Friday, 20 January 2012

Fairly Basic Onboard Food

The previous blog addressed fundamental food stock and Really Basic onboard food. Visiting "pubs with grub" in the evening is part of our enjoyment of the trip, though after a while we start yearning for a light meal or something different. And what do you do when eating out starts draining your limited budget, or when you can't face yet another menu with steak and kidney pie and chips.
I'm excluding here anything I regard as complicated, and looking only at the simple level. I'm also making a case for food that lasts when stored on board. At home I'm all for fresh food - and would be on board too, but I want to know that when I'm miles from a shop and there is no pub grub I can rustle up a good meal from stock ingredients. I've no doubt there are some of you who would happily turn out cakes and pies and great delights while onboard. That's not our focus - though if you've got a pie to spare we'll buy it from you ....
In my case scrambled egg on toast easily fits the bill. I like to add quartered tomato and a couple of anchovies, sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper. I'm quite partial to an omelet too, to which can be added almost any diced vegetables to make a light but substantial "spanish omelet".
Preparing a meat sauce from mince, onions and tomatoes will give you a fine bolognese sauce for pasta. It can be made quite quickly on the boat (though it benefits from half an hour in the oven), or even easier if made before you leave, kept in the fridge and heated up on the boat. It can be eaten with any pasta  (spaghetti is popular in the UK though less authentic). You can add carrots, cabbage, broccoli or salad on the side but various combination of tomatoes, garlic, onion, bacon, anchovies and olives make for a rich variety of pasta sauces, each with an Italian name (ragu, bolognaise, puttanesca sauce etc). Some good vegetables and a plain can of tomatoes can form the basis of a good non-meat sauce for pasta.

A full English breakfast is also quite easily made, with eggs, toast, bacon, tomatoes, black pudding, mushrooms and sausages all  easily made on the hob and grill then transferred to the oven until everything is ready. I have reservations about sausages though, as they take a while to grill well and our grill is not very effective.
Similarly baked potatoes take time to cook in the oven (quicker with a metal spike through them) so gain points for ease but lose points for time and for gas use (or am I just mean?). Slicing the same potatoes thinly means they can be cooked quickly in a frying pan and eaten with mushrooms, bacon or whatever.
A stir fry using olive oil to quickly cook sliced broccoli, mushrooms, carrots and onions, with garlic and soy sauce for flavour can be eaten on its own or with boiled rice.
Pasta is good not only with a tomato sauce (get sauces ready made in a jar, chopped in a can or concentrated as puree in tube) but also with cream, butter, bacon, mushrooms and cheese.
Fishermen have got it made with fresh fish, poached, grilled or barbecued with lemon and herbs and wine - but make sure the fishy smell is dispersed before you go to bed …

Sliced and roasted potatoes can be done quite quickly and mixed with roasted vegetables, while any kind of barbecue is handy if your mooring permits (don't forget fuel and silver foil and recognise that the fun is in making it but it isn't fast food) while pork chops are quick and easy too.
In the end you can get most things in a jar or a tin that will last all year unopened and so will be ready for emergencies. So choose your favourite and add it to your store.
I think I've also been persuaded by boil in the bag rice. The reasoning is that doing rice well in a pan as I do at home uses a lot of water for washing, a few minutes to boil up then half an hour in the oven if you're to avoid nasty sticky stuff burned on the bottom. Boiling in the bag is quicker, neater and more economical (though more expensive to buy, initially). Rice also opens the way to stir fries, kedgerees and all manner of tasty stuff either fresh or in jars.
No doubt you will be able to suggest your favourites, so do add your comments below. Remember that a "Fairly Basic" meal should use standard or storable ingredients, be easy and quick to make.
For more suggestions take a look at Nigel Slater's 30 minute cook book. Forget the few recipes with long lists of ingredients: the rest are all worthwhile and very practical. So what can you contribute?

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