Saturday, 24 September 2011

Mariquita Won Monaco Regatta!

We won Monaco regatta! Our first regatta win of the year. We, the crew are feeling pretty pleased about it. It’s good when the hard work pays off and you come 1st and win prizes. We do try to tell ourselves that we don’t race this beautiful boat to win, we do it to be a part of something great; keeping these beautiful classic boats alive along with the skills needed to sail them as they were once sailed.

But it is bloody great when we win.

We almost won Cannes regatta too! However the last race was cancelled and the points remaining didn’t go in our favour. We did achieve a 3rd overall though, which is a highly respectable position on the podium.

Cannes regatta has been tough on our bodies. The first two days were full on, powerful breeze days. We had all the gear on, harnesses and wet weather gear. I have a great new rope burn on my wrist and I’m looking forward to booking in with my physio. It’s hard to describe how for two days I was hauling on lines whilst great waves of fast moving sea were trying very hard to take my feet from under me. Trying to climb back up to the high side of a boat that is well healed over is exciting and challenging. My back has seen better days.

We’re off to St Tropez tomorrow! The next and last regatta.. The Voile De St Tropez marks the end of the classic yacht racing circuit and the atmosphere is always amazing. It will be hard work as we have owners and guests on board. I have bought the Fois Gras and fresh figs, the Moet and smoked salmon ready for some evening entertaining. Cushty.

I can’t quite believe it’s almost over. Till next year that is. At least I’ll be able to blog more often and will have the kitchen in the crew house to invent more exciting recipes. We’ll still be working on the boat over the winter. She needs the maintenance as much as we will need it.

Time for rest and repair.

Wish us luck for St Tropez regatta. I’ll let you know how it all goes and will keep taking the photos.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Monaco Regatta Update.

Tell you what, if we do well today, we'll win this regatta. But lets keep that quiet for now so as not to tempt fate. It would be good though wouldn't it...
Monaco has been a great regatta, hot, not much wind but great social events, great rosé and royalty on board. Sian and I are up at 7 am to start the day and last night I finished at 10 30 pm with a little yacht race in between. Pretty tired now but must keep going!
We're heading straight for Cannes tonight after the race because a Mistral is due to blow. I'll let you know how the race goes.
Wish us luck!

Robin Knox Johnston enjoying the views!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Sage and Walnut Pesto before the Storm

So there I was telling you about how the next few weeks are going to be so astonishingly busy until about October and as it turns out I’ve actually had time to write and send a blog.

The calm before the storm,
I say ‘send’, lets not get carried away. This could be a little like how I swell with pride for writing postcards when I’m on holiday and then fail pathetically to manage the well known ‘hefty’ task of sending the things in the post. A hand delivered postcard is rubbish. Shame on me.

We’re here in Monaco amongst many other classic yachts, I’ve done my huge supermarket shop for the week and cooked dinner, prepped tomorrow’s sandwiches and chatted with great friends. There are disturbing rumours of very little wind this week and the temperature is back up there. I’m sure you’re all pretty bored of my talking about the temperature so I’ll move right along.

(31 degrees in the galley)

I made this pesto on our little trip here from St Tropez. The journey started out well. Thankfully at about the time I was cooking lunch. An hour or so later and I suspect I would have felt differently about the whole thing as the swell grew to a couple of meters.

The sage was from my Captain’s garden. Jim’s little sage plant had also grown to a few meters over the summer so he generously donated some to a very good cause. Lunch. And this pesto recipe is a bit of a favourite amongst the crew. It makes a nice change from the well known basil version. It’s very, very healthy being full of walnuts and fresh garlic, lemon juice etc. I could go as far as to say it’s practically like eating one of those overly- healthy green smoothies in a tasty form with some pasta. Okay, I lie. It tastes a lot better than that.

I think sage is up there on my favourite herb list. It’s so…..manly? Robust, savoury, grown-up…  I should do this for a living. Anyway, try it. You’ll love it.

For Sage pesto you will need;

A good bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked off the stalks
3 cloves of garlic
40g shelled walnuts
400g pinenuts
30g Parmesan cheese
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
½ tsp sugar
300ml Olive oil


  • The flavour of walnuts is much improved by a little toasting in a hot pan, as is pinenuts. So begin by dry frying the walnuts and pinenuts in a hot frying pan. Keep them moving around over a high heat and fry for about 4-5 minutes keeping an eye on the pinenuts.

  • To take the surprising element out of the raw cloves of garlic, I added these whole in their skins to the nuts in the hot frying pan. It acts as a little ‘sweetener’ to the cloves to give them a little cook first.

