Thursday, 25 August 2011

Mahon Regatta On Mariquita

Oh my goodness. Our first day racing in the Mahon classic yacht regatta in Menorca and I do believe that at one point even my eyeballs were sweating. It dripped – no, sorry – poured from every pore in our bodies. Being a classic yacht we have a significant lack of modern instruments on board so I have to admit I have no idea what the temperature rose to. I just know that it was hot.

I do apologise if you have come here expecting to read about delicious food and find a recipe or two and have instead been more than understandably ‘put off’ by my telling you about such profuse bodily leaking. Unfortunately for you it is, as you can probably tell, consuming our very lives.

I did cook a dinner for four guests last night. The crew got a defrosted, pre cooked chicken casserole. I have been most organised for this regatta. Knowing that we would have racing and VIP’s staying on board spurred me into a cooking frenzy and I filled my small freezer up. Anything to make my life just a little bit easier. But even a relatively simple 2 course meal for the guests had me wilting with heat exhaustion in my little galley.  I should really have served ice cream for desert but couldn’t help myself with some little, plump fresh figs I had procured. I ended up turning the oven on for maximum heat effect to bake the juicy little bulbs of sweetness which I quartered, stuffed with mascarpone, drizzled with honey and scattered with a good handful of a walnut crumble topping. I of course made sure that I cooked a little too many. Scattered with a little fresh, chopped mint they were juicy and nutty and everything you would want in a desert to be honest. I could be more than a little addicted to figs and may try a little pasta recipe I’ve heard of with figs and chilli’s…

I’ll let you know how that goes when I get to make it.

Oh and by the way! We came first today! Well done us! It certainly helps to make the racing easier to deal with in the heat when you have a cracking spinnaker finish in the port entrance. Very cool. So we’re pretty pleased with ourselves. Let’s hope we keep up the performance. There are rumours that there is a lot of wind on its way… potential for a lot of fun.

I’ll let you know how we get on with that. If I haven’t fully melted by then. I’m a true English girl at heart and could happily do with some rain. I’ll put an order in for some clouds and hope they get here soon. Thanks for reading. Wish us luck with the rest of the regatta.


Our beautiful Mariquita heading down wind and winning our race.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Short Diary of A Classic Yacht regatta

Waiting for the wind...

I've been a bit busy racing in the Palma classic yacht regatta. The sailing has been brilliant, the weather - hot. And internet access has been limited. So I have been writing a sort of diary of the regatta, short snippets of the days events. I hope it captures a little picture of the last week aboard Mariquita;

Friday’s race diary;

42 degrees. No I’m not lost or changing the name of my blog, that’s how hot it was in Palma today. Now I’m sure all you guys back home in the UK are cursing me for complaining due to your lack of sunshine so far this summer, but really, 42 degrees? When you’re wearing traditional heavy cotton sailing trousers, hot heavy cotton t-shirts and heavy safety belts with harness, rigging knife and spike attached; let me gently suggest to you that you really do not need 42 degrees heat to add to the discomfort.

Try 42 degrees and no wind too. Not a puff. Sitting on a boat that’s drifting in the bay of Palma waiting for some breeze to start the classic yacht racing; mix that with very little shade and the full force of the sun on you at around the hours of midday - what a giggle.

Then out of the force of around a hundred sailor’s prayers, the wind came. It literally hit us, from oily flat sea and droopy flags to perky waves and full sails driving the momentum we all needed to stir us back into a fighting race crew with full sailing mojo. The sails were hoisted, the race sequence began and thank Neptune we were off.

It can take a few tacks and gybes to adjust from no wind and no action what-so-ever to heeled over, harnessed on, working ropes under a powerful rush of water and shouting to be heard above the general din and clunk of a wooden boat going full pelt under fully powered up sails. But it’s pretty cool.

After waiting so long for the wind it finally came and some of us got pretty wet!

Saturday’s race diary;

Oh yeah! what a day. No delay and a clean start with wind. The race today was a fight. We pulled ahead of Moonbeam 4 on the first beat up to the first mark and there we stayed. We need to fight hard to stay in front of Moonbeam so we did. Some great tactics and a lot of swift hauling up of sails, loads of sail changes and a lot of sweat lost. The temperature was still well up there in the 40’s but the breeze helped to keep our energy levels high enough to stay in the lead.

Strength and honour!!!

What a day and what a great way to finish the regatta here in Palma.

