Haven’t done a foodie blog for a while, so here’s a very tasty treat. A family favourite adapted to ingredients we have on board!
Steve’s mum always makes these for us (mainly because Steve demands them!). Below is her recipe with my changes alongside.
6 oz Butter or Marg. (Butter – salted)
3 oz Soft Brown Sugar. (Whatever sugar I have available)
6 oz Self Raising Flour. (I add bicarb to my plain flour)
1.5 oz Sweetened Drinking Chocolate. (Cocoa – unsweetened)
Salt (I never add salt as I use salted butter)
3 oz Walnut Halves. (Steve doesn’t like walnuts so we don’t have them)
Chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate bar to suit taste/availability
Soften the fat, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. sift the flour, drinking chocolate and salt and stir into the creamed mixture. Knead until smooth. Roll mixture into small walnut size pieces and place 4 inches apart on a greased baking tray. Flatten each piece with the base of a wet jar and top with a walnut.
Bake on the second shelf from the top in a moderately hot oven (375 deg F, gas mark 5) for 8 – 10 minutes until cooked through.
DO NOT ALLOW TO DARKEN as the flavour will be spoilt. Cool on a wire tray.
Makes approximately 36
Soften the butter, add the sugar and beat until as light and fluffy as you can be bothered. Add the flour and cocoa (don’t possess a sieve) and stir into the creamed mixture. Add choc chips or chunks. Knead until smooth(ish). Roll mixture into small balls, flatten with palm of hand and place on a baking sheet.
Bake in the oven at about 180 deg C for as long as it takes for them to look cooked but not BURNT.
Cool on an upturned pizza tray (COOK’S TIP – any breakages are cook’s perks!)
Makes approximately 18 (if you are lucky)
Steve will not be drawn into whose cookies are best! Even under the threat of violence, the most I can get is “they are two different cookies – both excellent!” What a creep!!!
We all know that decent French bread only lasts a day and as we haven’t yet managed to eat a whole one between us the bread bin occasionally fills with 6 inch lengths of left-over baguettes. So Steve decided that he would incorporate these into some of our meals. He had, in the past, used some breadcrumbs to coat a pork escalope and also some delicious breaded mushrooms but thought he could be a bit more inventive. Enter the gratin!!
Below are two of his latest creations (funnily enough they always seem to be my meals and not his?!)
Basic Gratin Topping
Grate 6 inches of stale baguette (much easier if you have a food processor as it protects your fingers!), grate a teaspoon of Parmesan (and cheddar if you like), add dried or fresh herbs of your choice, then make sure you have some extra virgin olive oil for assembly. Amalgamate all ingredients (except the oil) in a suitable container (we use a plastic bag!), mix thoroughly and set aside.
Prepare the fennel bulb, cut into 8 segments length-ways, ensuring the root holds each segment intact. Boil in salted water until stalk is tender, drain, place in a suitable deep sided baking dish, place a small knob of butter on each segment, cover with gratin mixture, drizzle lightly with the virgin olive oil and bake for approximately 20 minutes at 180 deg c (or thereabouts!!) until the topping is golden and piping hot.
Serve as a main dish or accompaniment. I had it with roasted vegetables.
Char the skins of 3 peppers (we use red or yellow for sweetness) using either a handheld blow-torch, gas top burner or grill. Once blackened place in a plastic bag or bowl with cling film over, leave to sweat. Once cool enough to handle, remove as much of the skin as possible. Chef’s tip – don’t rinse under water as the blackened bits add flavour. Cut peppers into strips and place in ovenproof dish (one or two layers is ok). For the darker looking gratin finish on this dish Steve added finely chopped capers and black olives. Place gratin topping over the peppers, drizzle with oil and again bake for about 20 minutes at 180 deg c. Serve as a main dish or accompaniment. I had sweet Marsala carrots (although we didn’t have Marsala so used sweet white wine instead!!)
