Lets go back to the days when my cooking skills were inexistent. Actually, I could boil rice, which hardly counts as a gourmet prowess though it goes a long way towards sustenance.
When faced with the task of learning to cook, where do you start? These were the late 1980’s, pre-internet days, so forget googling recipes or join food forums. I had no family and very few friends in Australia, international phone calls cost nearly $2/minute therefor calling Mum for family recipes was out of question. So I bought The Robert Carrier Cookbook, which was perfect for 2 reasons: the blurb on the back cover stated “if you have only one cookery book on your shelf, make it this one”, and even though it was nearly 900 pages, it was the size of a paperback, so would not take space on the boat.
This is the most comprehensive cookbook I could find at the time, it covers everything from Choosing your menu, to How to set up your kitchen, All about beef, and even Christmas fare. His chapter on Souffles alone has 22 pages! Unlike most books nowadays, there is not a single photograph, which at times was unnerving, when I had no idea how the dish was supposed to turn out.
One meal I had no problem picturing though was an omelette. A standard fare in France, I had eaten omelette nature hundreds of time, just never cooked one. Until I read Robert Carrier’s recipe, which not only included the most simple ingredients (eggs, butter) but also described the technique used to produce the perfect basic omelette (it’s in the lifting and the sliding!).
After purchasing a dedicated pan*, I practised and practised for days, using Terry and his daughters as guinea pigs. Then one night, we had unexpected guests, and with nothing in the fridge but eggs, I offered my humble omelettes as an impromptu dinner. It was such a success, my neighbour asked for the recipe! I find it so quick and easy to make, over the years it’s been my go-to dish when pressed for time or ideas. That’s the first thing I taught my kids to cook, when they were old enough to handle a hot pan. An individual omelette is the quintessential fast-food on the boat!
*my omelette pan has followed me from boats to boats. It is a heavy duty non skid pan, 20cm wide with rounded slides, so the omelette can slide easily onto the plate when cooked.
Individual French Omelette Adapted from The Robert Carrier Cookbook
1 tbsp water
1tbsp whipped egg white (optional)
- Beat eggs with water until well mixed. Add salt to taste.
- Heat butter until sizzling in a preheated omelette pan. Remove pan from heat and pour in egg mixture.
- Return to heat and quickly stir eggs for a second or two to assure even cooking.
- As eggs begin to set , lift edges with a fork or spatula so that the liquid can run under. Repeat until liquid is all used up but the eggs are still moist and soft. All the while, shake the pan to keep the eggs from sticking (alternatively, run a thin spatula gently underneath)
- When eggs are set, roll omelette on to a warm plate by tilting the pan starting it away from edge at one side with a fork and letting it roll over itself.
This is a plain omelette. Variations are endless, here are some of suggestions from our crew.
Add between step 4 and 5:
– Grated cheese and chopped ham or fried bacon ( our 10 year old daughter)
– Grated carrots, shallots, bean sprouts, and a splash of soya sauce (from me)
– Buttered mushrooms and garlic (from Terry)
– Left over bacon and potatoes, finely chopped (from our 15 year old son).
So far, August has not been the quiet month I expected for a detox. Too many hot days, children on holidays, cooking experiments leading to impromptu gatherings leading to too many “dates with bottles of wine” as my friend Monica would say. It’s not for lack of trying and in an effort to kick start the day in some virtous kind of way, I have enrolled the assistance of my trusted blender. So every second day or so ( depending on everyone’s mood and the state of the fridge supplies!), I make smoothies for breakfast.
Not only do they taste good, but they’re so healthy you can feel yourself actually coming back to life as you drink it (well, I do, anyway). The blender I use is a monster I acquired in the US, called a Mix n Blend II by Blendtec. It’s a pretty heavy duty machine, a bit of an over kill for blending smoothies, but I wanted an appliance that could also crush ice and also mill/grind grains, in case I fancied making my own flour on the boat ( that hasn’t happened yet, in the 2 years we’ve been at sea!) Oh, and it has a mixing bowl too, so that’s what I use for making bread and cakes. But I digress. The reason I mention this, is that running this blender early in the morning causes such a racket, it wakes up the kids. How is that as an added bonus?
Now for the smoothies. We’ve experimented with fruits and vegetables, and fruits win hands down in the morning. Spinach and celery green power shakes at 7am have never found any takers on this boat I am afraid. Ok, here’s what goes in (for 4 serves):
1 banana, either fresh or frozen. It adds thickness and sweetness to the shake, and if using frozen you don’t need ice cubes. ( Tip: do not throw your overripe bananas, cut them in 1” chunks and freeze them)
1 cup plain yoghurt, unflavoured and unsweetened (in Mexico, look for yogurt natural sin azucar, as yogurt natural comes loaded with sugar)
2 cups of fresh fruits, whatever is on hand. In Mexico, we use mainly tropical items, like mangoes, pineapples, rockmelons. Anywhere else, strawberries, apples, peaches, nectarines…Whole citrus fruits do not work (trust me, they will turn the whole thing in a mushy mess!) And any berries with large seeds (rasperries, blackberries,…) will give a gritty texture to the shake. We don’t like that. Oh, and if you use melons, then skip the bananas, the 2 flavours don’t go so well together in my opinion.