Sunday Morning

There are a few sore heads this morning. Turns out, if you’re really tired from a weeks racing and 40 degrees heat and then win the last race with style and aplomb, it would seem you then have the ability to go out and party till the wee hours. Breakfast was an amusing affair of fried eggs and tales of last night’s adventures; who got up to what, who went to which clubs and who woke up fully dressed etc. I’m sure you’ve been there too.
I, thankfully, made it home at just about a reasonable hour and I am very smugly pouring people glasses of coke with ice and lemon and considering making them pizza. Bless ‘em.

I’m pretty tired though and Mariquita and her slightly weary crew will be leaving Palma tonight at midnight to make our way to Mahon for the next regatta which starts on Wednesday! Yay….

It’s not been easy blogging since we’ve been here what with all the sailing, cooking and lack of internet. So I hope to make it up to you soon. For now, I’ll regale you with regatta stories, short but sweet especially since the beautiful Mariquita, 100 years old this year, has done so well.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for recipes and sailing 


Water balloons!

Monday, 15 August 2011

A Frittata that tastes like Summer

When I’m being nosey and I’m looking at what some people have typed into Google to get to my blog I feel that I may have let a few people down. I’m not sure that all three of the people who typed in to the Google search box; ‘Hot Sweet Cherry’, intended to get to a recipe on how to make a classic French pudding. But perhaps it gave them a tantalising idea on how to cook up a little more romance into their lives.

Likewise, the person needing advice on how to deal with the terrible affliction of ‘finger burns’ from smoking a particular illegal substance more than likely retreated quickly from my blog; or read on in desperation and discovered that sailing gloves could be the way forward. Or oven gloves, both a viable consideration for avoiding burns to the fingers. Of any kind.

Maybe I have been useful after all.

But the most common search questions, where I feel I can be of most help, have been ‘Why is my frittata soggy?’ and similar frittata worries. Now that’s right up my ally. I thought I’d put in this very light salmon and leek frittata with goats cheese and I’ll explain about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of frittata making as I go.  It’s a real simple, light summer dish that looks so pretty and makes for a great crew lunch. It even tastes like summer.

For Smoked salmon and leek frittata you will need;

3 leeks, the white parts only (the sweetest bits) finely sliced and washed
About 1 medium pack smoked salmon or around 4 decent slices, sliced!
8 eggs beaten
3 medium potatoes, sliced and boiled till cooked
1 tsp fennel seeds
80g soft, mild goat’s cheese
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped dill


  • Sauté the leeks in some olive oil and 1 tsp sugar and a good pinch of salt over a medium heat in a large non-stick frying pan. Make sure the leeks don’t brown; you’re just looking to soften them. Sauté till good and soft and any escaping liquid has been absorbed, about 10-12 minutes.

  • Now this is important because if you don’t do this before you put the eggs in then you will get a soggy frittata! Any vegetable that you use that has a high water content must be sautéed before you add the eggs or they will release their water as they cook in the egg. In fact all vege’s should be sautéed. Also fresh mozzarella is best avoided because this has the tendency to ooze water out after the eggs have been added. Mushrooms should be well sautéed till they have gone a lovely intense mushroomy brown. And I rarely add tomatoes to a frittata.

  • Add the cooked sliced potatoes to the leeks and the fennel seeds and continue to sauté for a few minutes, mixing them well but gently so the potatoes don’t break up.

  • Turn the heat right down to very low and add the smoked salmon pieces, sort of resting them over the top of the leeks and then do the same with the goat’s cheese. Sprinkle with the fresh dill and parsley and then pour over the beaten eggs.

  • I use a fork or small knife to jiggle the eggs into all the ingredients so that the eggs get to the bottom and bond with everything in the pan. Keep the pan on the very low heat for about 5-8 minutes then put the frittata under the grill to brown the top.

  • Once the top has browned put the frittata back on the heat but again on a very low flame. This should take about another 10-15 minutes before the whole thing has cooked through. If you have the strange notion that a frittata should be bunged in an oven for half an hour then please try the method I am suggesting; stiff over-cooked egg is disappointing at best. Like a steak, give the frittata a little poke and you should be able to tell when it has cooked through. It should be set but creamy and delicious not stiff and rubbery.

  • Let the frittata rest in the pan for a while before serving to ‘set’. Then making sure the edges are free from the sides with a pliable spatula or palette knife, turn the frittata onto a board. I like to turn mine over again so that it is as it was in the pan but on a pretty serving plate or rustic wooden chopping board.

Serve with a cold glass of rosé and take all afternoon about it too.

