I haven’t been here much recently. By here I mean both on the blog and in the galley.
My enthusiasm for the blog ebbs and flows like the tide. Ironically, when we finally have half decent internet access and I get a chance to ‘catch up’ with the world is when I experience the most resistance to blogging. I start comparing our adventures to the thousands of other sailing and travel blogs. I spend too much of my time online and I find myself thinking things like “Oh, this would make a good blog post”, and “Gotta make sure I get a good photo to post online.”
Thinking of our lives as fodder for the blog, as not much more than material for a story, means that I am not being present in my experiences but rather just recording them. Living your life for someone else, an unknown, online audience, is exhausting. So, I chose to put down the camera, forget about the blog and just enjoy my time exploring the world with Steve. Only when I fill myself with enough real-world experience do I feel able to come back to this virtual world.
My time in the galley has also been brief as of late. This is partially because we’ve been trying to cover a lot of miles in the Philippines, without the help of much wind. This has meant early departures, lunches underway and two tired crew that can’t be bothered to stand over the stove after they’ve just thrown the anchor. There has been a lot of rice and fill-in-the-blank meals; spicy beans, shredded chicken with a splash of salsa, veggies and a fried egg. There’s also been lots of quick bowl dinners; pho, whatever’s in the fridge salads, pasta served with a hasty pan sauce. There’s been lots of leftovers. It’s food that fills the belly but doesn’t really inspire the soul.
It is also because ready-made food in the Philippines is practically on every street corner, and we’ve been taking full advantage.
I have been kind of obsessed with Pinto Bean Brownies for the last month or so and no doubt if you try them you will be too.
It all started while researching an article about pressure cooking. Like most yachties I own a PC, they are very handy pots, especially while on passage. Just the design of a pressure cooker, with its positive locking lid, makes it a whole lot safer to cook with while the boat is bouncing around in a seaway. That cooking times are reduced up to 70% is an added bonus as it means a whole lot less time standing in front of that much safer but still heaving pot. But, I had to admit while preparing to write the article that I really hadn’t explored pressure cooking much beyond the standards; beans, stews, soups, grains, one-pot meals. I figured if I was going to put 2000 words on paper I should try a few new recipes and see how versatile my PC could be.
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.
I do a lot of preserving onboard. A couple times a year I break out the big pots and the mason jars and water bath can a batch of Pawpaw Mustard Pickles, Mango Chutney, Kumquat Marmalade or Charred Tomato Salsa. If I am really lucky I can find “exotic fruits” and make something like Cardamom Scented Apple Sauce.
Charring Tomatoes on Stovetop
But I also do a lot of quick preserving that isn’t “properly canned.” These preserves are usually stored in the fridge and are made as a mean of extending the life of weekly provisions, or a way to deal with the seasonal glut of veggies at the market. One type of these preserves that have been on heavy rotation lately is Pickled Beans.
So, you’ve managed to convince some cephalopods that your lure looked tasty and now you’ve got a bucket full o’ squid. Visions of calamari are dancing in your head, but just how to you get from whole animal to delicious, deep fried morsels?
“Dressing” a squid does not involve turtle necks or tutus, it is just a fancy word for cleaning, gutting and preparing an animal for eating. The great thing about squid is that there isn’t anything too stinky, slimy, bloody, nasty or gross about cleaning them. Even people queasy about handle a dead chicken will probably find squid rather benign.
After 50 odd cephalopods Steve made cleaning them look dead easy, and it is. Here’s he fool proof method for dressing a squid.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: A sharp knife, a good cutting board, a bucket of sea water, maybe an old tshirt and a cold beer. Continue reading
Shopping for fruit and veg in the Solomon Islands couldn’t be easier; most days I don’t even have to leave the cockpit. Outside urban centres like Honiara and Gizo (where there are stores and fresh markets and people have jobs that pay money) we almost never go ashore for fresh goods. Guaranteed sometime during the day at least one local will paddle up silently in their dugout canoe with local fruits and veggies they want to unload. Sometimes people want money, but more often than not they are looking to trade.