  • Tip the toasted nuts into a mixing bowl. Peel and slice the garlic and add to the nuts. Then rip the leaves of sage off of any stalks and add to the nut and garlic mixture.

  • Pour in the oil and lemon juice and season with the sugar and salt and pepper. Blend well but not so it’s too smooth. Keep a little texture.

  • Now add the lemon zest, parmesan and any more oil if it’s a bit thick. Check the seasoning and mix well.
  • Hey Pesto! 

If your mixing this with pasta then make sure you reserve at least a large ladleful of the pasta water to mix in with the pasta and pesto. It helps to make a great sauce. A tablespoon of crème fraiche is no bother either. As you wish.

It’s a great recipe in that it is easy, tangy and zesty, nutty and punchy. A bowl of penne, a rocket or watercress salad, something good and peppery with some nutty brown bread and a cold glass of something a little bit pink perhaps. Love it.

We’re race training tomorrow with our recently arrived regatta crew and the racing starts on Thursday. It’s all pretty exciting really. That and we have the one and only Sir Robin Knox Johnston racing with us this week! What an honour. I hope he likes my sandwiches.

I’ll keep you as up to date as I can with the gossip from Monaco. Take care and speak very soon.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Not Making Jam

I know you must think me weird when I say how jealous I am of all you UK-dwelling folk and other international land-lubber types and your September events; namely the food festivals, harvest festivals, jam and chutney making, frantic fruit cooking fiascos of this fantastic time of year.

But I am.

My Mum has just finished potting up her kilos of Damson jam and is very proud of her huge Kilner jars full of damsons in Gin, seeping brilliantly into a deep, velvety purple in time for Chr!$tm@$. ( Couldn’t quite bring myself to exactly type the word yet, but you know what I’m saying). After which she’ll be tucking into a productive day making the Crab Apple jelly.

And I feel left out.  I know, I know; here I am sitting on a beautiful, hundred year old racing yacht at anchor in the bay of St Tropez. It’s still pretty hot in the sun and there are glamorous motor yachts and villas and fabulous French folk (heavy with the F’s in this blog I’m noticing) surrounding me. But I’d give anything to be in my Mum’s kitchen making Damson jam and Crab Apple jelly; the radio on and possibly a bit of harmless rain outside, the windows steaming up with the excitement of it all.

Please don’t hate me.

I guess I had my week back home and I did get to make my stuffed apples. I should be grateful. And I am. I’m just a little nervous about the up and coming next three weeks. You see we will race in the Monaco regatta, the Cannes Regatte Royal and then finally the Voile de St Tropez regatta. Only 3 days in the next 3 weeks will be non-sailing days. We will have VIP’s to entertain and canapés to make, champagne to pour, a million sandwiches to make, regatta events to take part in, such as the Cannes regatta Tug-of-War (which we won last year) and all that on top of some pretty strenuous rope pulling, harness wearing, rig stressing, shanty singing, underwater sailing.

Phew, I’m tired already.

I think I’m getting too old for all of this ( Have I said that before?). My physio would probably agree although I’d take a guess he’s grateful for all the business he gets from the broken crew at the end of the season.

But once the St Tropez regatta is finished, it’s all over. The season is ended and we’ll be moving back into our winter crew house up the hill. It seems like yesterday I wrote my first blog ‘An Explanation of Sorts’, before all the racing began in March. And here we are; the end in sight.

So if I’m not around much in the next three weeks I hope you’ll understand why. I will try my hardest to keep you updated with the racing adventures and canapé building, crew cooking stories and of course loads of photos included. Make the most of it I say; come October you wont be able to get rid of me. Living in the crew house up the hill with a real kitchen that doesn't move and a real oven that works! Mushrooms to forage, Wild boar to catch, chestnut festivals and wine Chateaus to visit… And all with a constant supply of Wifi.
Just you wait.

Thanks for reading (and understanding), wish us luck and stay tuned for the sprint finish. We can do it! Mariquita’s sailing adventures at one hundred years old and my life at 33 Degrees.

Here we go…

Friday, 9 September 2011

Stuffed, Baked Apples with a Little Difference.

Hands up whose favourite desert when they were a kid was a good old stuffed, baked apple? Anyone?... Those back-to-school days, that glut of apples from the back garden and endless apple puddings.

Stuffed, baked apple was my least favourite. There was nothing ‘fun’ about a stuffed apple as far as I was concerned. It was a desert for old people. No chocolate, no treacle, no cakey bit, no tasty bit you could dig for; just raisins, cinnamon and cheek-pinchingly tart apples from the garden.