½ cup of orange, lemon or lime juice, my kids like apple juice but that’s too sweet for my liking
100 ml natural sweetener like maple syrup (my favourite), honey or agave syrup
A small handful of mint when we have (it goes beautifully with pineapple or melons)
3 or 4 ice cubes ( any more and you’ll need a spoon to scoop it out)
Blend on the smoothies/shake setting if your blender has one, otherwise at low speed for 10 seconds then high speed for another 10 seconds or so until everything is nice and smooth. Enjoy!
I’ve always said that what I love about our travelling is the opportunity to experience new and different cultures first hand. Learning languages, tasting exotic foods…total immersion is the way to go in my books. But meeting new people has to be on top of the list of “by-products” of our global roaming. Locals, holidaymakers , fellow cruisers or relocated expats…Puerto Aventuras, where we have been for the past 6 months, is a big village full of fascinating people.
A few weekends ago we invited an American family over for a BBQ on the boat. As often happens these days, the kids met first and forged relationships, and it wasn’t until 3 months later that we made the parents’ acquaintance at a house party. We hit it off, Terry and Joe sharing the same interest for flying and business, Kelly and I swapping travel stories and “the joy of taking your family along” anecdotes. They had many guests to attend that day, so we parted with a promise to get together again and chat some more. Soon. Life went on, both our families busy with school and boat issues (us), or business travel (them). It took another 3 months to find the time to resume our previous chat, which turned out to be even more fascinating than the first! Our floating home and lifestyle is always a source of curiosity for people, and a first time visit on board invariably includes a guided tour and answers to many “how do you…??” type of questions. From weather to anchorages, engineering issues to our favourite destinations, we’re always happy to share our experience. But my favourite has to be when asked about fishing and food! We have so many fishing stories and recipes to share, I could write a book about it. Until I do, I am happy to include fish on the menu whenever we have guests.
In my last post I promised I would share the recipes of blog worthy dishes. Boy, are you in for a treat today…
A month ago, friends invited us for a BBQ at their place and I volunteered to bring the dessert. I must confess to being naturally drawn to savoury dishes, perhaps because one can be approximate with ingredients and measurements and still end up with good results. Not so for desserts, in particular the types that involve baking. Cake making to me is akin to a science experiment, a million miles away from my “throw a bit of this in, sprinkle some of that on, cook until it’s done” style. For years I steered away from baking, too hard. Then I had children, and it seemed selfish to me to deprive them of the joy of eating homemade cakes and pastries. So I set out to learn how to bake. I studied the different ratios between eggs-flour-butter, the effects of oven temperature, types of flour, folding and whipping techniques, submitting family and friends to tastings with mixed results…After 15 years of trial and errors, I can’t say that baking is one of my strong culinary points, I still have massive failures however thanks to endless practise, I’ve also enjoyed spectacular success. One of them is Moelleux au chocolat (flourless chocolate cake) which features prominently on my dessert repertoire, as the most popular cake with kids and grown ups alike.
There is something you must know about me: I am a diary-kind of person. It started as a kid in France, when we were made to keep a school diary (emploi du temps), where the daily homework was copied from the blackboard and had to be checked and signed off by Mum or Dad. That went on thru high school, then University, though no parent’s signatures were required any longer. Thus was planted the habit of planning for the next day, week or month and it has followed me ever since. I only keep one diary at any one time and while in my earlier adults years, the entries were mostly about appointments, deadlines, and phone numbers; over time I have included various notes on things of interests, like a written version of a Pinterest board…Nowadays, open any page and you will find: bills to pay, money for the kids, teachers appointments as well as reminders to call my mum, restaurant to book, menu plan, shopping lists… That’s any given day. When planning a crossing, I need a separate diary just for cruise preparations!
Why I am telling you all this? Because that’s how my brain works, and without diaries, lists, or procedures I would probably forget half of what I’m supposed to do, or the order of which things need to be done. I would let myself be distracted by my children asking to go to the beach or my husband setting up on the deck for a sunset drink! Actually I do get distracted. A lot. But thanks to my diary, I can remember what I did last month and share with you some of our July Happenings in the galley…
Last month’s cooking mood was French, Bastille Day being the theme for most of our meals. Inspired by Manger a beautiful blog I stumbled upon (more on that in another post) and French Rendez-Vous, a French Designer fashion boutique newly opened in Brisbane by a dear French friend of mine, I kind of felt a longing for all things French. Some days, we ate something simple like omelette & mushrooms
or vegetable soup & grilled cheese tartines.
or sweet potato bread
(not very French, but the ingredients were in the fridge!).
And of course we had fantastic dinner parties with non-French guests, so I really went to town: fricassee of chicken (which is French for Chicken casserole, really), bacon-wrapped baked chicken, BBQ pork ribs, All-green salad, Plum cake, Apple tart
All chocolate cake…
Some of the dishes were “blog worthy” and I’ll post a recipe (you’ll have to guess which one!), others either need more work (read cook again!) or were just too “mehhhhh” to even bother any further.
It’s not to say that we forgot about the rest of the world so we also duly celebrated American July 4th with cheeseburgers and National Tequila Day with margaritas on our favourite beach. See how international we are!!!! Now let’s try detoxing a little in August…stay tuned.