice. First soak the rice in a plastic or ceramic (not metal) bowl of water for around 20 minutes. Once it has soaked, rinse it well in cold running water (again, using a plastic sieve, not a metal one) until the water runs pretty clear.

  • Put the rice into a saucepan and add the coconut milk. Using a rolling pin or your fist onto the flat of a large blade, gently bash the green cardamom pods so that the seeds inside are exposed. Heat a small saucepan and dry fry the pods for about 40-60 seconds to get their aroma to waken up a bit. Pop those in the coconut milk with a star anise. Stir and cover the pan with a heavy tight fitting lid or some cling film as I do for rice. Don’t worry, it puffs up but it never goes pop, I promise.

  • Bring the rice to the boil then turn the heat down to its lowest heat and leave to cook nice and slowly for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the rice for another 10 minutes to rest. Do not take the lid or cling film off at this stage. It’s very important to keep all the lovely steam in.

  • When the ten minutes is up, tip the rice into a shallow plastic tray or onto a wooden chopping board and spread it out evenly so that it can cool quickly. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and using a chopping motion as if you’re mixing cement with a trowel, mix the sugar into the rice.

  • Leave the rice to continue cooling and prepare the fruit for the sushi. Put the frozen berries to defrost in a sieve and place over a bowl to catch all the lovely juices. This will go into the chocolate sauce later. Prepare the mango so that you have some long wedges to go into the sushi.  There. That’s that.

  • To make the gooseberry puree, pop the gooseberries into a pan with the zest and juice of ½ lime. Bring to the boil to cook the gooseberries and reduce the liquid. This should take no time at all, about 5 minutes. When they have cooled, add the tsp wasabi paste and the sugar, a pinch of salt and blend till smooth. You can do this in small stages if you’re unsure how strong your wasabi is! But do try to add the full tsp. The flavour is truly amazing. Taste and add more sugar and/or wasabi if you wish. Refrigerate. Deep breaths now if you’re getting too excited.

  •  For the pears; make a nice cup of hot green tea. Pour into a saucepan and add 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 star anise, 4 cloves, 4 finely chopped large pieces of crystallised ginger and the juice of the remaining lime half. Add 2 tbsp of brown sugar and stir. Prepare the pears by peeling, chopping in half lengthways and coring with a tsp. Pop those into the poaching liquid and top up with water if needed so that they are just covered. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes so that they are soft but not too soft. Decant into a bowl with the liquor and spices, cover and chill.

  • That’s almost all the prep done and now is the exciting moment where you get to roll some sushi!  Have your finely chopped pistachio nuts and vermicelli on a flat plate ready. We’ll do the mango and mint ones first. So, take your rolling mat and cling film it. Spread the rice in a good layer over the Nori as explained on the seaweed packet but making sure you cover the entire piece of Nori. Then flip the rice and Nori over so that the rice is on the cling-filmed rolling mat and the Nori is facing up. An inch up from the bottom edge of the Nori, smear across some cream cheese, some of the gooseberry and wasabi puree then the mint leaves then the mango. Roll the sushi according to the instructions on the Nori packet. I hope my photos help explain things!

  • Gently lift the mango roll onto the pistachio plate and roll the sushi in the pistachio and vermicelli to cover the rice. There we go! One mango and mint sushi roll. Now repeat the process so that you have 2. Put on a plate, cover and chill.

  • Almost done. The fruit of the forest one is easier I guess. Take the cling film off the rolling mat and follow the Nori packet instructions for putting the rice onto the seaweed leaving just under an inch gap at the top. Spoon the fruits onto the rice and roll the sushi. Make 2, put onto a plate and chill. Easy!

  • Now all that’s left is the chocolate sauce. Put the choc into a saucepan or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add 3 tbsp hot water to the chocolate and let the chocolate gently melt. Try not to stir it too much at this point, just let it very gently melt (like how I do when I’m cooking in the galley).

  • When the chocolate has melted stir and make sure that it isn’t too thick by adding a little more hot water if needed. Then pour in the red berry juices saved from earlier.
  •  When you’re ready to serve, cut the sushi with a very sharp knife. Cut them in half and then cut the halves into three, six pieces per roll.