Palma is so incredibly hot. It’s like breathing soup. I can’t bare it. But I’m looking forward to the racing which starts on Wednesday. If we have some breeze I shall be a different person, full of my usual beans.

So please join me for regatta adventures. Sian and I are very excited about the Gin and Tonic tasting on Saturday night. And of course the racing. But equally serious for both events.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Barcelona To Palma

I am sitting in a nice little coffee shop in the city of Palma in Mallorca sipping on an iced coffee ‘shakerato’, nibbling on a very flaky croissant and I’m finally connected to the internet. This blogging when travelling on a wooden boat is not easy you know. I walked miles to find this place in the mid-day sun. Mad dogs and English girls…

The blog below was written 2 days ago but I thought I’d send it anyway. Keeps everyone in the loop and up to date and if any of those naughty sons on board haven’t yet rung home to let folks know they are safe and well, then this should suffice for now;

If I give you the sob story first then you won’t dislike me too much when I explain the scenery in which I am writing this blog now.

The wind howled and the sea seemed to swell with an awesome power as every wave approached, gaining height and speed with the intent that only Mother Nature can throw at you…Okay, I exaggerate slightly. It was actually quite a good trip to Palma from Barcelona. It’s a distance of just about a hundred miles so we did it in 18 hours with a lovely sunset to boot. The problem (the sob story I promised) was that infernal sea-swell that plagued us on the way to Barcelona. We somehow managed once again to be taking the boat directly into the wind with a huge aft, starboard quarter swell which rocked and rolled the boat in sets that surfers on a beach would adore. Not cooks down below in a dark and airless galley.

The boys came up with this idea to keep me cool in my galley. The fan is blowing cool air through my little port hole directly over me. Genius. I love them.

It’s exhausting. It took me three whole hours to make a beef stroganoff with noodles and a cauliflower with mushroom stroganoff for the non-beef eaters. I even flambéed the hot paprika and cumin sautéed cauliflower florets, in a little brandy before adding crème fraiche and Dijon mustard; probably not wise on a wooden boat, that’s rolling around like a pig in mud (don’t tell the captain). But I needed something fun to perk up the experience which had me regularly thrown from my tight body-clutch to the galley cupboards, sending my onions off in every other direction but my chopping board.

(I once tested the potential rolling speed of certain vegetables on a particularly rough crossing once. Courgettes can build a good speed and seem to gain confidence as they go. Aubergines predictably end up veering off to one side, unable to handle the competition that tomatoes can offer. But courgettes and onions are the winners in any tilted galley. The trick is to quickly halve the little blighters, removing their rolling capacity rendering them completely unable to escape the chop. Hah!)

And once again, I’m sorry to say, no fish. Very disappointing indeed. George even bought new lures; but to no avail. We’re starting to take it personally now. George isn’t handling it well. I think his hunter/gatherer instinct is wounded…male pride. And my sashimi knife is waiting, honed, sharpened; standing by to stand by.

Our fishing gear in for the night. But it's about as useful when the line is out...

The end to my pretty tame ‘sob’ story is that we’re anchored off an island, west of the bay of Palma as I write. It’s a stunning day and we’ve all been for a little refreshing swim in the incredibly clear waters and mucked about with fins and snorkels. We’ve all caught up on sleep lost from standing watches through the night and I made a little light salmon and leek frittata lunch (recipe to follow). We may even have indulged in a glass of rosé wine with ice. Sounds pretty awful I’m sure. But we’re going into Palma tomorrow and Sunday the hard work starts. Regatta crew will be flying in and race training starts Monday. It should be a fun regatta and if we win anything we could get to meet the king of Spain. Lucky us.

Today we were very lucky. A nice little day off. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it in this blog before, but I may have the best job in the world. Life at 33 Degrees is A-Okay by me. (She says before two back-to-back regattas)

Thanks for reading, see you soon.


Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Very Quick Sunday Supper

If you tried to avoid all the dodgy looking streets in Barcelona, you wouldn’t get anywhere. You just clutch at your bag a little tighter and hope for the best. Then much to your surprise as you step over your second pile of some indeterminable and foul smelling goo, past the hobo’s and graffiti, you might happen to pass by a small entrance leading into a dark but quite well crowded tapas bar. If you adjust your eyes to the gloom enough to peer in, you can tell by instinct, this is where the people of Barcelona go for Tapas. This is a good place. A cool, dark little gem, unknown to the tourist. So you make a mental note of the name of the bar and if you’re lucky, the street name and continue on your way home via many other dodgy and smelly little allies with the intention of returning and sampling what must be a great cocktail and selection of tapas,  like a smug and knowing local. If you don’t want to be ‘in the dark’ in Barcelona it would appear you have to seek out the darker corners of the streets.