It was time to get the Friday night fix – time for kebabs!! But without the mandatory salad that ends up on the pavement. Obviously due to my outright hatred of lamb in all its guises it needed to be based around some vegetarian type stuff. What we ended up with (although I failed to photograph the end product) was rather delicious if I say so myself. So to follow is the recipe for the filling and my non-cardboard pitta bread.
Falafel (adapted from Toriavey.com)
1 pound (about 2 cups)dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans – you must start with dry, do NOT substitute canned, they will not work!
1small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cupchopped fresh parsley (I use dried)
3-5 clovesgarlic (I prefer roasted) (I use dried garlic flakes – a good handful)
1 1/2 tbspflour
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tspground coriander
1/4 tspblack pepper
1/4 tspcayenne pepper (I use chilli powder as I don’t have cayenne)
Pinch of ground cardamom (I crush a few cardamom seeds and use that)
Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)
Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with about 3 inches of cold water. Leave overnight.
Next morning, drain and rinse the chickpeas well and return to the bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients (apart from the oil) to the bowl.
Get your stick blender (unless you are lucky enough to have a food processor) and bash/blend the ingredients until you get a thick paste.
Fork through the mixture (and Tori says remove any larger chunks of chickpeas remaining – but I don’t), cover with an acquired shower cap (or clingfilm if you’ve not stayed in a hotel recently) and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Get your husband (or alternative fryer) to put some vegetable oil into your wok.
Whilst the oil is heating, shape your balls. I prefer smaller ones!
Once oil is to temperature, leave the kitchen to your better half. He will gently add the balls to the oil and fry them, turning as required to achieve consistent colouration – just shy of Steve’s summer tan.
Lift from pan using a slotted spoon and leave to drain on paper towels.
Your falafels are now ready to eat.
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Carrots – grated or thinly sliced using a veggie peeler or mandolin
Numnees (Sultanas to the rest of the world) – Green and Golden work best
Orange Juice (freshly squeezed)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together and leave for at least an hour for the flavours to amalgamate and the numnees to plump up.
1 tin chickpeas (drained)
Lemon juice.(Jif will do – if you don’t have fresh)
With your stick blender wizzy wizzy woo woo the chickpeas with approximately 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice and enough garlic for your taste (start with one clove initially). Add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, blitz until smooth adding more oil if the consistency is too thick. Test for flavour and adjust accordingly. (We nearly always add more salt!) Transfer to suitable serving dish (if required and you can be bothered with the extra washing up). A pinch of cayenne on top looks good (we use paprika as we don’t have cayenne!)
This is my adaptation from two recipes found online.
250g strong white flour
1 sachet dried yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
Mix the flour, yeast and salt together. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil and some of the water and mix the ingredients together using your fingers. Gradually add more water and the additional oil until everything is incorporated and you have a soft dough.
Put a small amount of oil onto your “kneading board”. Place the dough and then knead for 5 to 10 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Put into an oiled bowl and leave until it has doubled in size.
Once doubled in size place dough onto flour-dusted “kneading board” and knock the dough back. Split the dough into 6 equally sized balls.Roll each ball into a round(ish) shape 3-5mm thick.
Get your husband (or other responsible adult) to heat a non stick frying pan to medium-high heat and dry fry each pitta bread for 3-4 minutes on each side until slightly coloured but still soft. To get more colour push the bread down taking care not to puncture it. The breads puff up beautifully!! Keep warm in foil until all pittas are cooked then serve with all the above!!
If you don’t eat them all in one go, they reheat rather nicely under the grill but are just as good cold and nothing like the cardboard ones you buy in the supermarket!!