  • I did two different styles of serving because even at this point I couldn’t make my mind up about what flavours should go where! A little surprise though was how good crystallised ginger dipped in chocolate and berry sauce is…
 Actually all of it was really good dipped in the chocolate sauce. And it all looked so pretty on lovely big white plates. I was so pleased and excited with it all and it tasted so refreshing and so good. And like I said there are so many possibilities for other flavours, you should really have a go at it. Let me know how you get on.

 We’re another week at anchor on Mariquita here in Cogolin. Then off to Barcelona. It will be so nice to be in Spain. A different culture, exciting new food, the nightlife. And being attached to land again will be very welcome.

Thanks for reading about my sweet sushi experiment. The crew were happy guinea pigs! Next time I’ll serve with chilled sweet sake I think…

Cheers! See you next time.                                               

Friday, 24 June 2011

Cool Summer Salad

I know I said that I wouldn’t be cooking any raw salad lunches just because of the heat, but as these things tend to go with bold statements, yesterday, I did. I probably saved about ½ pint of hydration and I’m not sure anybody noticed either. Nobody asked where the cooked stuff was, standing in line looking vaguely around for the main dish to be presented to them. Nada. Brill, says I, maintaining a cool composure not that common with summer galley cooking. They’re ever so good, the crew. Obviously they assume I always look like that after cooking (or assembling) them a meal.

It was the fennel bulb that did it. It was a lovely, light green, huge bulging bulb of crisp fennel. I had some lovely little, French, red-skinned new potatoes, lemons, mint and one thing led to another. A salad was born. The difficult decision was whether to go the fresh but needed-using-up buffalo mozzarella or add some saltiness and go the blue cheese. The buffalo won but mostly because it needed using. I reckon goats, blue or mozzarella would work very nicely with this. Or none at all if you’re vegan. If you are (Jani), then maybe some nice crunchy croutons eh?

So we’re expecting wind tonight. Not due to the plentiful eating of raw food you understand but due to some weather front or other. The awnings are coming down and a swell is building. Either we’ll sleep very well with the motion, or if the wind really builds we’ll be doing an anchor watch. That would be dull. The other night my shift was from 3:30 am to 5. See what I mean when I say there are pros and cons to anchoring?

Anyway, a crisp, fresh and hearty salad. As salads go, it hit a lot of buttons. It looked very pretty too. Don’t be afraid of the raw fennel. The lemon and garlic marinade helps to soften any aniseed-ness if that’s not what you like. The flavour was mellow and sweet. If you have a mandolin (Thanks Squidge!), then slice the fennel very finely with that and DO be afraid of the mandolin. My stewardess Sian wont go anywhere near mine. Her eyes widen in terror if it’s out of its drawer and she starts backing off out of the galley. If you don’t have a mandolin, get one; but before then, just slice as thinly as you can with a normal kitchen knife. Groovy. Oh and on a lighter note I was thinking how nice this would be with some BBQ’d lamb chops and a glass of very cold white wine on a summers’ eve… one day when I have my very own garden…

You will need;

1 large bulb of fennel, finely sliced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1 lemon zested (see blog; ‘Zest For a Long Walk’) and juiced of course.
A good handful of washed mange tout, or snow peas, for you guys across the pond
A punnet of new potatoes, roughly 15 small potatoes
2 tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp roughly chopped dill
1 tbsp of finely chopped chives
Handful of torn basil leaves
Hand torn fresh buffalo mozzarella or blue cheese or whatever fits your mood
3 finely sliced spring onions (or I think Salad Onions now in the UK?)


  • Begin by finding your prettiest serving plate. Salads look so much better on nice big plates. Then finely slice the fennel bulb. Put the slices in a big mixing bowl. (Just admire the plate for now. I shouldn’t have got you all excited about the plate just yet. In fact maybe put it back in the cupboard. Sorry.)

  • Ok. Now add the crushed garlic and lemon juice and some of the zest to the fennel and give it all a good stir around. Put the remaining lemon zest aside (but not in the cupboard with the salad plate, just aside).

  • Doing well so far. Now put the potatoes onto boil (a little bit of cooking I’ll admit). Add a sprig of fresh mint to the pan and when the water is boiling add some salt. When they are cooked, drain and run cold water over them to cool. Toss them in some olive oil and lots of ground black pepper.

  • Slice the mange tout lengthways into thin strips.

  • Cut all the herbs as roughly or as finely as you prefer. I cut the chives finely but the rest pretty rough and tore the basil leaves by hand.