And so much of it! Why were they always so big?  Stuffed by a stuffed apple. The cruel fate of a well behaved child. I mean, let’s face it; stuffed apples were just not cool.

Funny how I love them now.

Wissy, George’s Mum, made us one my first night back from France. And I joyfully ate the whole thing. It was the most delicious stuffed apple I’d ever had and made it even more of a joy to be back in the UK at such a time of year. A real inspiration for this recipe.

I’m in Norfolk as I write this blog. George and I are looking for a house to buy round these ‘ere parts. We’re looking for that dream cottage, the one that we live in in my ‘other’ life. If you’ve read my blog, 'My Other life and Baked Bananas', you’ll know exactly what I mean.

We haven’t found it yet on this trip home but I will continue the hunt. When I’m not cooking or writing about cooking I’ll be looking for my home, tucked away in my stuffy cabin on the internet. It’s out there somewhere waiting for me. It has apple trees in the back garden of course and one day I will force feed my children stuffed apples for months on end. Tehe.

Okay, I might have made a more child-friendly stuffed apple recipe up my sleeve. They’re small apples and they have white chocolate in them too. And even if you’re old like me you’ll probably like these too;

For pretty tasty little stuffed apples for 4 you will need;

4 small Braeburn apples or similar
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
50g S.R flour (self raising makes a much better crumble for some reason, my Gran swears by it and I have to concur)
50g crushed Amoretti biscuits
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
100g glace cherries, finely chopped
50g cold butter
50g white choc, finely chopped
50g flaked almonds
Few drops of vanilla extract
Heat your oven to fan oven 140, gas mark 4 or as far as it will go boat oven…


  • Begin by preparing the apples. Take the top slither off the apple and then with a teaspoon dig out the core and a little bit more so that you can get a good bit of the stuffing in. When the apples have been cored, pop into a baking dish and rub the insides of the apple with the lemon juice to stop them from going brown. The lemon juice will add to the final flavour so be generous with it.

  • Put them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

  • Next make the ‘crumble’ mixture. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. It will be quite buttery at this stage so best not do it in a food processor in case it turns into a dough. Then mix in the crushed Amoretti biscuits, flaked almonds and orange and lemon zest and a few drops of vanilla extract. When it is all well mixed, gently fold in the white choc and cherries. It will be a nice crumbly, buttery mixture. Don’t eat too much of it at this stage or you wont eat your supper.

  • When the apples have had 15-20 minutes cooking gently in the oven they should be tender but not too soft. Spoon in the crumble mixture packing it in quite well and over-filling them so that the mixture loosely covers the top of the apple. Pop back into the oven and cook for another 10 minutes.

  • I think they would be lovely served with a rosemary and orange syrup and custard. As it was I didn’t really have the time so I garnished them with a sprig of rosemary and served with freshly made vanilla custard with freshly squeezed orange juice in it.

Yum. Seasonal and tasty and gooey and a little bit naughty but healthy too! Practically Angelic then.

So we’re back to France on Saturday…oh that’s tomorrow. I’ve mixed feelings. It’s going to be incredibly busy and a lot of hard work with 3 classic yacht regattas back to back; Monaco, Cannes and St Tropez. Lots of sailing and lots of guests and Birthday wishes for Mariquita who is a hundred years old this year. She is a beautiful boat and we are so lucky to be racing her still.

I’ll let you know how it all goes. And I’ll let you know if I get my dream cottage in the country-side. Why England when I’ve travelled around the Mediterranean and spent time in some great countries you may ask?

I love the country-side here. Nothing beats the green of the English country-side. It’s so lush and so very…home.

For now, I’ll be content with life aboard an old wooden racing boat, the glamour of racing in such prestigious places in the Med. And I love it all. I’m very proud to have been a part of Mariquita’s amazing history.

Thanks for reading
Thats quite a tree trunk.


Typical Norfolk road-side

Who the hell needs stuffed apples when there are cow pats to enjoy?

The beautiful Norfolk woodland

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sea Shots and Spag Bol

There’s nothing quite like a really good spaghetti bolognaise on a Saturday night. My Mum used to make it for us when she and my Dad were going out for the evening. My Mum’s ‘Spag Bol’ is the best in the world and my little tummy (those were the days) would rumble in anticipation whilst it slowly simmered away in the pot, the deep aromas wafting through the house. And to top it off (after the parmesan) when my parents went out on a Saturday night, we were even allowed to eat our supper on our laps in front of the telly. My Mum’s spaghetti bolognaise on our laps in front of ‘Blind Date’ on a Saturday night was about as good as it could get.

Ah, those were the days. I’ve absolutely no idea what UK Saturday night telly is like anymore. I’d take a wild guess that good old Cilla has probably retired from match-making.

