Thursday, 19 January 2012

Really Basic Onboard Food

What do you eat and what do you cook when on your boat?
Of course some boats have extensive kitchens, with microwave ovens and modern gadgets. Indeed our galley includes a small work surface, fridge, hot and cold water, sink, 4 rings, grill and oven. Palatial compared to some of my camping experience!
But what we usually cook is really basic. Why?
  • Because we are on holiday, happy to moor by a pub where possible, and cooking is not our hobby (I'm a man with only basic cookery skills). 
  • Because our grill isn't great.
  • Because we are not often continuously on board for more than a week at a time, and rarely away from a shop. 
  • We'd generally rather be doing other things. 
  • We have very little storage space - a small fridge and kitchen cupboards already full of crockery.
But up the further reaches of the Ouse or its tributaries there are moorings without any facilities at all for miles, and also after a week of pub meals sometimes you want something simple. So here's how how we cope.

Firstly we have permanent stores, food that can be left on board throughout the year and which will provide a good meal at any time. Obviously you should replace anything used as soon as possible; it serves as a reassuring presence any time you are hungry anywhere.
Second we have food that we bring on board with us at the beginning of the trip and try to replenish as we go.
So here are two stock lists. These hardly need recipes attached as cooking is so quick and simple. Anything that takes a while to cook doesn't make it here!

Permanent stores:
dried or long life milk, coffee and tea
packet soup
tinned soup
baked beans
tinned sardines
tinned tomatoes and/or ragout sauce
tinned tuna
beer and wine
boil in a bag rice
stir fry sauce
cereal (preferably of a type that can be eaten with or without milk)
marmalade / jam
flour in very small container
sachets of mustard, mayonnaise and sauces left over from  pub meals

Snacks of boiled sweets,  biscuits, peanuts, bananas and dried apricots (all easily nibbled even by solo boaters while travelling).

Fresh food
margarine or butter
milk (in separate 1 pint cartons to fit in the small fridge)
fruit juice
smoked mackerel fillets, vacuum packed

From this we can make tea and coffee throughout the day, with fruit always available.
For breakfast: cereal, coffee, toast, fruit juice and eggs (soft-boiled, scrambled, fried or poached).
For lunch: hard boiled egg, tuna or toasted cheese or smoked mackerel sandwiches, a cup of soup.
And for an evening meal: choose from soup, scrambled eggs and bacon or poached egg with baked beans on toast,  grilled sardines, pasta and tomato sauce +/- bacon, or pasta and tuna or pasta with cheese sauce (using a roux of milk butter and grated cheese), soup with added noodles. Smoked mackerel can be used for sandwiches, added to scrambled eggs or mixed with white sauce and served with pasta.

For boat cooking I prefer pasta or dried egg noodles to rice or potatoes (though cut thinly these can fry quickly) as it is easier to keep in store and quicker to cook. I prefer bacon to sausages for the same reason. To cook rice in ten minutes without it sticking to the pan I use boil-in-a-bag rice. Then I can cook up a vegetarian stir fry (using a bottled sauce of hoisin or szechuan) from any finely cut vegetables I can find.
But please, No Pot Noodles! They are an offence against nature!
Next I'll make suggestions for a level up, but there is a firm place for Really Basic, where you know the ingredients are always on board and a meal is just minutes away. Just remember to take them off the boat if she's laid up for winter, then replace with new stock come spring.

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