  • Finely slice the spring onions and now you can start assembling the salad on its plate. So get you’re prettiest serving plate (again). Tip the fennel onto the plate and then add the mange tout then the potatoes then give it all a gentle little toss with your fingers. Crumble on half your cheese of choice then sprinkle over half the herbs. Crumble over the rest of the cheese, top with a final sprinkling of herbs and the sliced spring onions. 

  • A final sprinkling of some nice sea salt, a grinding of black pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil, then scatter over the rest of the lemon zest.

  • Serve with some grilled lamb chops, crusty bread and a cold Muscadet. Or whilst onboard, serve with other salads and a cheese board and some charcuterie and serve to your unsuspecting crew.

It’s the weekend! Friday nights are my night off and the crew make themselves pizza. Pizza Friday is legendary. There is huge rivalry as to who makes the best pizza. Of course it’s a very personal matter, what one puts on their pizza. It’s a matter of personal taste. However, my pizzas are obviously as far as I’m concerned, the bestest pizzas ever.

Have a great Friday night and a good weekend. Enjoy the summer weather and the Pimms and Happy Birthday to my wonderful Dad.

I’ll see you soon to let you know how my sweet sushi goes. I’m so excited.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Anchor Biryani

Mariquita is at anchor. For the next few weeks. Now this has its pros and its cons. And anyone who is reading this who works and lives on a boat full time will tell you that I just fibbed. There are no pros.

I suppose, swimming freely off the boat at any time after work or before breakfast could sound like it’s a pro. It would be the only one. Oh and I guess because of an offshore steady breeze, we have a lack of mosquitoes. So, not all is lost.

What we don’t have is easy access to land. A tender ride ashore and back can be a wet and salty affair as well as infrequent. We have to combine trips to save fuel and no one wants to be the taxi driver either. We don’t have internet and making a quick, simple daily trip to the shops is as you can guess, awkward. I can deal with awkward for a few days but for a few weeks I have to say, I’m really not looking forward to it. You could compare it to being a teenager living at home in the country side before you learnt to drive, relying on your parents to drive you to accepted events so that you can maintain some sort of a social life. On the bright side I don’t have acne.

So as you can probably glean from my (I like to think) un-usually negative tone of typing, being at anchor for any significant length of time is not my most favourite of maritime past-times.

I’m sure it will be fine. I’m sure I will discover that there is much to rejoice in when you are temporarily situated at a distance from crowds, traffic and pollution and all that other land-stuff that can be sometimes…annoying at best but hey! I bet this is good for me in many ways. I’ve just got to keep an open mind. Like at lunch yesterday when I had to cook for everyone. First day back from my holiday and there were no onions or actually much of anything fresh and definitely no time to get in the tender to then get in the car to go find a shop somewhere for fresh food, the sort you can cook nice healthy meals with, for a crew of 12.

Indian. When there is a lack of fresh food, I turn to my spice cupboard and dry stores. I did have a bag of brown basmati rice and I did also have a bag of green lentils. I had 8 potatoes, garlic, root ginger, a gazillion different herbs and spices and frozen peas. Who doesn’t have frozen peas in their freezer? I love frozen peas. So you see, once you have got going with an idea, it is amazing what you can come up with.

I made a sort of Biryani which was, if I do say so myself, pretty good. A great vegetarian meal full of protein. A combination of pulses, beans and rice will always give you a complete protein (all the amino acids of a meat product), full of protein and great for the veges and vegans out there. And it’s healthy of course having none of the saturated fats of meat and a whole lot of fibre. Most certainly a hearty meal.

I did a green salad with lots of fresh mint and sesame seeds with a lime and chilli dressing to excite the taste buds and give texture to the meal. So despite the lack of grub and no access to shops I think I did alright.  I’ll give you the recipe so that if you are ever stuck on a boat far from land with nothing in the fridge, you’ll know that not all is lost. Even if you have no onions.

You will need;

300g basmati brown rice
200g Green lentils
4-5 cloves of garlic
Good fat inch piece of fresh root ginger
1 green pepper, chopped
8 potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
2 onions finely chopped (assuming you have some)
1 fresh chilli finely chopped or 4 small dried chillies or chilli powder to your taste.
1 pint of vegetable stock (roughly)
1 cup of frozen peas
Bunch of fresh mint
Bunch of fresh coriander
10 dried apricots
Desiccated coconut
Ground almonds
2 cinnamon sticks or ½ tsp ground cinnamon    
1 tbsp Garam Massala (a spice cupboard must have)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
Or if you have a good tandoori paste then that would work very well too.