Of course you never do. You will never find that place again. It is lost to the rabbit warren that is Barcelona. We’ve been here for a month now and I have barely scratched the surface of brilliant places to eat and drink. To be honest, I’ve done well and admittedly we’ve been doing a lot of eating in lately because we’d be broke and fat otherwise. Tonight is Sunday night and it is way too hot to cook a roast and quite frankly my little Force Ten oven and I regularly fall out over roasts so why ruin the peace?

For my mate Liz who has 4 children, 2 of which are babies, I’m doing the easiest, put-it-in-a-pan-and-run-away method of Sunday supper; and for my mate Liz, it only has 2 ingredients. I first saw this recipe in ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’, by Niki Segnit, an amusing and very interesting book. I have made wee adjustments to the recipe in the book but essentially it really does just have the 2 ingredients. This also makes this a great recipe for any strenuous, rough-seas cooking on a boat too and it is surprisingly delicious. I just had a huge bowl-full to prove it for you. Aren’t I good?

For a Sunday meal of chicken and bell peppers for 6 you will need;

8 Chicken thighs, bone in and skin on (I had 4 thighs and 2 large breasts and it worked just as well)
6-8 red and yellow large bell peppers
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (optional)

  • Begin by heating a very large, non-stick pan with a dash of olive oil and browning the chicken pieces, a few at a time over a medium heat. They just need to be lightly browned all over. Once they have all been browned, set aside.

  • Deseed and roughly chop the peppers. Add some more oil to the pan and turn the heat to high. Add the peppers to the pan and let the peppers start to sizzle. After a few minutes add the chicken back to the pan.
  • After about 8-10 minutes the peppers will begin to release their lovely oils and juices. Give it all a good stir, adding the roughly chopped garlic then put the lid on and turn the heat down to low, letting the chicken and peppers cook for another 40 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, I took the lid off and turned the heat up for another 8-10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce a little. It’s surprising how much sauce there is. Season generously with salt and pepper.

  • Serve with some fluffy rice and lots of bread to mop up the juices. I made some paprika sautéed potatoes with lemon and red onions and would have added some spicy chorizo if I had any. All good things to serve with the easiest dish in the world.

In Niki Segnit’s book, she does literally say to put the chicken and peppers in together without browning the chicken first, which did work very well and is even easier. But next time I cook this it will be as the recipe above.

I think that may well have been our last weekend off for a while. By Friday we’ll be in Palma for our next regatta. I think I’ve just about recovered from the last one…

Hope you all had a great weekend too.

Thanks for reading.


P.S Apparently it isn’t a good idea to use a roll of kitchen paper towel as a makeshift tripod for your camera near a naked flame…    Who’d of thought?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Ketchup Confidential

When my sisters and I were a lot younger, we used to receive personalised foodstuffs in our Christmas stockings from Santa. My little sister always had a huge box of her favourite Crunchy Nut Cornflakes; until the mice under the stairs found where Santa hid all the presents. Apparently mice love Crunchy Nut Cornflakes too.

My food present in my stocking was for years, a huge bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup. (Once it was a large jar of pickled onions, all of which I ate before breakfast, washed down with some chocolate money. I wasn’t very well and Santa never did that again) But ketchup was my favourite and I will fully and openly admit, still is.

Isn’t it funny how food snobs get all sniffy about ketchup? I’ve been ‘sniffed’ at on more than one occasion by snobbish foodies as I generously pour ketchup onto dishes like cauliflower cheese, macaroni cheese or even lasagne. I will have more than a little panic if I’ve made some cheese on toast and have discovered there is nought but an airy red mist left at the bottom of a squeezy bottle. Cornish pasties are fantastic accompanied by some red sauce and there is simply no point in eating fish and chips or sausages if there is no ketchup.

It’s not just me. I know you’re out there too. And we have a ketchup history to be proud of, oh fellow ketchup lovers! There is good reason why 97% of American households have a bottle of ketchup and that ketchup sales in 1992 reached $723 million. 

In the 17th century a sauce made with pickled fish or shell fish and spices known as koe-chiap, kechiap or ke-tsiap, probably originating in Indonesian and Asian culture, became popular with Chinese traders. British explorers took it home and by the mid 18th century it had become a British staple.

