I always like to have some ready-meals in the fridge when we are on passage. If we are planning only a night or two at sea that usually means making a double-batch dinner a day or two before we depart and stashing the leftovers in the fridge for a quick re-heat meal underway. Everyone gets a nutritious, hot meal and no one loses any sleep- either by being the one to get up and cook or the one to get up and sit watch. Sleep on a short passage is a precious commodity as neither of us adjusts to our 24 hour watch schedule – 4 hours on, 4 hours off – for a couple of days. Knowing that neither of us will be particularly rested I think it is important that at least we be well fed and it doesn’t take much extra time to cook a meal for 4 instead of 2.
Prepping for longer passages like our upcoming voyage from Papua New Guinea across the equator to Palau, some 1100 nautical miles straight line, requires a little more planning and time in the galley but is definitely worth the effort.
For long passages I cook enough main meals for at least 50% of our projected days at sea. I usually take a day or two to adjust to being underway, especially if we haven’t been sailing in a while or are expecting uncomfortable conditions. Having dinner prep taken care of for those first couple of nights means that I don’t have to stand over a hot stove in a heaving galley, an activity that will turn almost anyone’s stomach even if they are not already feeling a little green. There is nothing worse than putting in the galley time underway and not be able to eat the food you prepared, or worse watch it come back up 5 minutes after you managed to choke it down.
After the first couple of days I am back to myself and able to cook but I still like to have a few meals ready in case the weather picks up. When the motion of the boat is erratic handling knives and standing beside the stove for long periods is not only uncomfortable it is sometimes unsafe. Unfortunately nights like those are also the nights when a hot meal is most appreciated, not only as fuel for our bodies but a balm for the soul after a long hard day of sailing. Having a meal in the fridge means in 5-10 minutes we can enjoy a nice, hot meal, even if it is eaten with a spoon and out of a plastic container.
Passage meals don’t need to be boring but they do need to be practical, nutritious food. Practical food underway means something that can be eaten with one utensil; our favourite is a runcible spoon. Ingredients in a dish should be cut into bite-sized pieces; stews and stir fries work well. Practical also means that it shouldn’t be described as “too” anything; saucy, spicy, salty, sweet, acidic, greasy etc…Too saucy can be difficult to eat and dangerous-molten hot pasta sauce anyone? A dish that is very spicy, acidic, sweet, greasy or salty can easily upset your stomach, even if it is something you regularly eat in port.
Yesterday I spent the morning in the galley and ended up with four meals for our passage. After everything was cooked and cooled I scooped each meal into a vacuum pack bag and put it in the fridge. Vacuum packing not only eliminates air and spoilage it also means that I can reheat the meal in the bag. I usually prepare basic meals for the first few nights at sea then after we are well into our routine and feeling fine pull out something a little more exciting. I made a batch of dahl and a sweet and sour chicken stir fry with some pomelo and ginger marmalade I canned back in July. Both of these are good first day meals and will be reheated by placing the sealed bag over rice as it cooks in the pressure cooker, which takes about 6 minutes.
I also made a recent favourite onboard, something I am calling Curry Chicken Cassoulet. This thick stew is a flavourful mixture of chicken, lentils and local sweet potatoes and is hearty enough to be eaten on its own or with slice of fresh baked bread or a flaky scone slathered in butter.
This is actually a recipe I concocted from leftovers last week. Upon my request Steve had made his famous Curry Chicken and Tomato dish, a meal I have a soft spot for as it was the first thing he ever cooked for me way back when. We ended up with too much leftovers for one portion but not enough to feed two. It had been a rainy afternoon and I was feeling like sitting down to a piping hot bowl of something wintery so I added some diced kumara (local sweet potato that is less sweet and more starchy than the ones I grew up with) a bit of chicken stock and a couple of handfuls of puy lentils. I left it on low heat bubbling away on the stove until the potatoes were fork tender and the lentils cooked but not totally soft. I served it up with a piece of bannock and a sprinkle of cumin seeds. It was delicious! And right away I knew it would be a perfect passage meal. Here’s the recipe.
Curry Chicken Cassoulet
1 Medium Onion, Large Dice
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
500gr Chicken, Diced
2 Tbsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Can of Tomatoes
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Medium Sweet Potato, Diced
1 Cup Puy Lentils
Harissa Paste * Optional for heat.
S&P To taste
In a heavy bottomed pan heat a few glugs of oil, add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add diced chicken and sear on all sides, stirring to prevent sticking. Sprinkle pan with curry and turmeric, stir well and saute for 30 seconds or so. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and stir well. Add diced potatoes and lentils, stir to even distribute. Bring to heat and then turn burner down to simmer. Add harissa paste, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until potatoes are fork tender and lentils are al dente.
I also made a batch of Asian Inspired Peirogi. These little dumplings are easy to make, can be pre-cooked and are a quickly reheated by frying in a little butter. Served with a light salad and a drizzle of sweet chili sauce or a ginger infused soy dipping sauce they are bursting with bright flavours and fill the hunger gap without being heavy.
Peirogi are usually filled with potato and cheese or pork mince and cabbage but I wanted something a little more fresh and flavourful. I kept the mash potato base but added some onions sauteed with ginger and garlic, a dash of soya sauce and the Japanese spice blend togarashi and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. The dough comes together just as easily with only an egg, some milk and some flour. Both the dough and the filling can be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble and serve. For passage I make the pierogi and pre-cook by boiling them in some salted water for 3-4 minutes. Drained on a baking rack I wait until they are cool then toss them in oil and portion pack them for the freezer. The oil prevents them from sticking to one another so when we are ready to I can just thaw and toss them into a hot pan for 5 minutes, frying both sides until lightly browned.
Asian Inspired Peirogi
1/4 Cups Milk
1- 1 1/4 Cup Flour
Pinch of Salt
Mix egg and milk together, beat with a fork until fluffy. Add flour and salt and combine into a uniform dough, kneading lightly in the bowl. Wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Peel, boil and mash one large or two small potatoes. Set aside to cool. Finely dice one medium onion, two cloves garlic and 1′ ginger. Saute over high heat in a glug of oil until translucent. Add to mashed potatoes with a splash of good soya sauce, togarashi to taste and 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds. Mix until uniform.
Divide the dough in half and roll out on a lightly floured board until 2mm thin. Cut into rounds, I use the lid of a wide mouth mason jar as a cutter, a small bowl, wide cup or biscuit cutter would be fine as well. About 3-4″ rounds are a two bite peirogi. Place a spoonful of filling on each, fold dough in half and seal edges by wetting one edge with cold water on a finger and then pinching together. Cook in small batches in rapidly boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes until they float. Transfer to a hot pan with a bit of melted butter and fry until lightly brown. OR Cool completely, oil lightly and store in an airtight container in fridge until ready to serve, up to 5 days. Can also freeze.
I still have a little more prep work to do in the galley but having these four meals int he freezer is a great start.I hope you enjoy these meals as much as we will later this week while on passage! I would love to hear what you eat underway and how you prepare for passages.