My vegetarianism has come about in some strange ways. As a child I didn’t really like meat (I think I found all the chewing time-consuming) but loved mince, sausages, bacon etc. Then pregnancy came along and the small amount of meat products I could eat became ever smaller – effectively the only meat I would eat was chicken breast. Since arriving in France I have even stopped eating that (apart from one slight deviation – a Chicken Tikka Karai in Bishop’s Waltham with my mum and Mac!) However, there are times when I find that I crave a particular food (knowing full well that I wouldn’t enjoy anymore than the very first taste). These are generally “aroma-related” such as Wall’s sausages, smoked gammon and bacon sarnies but sometimes something as simple as a Scotch egg has me craving! After the success of the deep fried falafels we thought this might make a good alternative to the sausage meat. Steve did a bit of looking online but most of the recipes he found used a similar base to falafels but then involved a lot of faffing around with beaten eggs and breadcrumbs etc. We decided to just go for our own recipe.
We made the falafel mix as above, boiled (and I am sorry to say hardboiled – but that is the only way I eat them) eggs and then wrapped them in the falafel mix. I had slightly more mix than I needed so just turned the rest into normal falafels for another day. Once again cooking duties were handed over to the master fryer and after several minutes of occasional turning we ended up with these beauties, which we served with a salad!! Tasty!
As I have probably said somewhere before I hate my galley kitchen floor. It has an unnecessary lifting section with a number of raised ridges, presumably to stop you sliding (although we haven’t figured out how they would work). It has to be the worst kitchen floor ever – even using a toothbrush to try to clean the ridges wasn’t always successful and it creaked and groaned when you walked on it. Steve had added “Replace kitchen flooring” to his job list with the comment “make it easy to clean, earn brownie points!” With the job list getting shorter and shorter he decided it was probably time to tackle this one so after having noticed a large shopping complex at Herouville St Clair on our bus trip from Caen, we thought it was as good a place as any to start our search. After looking on line it didn’t appear that there was a suitable store there, however there was a large Carrefour Hyper Marché. Steve managed to persuade me that we should take a cycle ride there anyway, because, well, you never know!
As we wanted to do some shopping on the way back at the E Leclerc supermarket at Blainville (my cheese mainly!!) we decided to head to Leclerc’s then follow the roads to Herouville – surely not difficult as they are relatively close together. We arrived at Blainville and proceeded through the small town heading in the general direction of Caen as we could see the large hospital building as our point of reference. Unfortunately the most direct route seemed to want to take us onto the very busy dual carriageway and as we didn’t fancy taking our chances on that it meant a detour (yes, you’ve guessed it) up an incline.
Steve’s homing pigeon had obviously taken the morning off and at one point we found ourselves back at the same point (bottom of the incline) after a nice ride through the housing estates! We chose a different road which unfortunately was sending us west when we wanted to go south! We took the first opportunity to head back in the right direction which involved a very steep downhill and, of course, the obligatory uphill too. Steve managed to find at least three more hills for me – thanks darling, love you!! The worst one was from Caen Golf up towards Herouville – a long drag on a very busy single carriageway road. Steve didn’t want me to stop but it was either that or fall off!! We were really not sure which way to go but by some quirk of fate we saw a load of flags flying (something that seems to happen in large shopping areas) so we headed towards them – not what we were looking for but it looked like we were at the top of the hill now! Somehow we eventually ended up at Herouville St Clair Center Commercial – but unfortunately no lino shops!! We took the opportunity to pick up some lunch – bread, obligatory cheddar, salami, crisps and as a special treat – a four pack of eclairs – 2 coffee, 2 chocolate!! Steve did comment that they didn’t feel the lightest but we didn’t think anything of it.
For the return trip we decided it would be easier to head towards the canal and follow the cycle path. Steve’s homing pigeon was back and within 5 minutes we were canal-side. We decided to stop at one of the benches for lunch with a number of passers-by wishing us “bon appetit”. After devouring our bread and cheese / salami, we decided to forgo the crisps and eat the eclairs. Steve once again commented on their weight and on first bite we knew why. We started with the coffee ones and instead of the light, fluffy cream we were expecting, they were choc-full of coffee crème patissiere. I don’t like custard and don’t drink coffee so was surprised that I managed to eat it! We were hoping that the chocolate one would be as expected however, as feared, it was full of chocolate crème pat. They were both pretty sickly – not sure which was worse!! It might be a blessing in disguise as we won’t be rushing to buy anymore cakes for a while!! We managed to get back on our bikes and the trundle home was uneventful and surprising much quicker than the trip out! As it turns out the trip there was about 15 km and the return only 8!