Ketchup was then a very different substance to what we know today. It was a thin, brown sauce which probably tried to emulate the fermented fish sauces of the ke-tsiap origins; more like a Worcestershire sauce and had many and various recipes which included mushrooms and walnuts. Tomatoes weren’t added until New-Englanders in the 18th century started to include them in recipes and it wasn’t until another century later that it was sweetened. But that is why ketchup is sometimes still called Tomato Ketchup or Tomato Sauce.

Your brief ketchup history lesson over; nutritionally ketchup contains lycopene, an antioxidant that can help fight off some cancers and organic ketchup can contain up to 3 times the amount of lycopene. Although generally ketchup’s health benefits could possibly be the tiniest, teensiest bit offset by the high sugar and salt content.

But whatever! Ketchup is great and great even to cook with. One of my favourite ever recipes involving quite a lot of ketchup is a sticky-pork-ribs recipe, fantastic for barbeques and parties. The meat practically melts in your mouth if it hasn’t already fallen off the bone and the sauce is deep and rich and smoky and very, very addictive. I used to make these ribs in a restaurant I worked in as a chef when I lived in South Africa. Needless to say, I’ve changed the recipe a bit but the basics; a bottle of oyster sauce and a bottle of ketchup still rule the roost with this one. I used this recipe for the ribs of the wild boar I butchered over the winter in our crew house. I’m not sure how easy it is for you to get hold of wild boar but if you can then I suggest you do. If not then normal pork ribs are excellent too. Obviously outdoor reared, happy, English pigs are better than anything else for flavour.

So for the best sticky pork ribs you will need;
For the ribs and stock;
2 racks of pork ribs. (feeding about 5-6 people as finger food or 4 as a main meal)
1 pint of apple juice
1 onion, roughly chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
6-10 whole black peppercorns
1 inch knob of ginger, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped

For the sticky sauce you will need;
1 bottle of oyster sauce or 300ml
1 small bottle of ketchup or 200ml
Peel ginger with a teaspoon. Easy.
2 tbsp runny honey
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 inch knob of ginger peeled and grated
1 tsp chinese 5 spice
½ tsp cinnamon
Grinding of black pepper


  • Begin by dividing the ribs into singular or double fingers with a sharp knife. Put into a very large saucepan or stock pan with all the other stock ingredients and cover with the pint of apple juice and top up with water to cover the ribs and stock ingredients well. (I didn’t have any apple juice so I cut up an apple instead and just used water which worked well)

  • Bring slowly to the boil and then let simmer for up to an hour.

  • Lift the ribs out of the stock using tongs and place in an oven dish. Pour the stock through a sieve into a large bowl and save a good ladleful for the sticky sauce. The rest can be frozen and saved for a soup or pork casserole.
  • To make the sauce, sauté the shallots or onion gently with the garlic and ginger. When they have softened and started to brown add the 5 Spice and cinnamon and let the aroma start to strengthen, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the oyster sauce and the ketchup, the honey and the saved ladleful or cupful of stock. Grind in some black pepper and stir well. Let this simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.

  • Heat the oven to about gas mark 4/160c. Cover the ribs generously with the sticky sauce and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place the oven dish on the middle shelf and cook for about 40 minutes to an hour, turning and basting the ribs frequently. The sauce should caramelise and reduce nicely. 
  • Either serve the ribs as they are or if you are barbequing, a light grilling over some charcoal, basting with extra sauce will help to make the ribs even stickier and smokier. Or you can use a griddle pan on a high heat to finish the ribs, again basting with any extra sauce if you have it.

  • Serve with many napkins and not over a white carpet. And don’t expect there to be any left-over’s.

Now that wasn’t an easy recipe to give away, or for that matter was it easy to go public with my love of ketchup. I’m not ashamed though. Food is a very personal matter, I’ve no one to impress and food snobs will probably already have pooh-poohed this blog quite some recipes back. Who needs them anyway?

We have one weekend left here in Barcelona. Then we set sail for Palma for our next classic yacht regatta. It is great here but I’m looking forward to moving on and racing our mighty Mariquita once again. We still have 5 regattas left to go; Palma, Mahon then Monaco, Cannes and St Tropez. Cool.

Thanks for reading. I hope your summer eating is full of fun and exciting seasonal grub and barbeques and parties!  And I’ll take a bet that at your barbeque a bottle of ketchup will make an appearance somewhere. I would if I were you for those folk like me who simply struggle to eat a sausage without sauce.

Cheers and see you soon!