In our month in the Solomon’s I have “purchased” coconuts, oranges, papaya, bananas, pineapples, limes, chilies, fresh eggs, fern cabbage, long green beans, tomatoes, eggplants and sweet potatoes over the lifelines. As for trade items it has ranged from downloading music onto a young man’s phone to second hand clothes to a bag of salt. Fishing line and hooks are popular with the young boys while hair elastics and barrettes are a winner with the girls.
The other day, while we were enjoying the late afternoon calm and quiet of the Laipari lagoon a woman named Pauline arrived with few edible trade items, including a surprise; a large bowl of mushrooms she had just collected in the forest. This was a surprise because I haven’t seen mushrooms for months, not in the supermarkets, not in the fresh markets, not even growing in the underbrush when we’ve been ashore for a walk. But these mushrooms, besides being huge, were firm, fresh and typically mushroom coloured and shaped. She said that they grow at the base of the sago palms and have come out since the rain we had at New Years. Continue reading
I am a HUGE granola fan.
But never of the store bought variety.
I grew up eating my Mother’s homemade granola. She made it in big batches and cooked it in the oven in the same huge aluminium pan that the 20lb turkey was roasted in at Christmas. A pan, I might add, she still has today. I used to like adding the raisins and watching them toast through the oven door. I loved when they puffed up into crispy round balls if we left it in a few minutes too long. When I first moved out on my own I would follow her recipe loosely and make my own huge batches of granola to be enjoyed with yogurt on mornings before rushing off to classes or to work.
I haven’t made granola in a really long time, quite simply because I can’t be bothered to turn on my oven. It is too fuel hungry and throws too much heat and I seem to bake everything-cakes, bread, cookies- on the stove top these days. But with all my recent yogurt making I have been craving granola. I consider dusting off my old oven toasted recipe then last month I stumbled across a Stove Top Granola recipe online and almost smacked myself on the forehead.
OF COURSE you can granola in a pan ON TOP of the stove! Why hadn’t I thought of that?!
When Steve returns from a stint away working he always brings me a few special things. This time it was some fancy hand cream, a couple chocolate bars from duty-free (chocolate is expensive in this part of the world), a can of ready-to-eat hummus, a small bottle of perfume and a bottle of hazelnut butter. An eclectic mix, but he knows me oh too well.
Also tucked into his one small piece of checked luggage was a present to me from a friend, fellow sailor and chef; a box of Spanish saffron. Small, useful, exotic and a little too extravagant to buy for myself, it was a lovely surprise and very thoughtful boat gift. Even before I unwrapped the plastic I could smell the unique perfume wafting through the boat.
Saffron is actually the stigma of crocus flower, crocus sativus. This particular crocus will not produce seeds needed to reproduce naturally and is particularly fussy about the conditions it grows in, so the whole process of producing saffron requires time consuming human intervention. Not to mention that the harvesting of the tiny, fragrant stigma is still done by hand. Continue reading
Steve has been away for almost 7 weeks and, as per usual, while he’s been gone I have been experimenting in the galley. This time I have been making sauerkraut, and some variations, using the process of natural fermentation.
I am a big fan of sauerkraut, always have been. Growing up in Nova Scotia it was sold in every grocery store. The best brand came in a waxed paper, square container, the same as milk was sold in. It had a red and white label and the ingredients list read cabbage and salt. That brand always had just a hint of sweetness and powerful sour kick, just like the perfect dill pickle. It was sold fresh and refrigerated, no preservatives, and once opened needed to be eaten, which was never a problem in my house. Although I like sauerkraut with sausages on cold winter nights, and on hotdogs in the summer, I like it best eaten straight out of the box; a cold, crunchy and satisfying snack.
Just after Steve left in June I thought I needed a project, and sauerkraut seemed a perfect fit; it needs daily attention but takes a couple weeks to mature. To my surprise the process of making sauerkraut is simple; finely chop cabbage, add salt and knead until cabbage is limp and sufficient water is released, firmly pack into a jar/crock/container and check on it daily. The magic just happens.
Really, it IS that simple.
You Have to Get Your Hands Dirty