On the boat the crew tend to watch movies on lap-tops on our own bunks with ear phones plugged in if we have a Saturday night such as this; anchored off just outside Cogolin near St Tropez. It’s not quite the same and fairly anti-social but at least it prevents mindless ‘channel flicking’ and there’s no interruption from the ten o’clock news to boot.

And tonight there is a pot of bolognaise on the stove, the smell wafting through the boat. It’s not the same as my Mums but its still pretty good if I do say so myself. I’m pretty excited about it. And I’ve had plenty of time to get excited about it because it’s been sitting there behaving itself for the last two hours on the ‘Force ten’ on the smallest of simmering flames. If you have read any of my earlier blogs you’ll be very familiar with my penchant for long slow cooked Italian dishes and how I feel that their improvement from a good dish to a great dish can be the difference between an hour or 3.

And Bolognaise leads the pack. As it slowly reduces and intensifies in flavour it becomes a deep, deliciously moorish, special rich meal fit for kings. Or sailors, or for laps on a Saturday night in front of the telly but by heck you deserve the best so make your bolognaise in the afternoon and let it slowly work its magic, filling your kitchen with the best of homely smells and eat it 3 hours later when you can wait no longer. A large glass of Italian red and some very good parmesan, a little rocket salad and you’ll see what I mean.

This is the best recipe for bolognaise that I have ever tried. I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas too. I’m sure I remember once eating a rich and delicious bolognaise when I was younger that had capers in it…

For the best bolognaise for 6 you will need;

2 medium brown onions, finely chopped
4-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, grated (Sometimes I use butternut squash which is a superb alternative to carrot)
2 ripe, juicy tomatoes, chopped
Mushrooms, sliced
2 pork sausages (flavoured ones are great such as herb or sundried tomato)
3 slices of unsmoked streaky bacon, finely sliced
3 slices of prosciutto or parma ham, finely sliced
800g minced beef
400ml of red wine (a good one, deep, dark and full bodied)
300ml beef stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce


  • In a good heavy non-stick pan heat some sunflower oil. Add the onions and a tbsp of sugar (more than I normally suggest here but you’ll see why later once you’ve added the red wine). Sauté gently for 5 minutes or so until they start to soften and then add the carrot, celery, tomato and garlic and continue to sauté gently for a good ten minutes or until they have softened.

  • In a separate non-stick frying pan heat some sunflower oil till pretty hot and sauté the sausage meat, which you literally just squeeze out of its skin once you have sliced it lengthways down the middle with a sharp knife, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spatula. It is best to squeeze the sausagemeat out of the skin or you'll get stringy bits of skin in your bolognaise. Not great. Once it has cooked through add the Parma ham and bacon. Put aside once it has all cooked through and lightly browned. Then in the same pan, making sure it’s still good and hot add the minced beef. The aim here is not to stew it in its own juices but to sear it over a very high heat like you would a steak. It needs to be browned and dry and not gray and swimming in water.
Brown it, don't stew it!

  • Once the meat has all been browned add this to the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Add the tomato puree and oregano and keeping the heat high get a good sizzle going. Now’s the time to pour in the red wine all in one go.  It will bubble and reduce quickly. The smell will be awesome.

  • Once the red wine has reduced by about half you can add the beef stock. Bring this back to the boil and then turn the heat down to very, very low. Finally add the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and lots of black pepper and prepare to wait patiently…
Thats what I mean by really small flame

  • Don’t panic. To keep you occupied now is the time to brown off some mushrooms to add to the bolognaise. Again, please don’t do this half heartedly. A very hot pan is needed to sauté the mushrooms till they are well browned and have absorbed all their own juices. This is how they will obtain their real intense ‘mushroomy’ flavour that will ultimately add to the meatiness of the bolognaise.

  • Now I’m sorry you really do have to be patient.
  • If it is starting to look a bit dry over the next few hours feel free to add more beef stock to loosen it a bit but remember, a good bolognaise is a thick, dense and dark meat ragu.

    I’m sure I don’t need to write about serving this with some good red wine, a nice salad and a handful of parmesan cheese. Do get messy and enjoy it; there’s no shame in wearing your napkin under your chin at all. Nobody likes a distraction whilst they’re enjoying their food.

    On that note it could well be time to put a large pan of water on to boil for my spaghetti. My chosen movie, all ready to go, stars Will Smith. Admittedly he’s a lot more attractive then Miss Cilla Black. I guess we all move on eventually.

    This could be a great Saturday night.

    Thanks for reading. Happy September and change of season. I’m pretty excited myself…