  • Heat a large non-stick pan with some sunflower oil. If you’re lucky enough to have onions then start by gently sautéing those with some salt and a tsp sugar. After 5 minutes add the potatoes, garlic, and ginger and continue to sauté fairly gently for another 5 minutes making sure the garlic doesn’t catch and burn.

  • Add the green pepper and your spices and chilli. My spice list above is merely a guide and what I had in the cupboard. If you have other Indian spices or just one curry spice then great, use a good tbsp of that and you’ll be sweet. But if you are unsure about spices then I suggest that the ones I have suggested are definitely ones to get as permanent fixtures in your spice collection.

  • It is always great to fry the spices a bit before adding any liquid when making a curry or similar dish. The burst of heat really brings the flavours out of the spices. So give everything in the pan a really great sizzle and stir. Then add the rice and lentils. Stir to mix still on a high heat and then add the hot vegetable stock. I poured mine into the rice and lentils so that every thing was almost covered in liquid but not quite. Probably about 600 ml.

  • Plonk in the cinnamon sticks, a handful of ground almonds and a handful of desiccated coconut. Stir well, season with salt and lots of black pepper and then pop on a well fitted lid. Turn the heat to low and leave for a good ten minutes to do its thing.

  • In the meantime you can be getting on with making a big bowl of natural yogurt with mint, lemon juice and finely chopped cucumber, scattering whole cumin seeds over a load of flat breads (Fajitas, chapattis, whatever you can find) and putting those into a warm oven wrapped in damp baking paper or foil. Find your mango chutney and lime pickle and make a salad. Easy.
Top Tip. The best yogurt with mint is made with either dried mint or mint sauce. Fresh mint can go funny when mixed with lemon juice.

  • After the ten minutes is up, have a little sneaky peak at your biriyani. If most of the liquid has been absorbed and it looks like it’s gasping for breath then add some more hot water to it; about a cupful. Replace the lid and give it another 10 minutes before repeating the process. The rice, lentils and potatoes will be absorbing all that liquid as it cooks so you will need to add more as it dries up.

  • When you think that the potatoes and rice have almost finished cooking about after 30-40 minutes then add the chopped apricots, frozen peas and any other green vegetable you can add (I found some broccoli) and half the mint and coriander to the pan. Stir to mix well, replace the lid and give it another 5 minutes to finish cooking. Don’t let it go for too long or the finished dish might be a bit stodgy. You can always add more hot stock to loosen if this happens though so don’t panic too much.
  •  When it is cooked the most important thing to do is to taste it! Potatoes and rice need good seasoning so you may want to add more salt if it tastes bland and maybe a bit of sugar, lemon juice or more chilli if it is not spicy enough for you.

  • Remove the cinnamon sticks (which you can wash and dry and use again), garnish with the remaining mint and coriander and serve with lots of side dishes and warm flat breads.

Just before I send this off to you I would like to say that despite my initial feelings of anchor dread, I had a great day today. My fridge was loaded with fresh food. I defrosted the ice maker and cleaned and sorted cupboards and there was a lovely breeze, good music on deck and, well, it was just a good day. I made a very refreshing salad for lunch and which I will write up and send to you very soon and an experimental moussaka for dinner which is still in the oven.

Best of all, I have found a nice little bar to send blogs from. They have very comfortable, big wicker chairs and very nice house red wine served from proper red wine glasses whilst you sit and ‘wifi’. (Pronounced ‘whiffy’ in France)

So I think I’ll survive. Don’t go worrying about me now. Thanks for reading and tune in again very soon for a very fresh and delicious salad recipe.


Monday, 20 June 2011

The Zest For A Long Walk

Ah, the joy of choosing the seats on an aeroplane in front of 2 energetic, restless-legged little girls. I’ll try to imagine I’m sitting in one of those massage chairs you get at selected hairdressers these days; it might be malfunctioning slightly but there’s something in it for me at least. Besides it’s only a 2 hour flight back to Nice from Standstead. I will live in hope that little ‘Polly’s’ technique improves or that she falls asleep very soon. George is fast asleep already. Even before the plane left the runway he was deep in the land of nod. Good for him though, he’s bouncing back and forth in tune to Polly’s little sister’s equally consistent leg-robatics and he’s blissfully unaware. Bless ‘im (said through slightly gritted teeth).

