Friday, 20 January 2012

The Bargee's Pail

Referred to in this month's Waterways World, The Bargee's Pail is a variant on a basic slow cooker, much like a medieval stew pot, with food suitably wrapped cooking slowly in a simmering cauldron.
It is the recipe of the Pail that is interesting.
Rose Prince's article in The Daily Telegraph describes a layer of diced swede in the base of an earthenware pot, followed by slices of pork belly, then a layer of parsnips and one of carrots. Cover the contents in water then add a rolled piece of suet pastry covering the meat and vegetables to keep the heat in. The pot goes into the bucket, covered by a lid, and the whole thing simmers over an outdoor fire.
After an hour and a half, add the potatoes, a large knob of butter, a strip of smoked bacon, garlic and thyme among the vegetables. Finish with a second layer of suet pastry. Everything should be cooked after two and a half hours.

The Bargee's Pail featured in Waterways World is much the same as the description above though it features chopped apple on the top and a bottle of tea to the side!

A response to this article refers to a "fireless cooker" which is an insulated chest containing a hot slab of metal providing enough heat to cook a meal slowly. The "Hangi" or earth oven works in the same way. My wife would set off on her annual Guide camp with a meal of barley rice cooked on our stove and placed in a haybox - an old tea chest insulated with straw - which would be cooked ready for the evening meal once the tents had been put up.
And it's this insulation which is the appealing thing for me. I don't like having the gas on for extended periods. It generates water vapour, or too much heat in the cabin in summer, or both, and is wasteful. A heavily insulated container means you can leave it on deck to literally cook in its own juice.
On the other hand, if you're out on the bank for a few hours and in a position to have an open fire, The Bargee's Pail would be a good choice. You can also cook baked potatoes in the embers or a stew in a Dutch Oven which is ideal for a long slow wood burning fire.
So for me The Bargee's Pail in an insulated container rather than over an open fire is economical, safe - and very tasty!
You might, however, prefer a small pressure cooker - 3 litres capacity, costing £20-30- which would be compact and efficient enough for a narrow boat. Add to that "80 Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker" by Richard Ehrlich. Both can be obtained from Amazon and would provide a quicker alternative to the Bargee's Pail.

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