I love going home to the U.K. And I am little bit sad to be heading back to France. The reprieve from the heat was pretty good and all the usual things that come with staying in a real house like a whole big bathroom, a double bed, not having to share anything and everything with 7 other people. Pimms! And best of all, a real English country garden; chickens, geese and all.  On a walk this Saturday, I took pictures of sheep, cows, pigs, samphire, fields of corn, barley, cabbages and potatoes, butterflies, a bulging swarm of bees, oyster fishermen in old fishing boats and obviously the huge incentive; the pub we finally managed to drag our weary limbs into after we had trekked for 8 miles to get there. Good English pub following long muddy walk = low blood sugar, sore feet and guilt-free fish and chips all round please! Any sauces? All of them!

So back to France we go. My soul is soothed. (Though still taking a small beating from Miss little-pink-shoes behind me).

The boat is moving to Cogolin, near St Tropez and we’ll drive my little bashed up Reno Clio (the Rocket-Ship) to meet the boat and crew there. We’ll be at anchor for the next few weeks before heading to Barcelona for regatta number 3. I’m very excited about Barcelona. I’ve never been there but have heard so much about it. My Easy Jet ‘Traveller’ magazine is telling me to book tables at ‘Els Flogons de la Barceloneta’ for tapas, ‘Centonze’ for modern Catalan nosh and ‘Shunka’, for apparently the best of Barcelona’s Japanese food. No problems there, sounds good to me. I’m more than happy to try that lot out and if you have been and conquered Barcelona yourself, then any recommendations, food or otherwise will be gratefully received. Cheers!

Don’t worry folks, it’s not over yet.

I don’t have a recipe for you today I’m afraid. I almost made a stinging nettle risotto having trudged through a few miles of them, in a sort of ‘revenge’ meal with parmesan. But I was too tired and full from fish and chips. Terrific. What I will do though is tell you all about my favourite piece of kitchen equipment; my zester. Now do bear with me. You are about to be astonished at the way in which I will skilfully blend the topics ‘a trip to Suffolk’ and Barcelona in with ‘why you should buy a lemon zester’. Not everyone can find those sorts of hidden, literary connections you know. So moving smoothly on;

If you don’t have one, get one. The small grate on a box grater is rubbish, annoying, knuckle un-friendly and gives you silly little flecks of zest and the risk of too much pith which is bitter. A proper zester will fill you with joy at its perfect little curls of pure lemon zest. So pretty, so full of zing and…lemon. And why waste all the goodness in lemon zest? It’s full of incredibly healthy oils and vitamins. So if you are ever using the juice of a lemon, always zest it first. If you don’t want to use the zest for that exact dish then put it aside and use it for something else like in a salad or a salad dressing. Please never waste the perfectly good zest of any lemon or lime. Pop the zest in some olive oil, leave to infuse for a day or so and serve with pasta with lots of black pepper and bingo! An exceedingly light but tangy pasta to serve with a veal schnitzel or a lamb chop. I really won’t go on too much but need a garnish? Use your lemon zester! You can craft the most beautiful curls of pure lemon zest with a zester. You can’t with a box grater even if its one of those amazingly sharp, Japanese ones. A single curl of lemon zest perched on a small pillow of crème fraiche on a dainty smoked salmon canapé says so much don’t you think?

Lemon tart. The perfect example of why you should own a lemon zester. A lemon tart is only the best lemon tart when made with the finest and pithless-est zest. (Yes, that is a word). And you will achieve such culinary heights with your one and only - you’ve got it, Zester.
How would this dish have worked without perfect lemon zest?

I feel my work is done here. I’m sure you saw how that seamless bit of topic blending…blended.

I think we’re about to land so I will say goodbye for now and press the ‘save’ button. George has unfortunately been drawn reluctantly into an excitable game of peek-a-boo with Little Polly behind us which has brilliantly distracted her from kicking my chair. Thanks George. You’re forgiven from falling asleep earlier. And even though he is trying very hard to end the game with stern, manly face, he simply can’t ignore Polly and her little sisters’ enthusiasm for such a simple game.
Ah, to have such innocent zest for life.

(SEE! See what I did there?! Zest for life…Geddit?)


Samphire growing wild