Steve was bored one afternoon and as I had some left over bean chilli he decided he would make me enchiladas. For that he would need a special chilli sauce – so he took control of the kitchen and whilst I sat, reading, he started “creating”. After a few minutes the smell (I know I should say aroma or something else pleasant) emanating from the galley was just like burnt milk, then lots of sizzling and he started choking. I do not drink milk at all and was a bit concerned that there was going to be milk in my chilli sauce so headed to the steps down to the kitchen to see what was going on. I started to ask “are you …..” when I also started choking. I really don’t know what was going on but I had to get away from there (pleased that there was no milk in sight!!) The end result was a very spicy chilli sauce, which made a lovely dinner for me! He’s probably made enough for the next two years as he only used 2 teaspoons in my meal! Anyone for chilli sauce as a Christmas pressie?
Steve’s Recipe, adapted from one he found on the web:
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cumin
Heat the oil, cook out the flour (preferably in an extremely well-ventilated kitchen or have a slightly cooler pan), add remaining dry ingredients (choke) then add stock stirring as it cooks until it reaches the consistency of ketchup. Allow to cool and use as desired (at your own risk!!)
On the subject of food, I think I have finally managed to work out my flour requirements. We have purchased some OO flour to make pizza (which works perfectly) and just use the French bread flour to make my bread and rolls – as long as I make sure the dough is quite wet before I knead it, it turns out perfectly each time!!
Having purchased quite a few courgettes cheaply we were desperately trying to think of different ways to cook them. Steve suggested a courgette quiche – initially I didn’t think this was going to be a good idea as the recipes I found suggested frying sliced courgettes before placing them in the egg mixture. Steve though had other ideas – he thought that we could grate it, sprinkle some salt on and get rid of the majority of the moisture that way. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea so I made another pastry case – this time I used a loose bottomed cake tin. I was a bit apprehensive when Steve decided to remove the case from the tin, fill with the filling and bake. I was convinced there would be a hole somewhere in my pastry and my oven would be the recipient of messy, gooey egginess. However, he was right and I was wrong – it baked perfectly!
Courgette & Onion Quiche
1 Egg (Free range from the market – no idea of size but probably medium!)
100ml Crème Fraiche
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking Salt (to extract excess moisture from courgette)
8” Pastry Case
Grate courgette into colander, sprinkle approximately one heaped teaspoon of cooking salt (not the decent sea salt) on top, stir and leave over a pot (to collect the water) for as long as you want or have time for (2-3 hours ideal). You can squeeze it occasionally to aid the process. Some may like to use a tea-towel – but only if a washing machine is readily available.
Chop one small onion, add to the now-dry courgette, and mix thoroughly-ish. Beat the egg and crème fraiche together and add to the onion and courgette. Remember to season using decent sea salt. (Chef’s tip: the salt used to extract the water from the courgette isn’t enough to flavour the dish). Steve would also have added pepper, but someone around here doesn’t like it! Pour mixture gently into pre-cooked pastry case and bake in the oven at 180 degrees(ish) until set. If (like us) your oven doesn’t always brown the top of your food, grill for a couple of minutes to get a nice finish.
One cooked pastry case
Ready for the oven
We have done a few little jobs on board – the Morse (engine control) was stiff in operation so Steve wanted to remove and lubricate the cables. He sat in his engine room for 30/40 minutes pondering why the cables ran the way they did, he then decided to take a break and have a coffee. I could tell that something was bothering him so asked what was wrong. He said that he couldn’t understand why the cable went to a sliding mechanism and then to another cable straight to the gearbox – as it was the sliding mechanism causing the friction. Immediately my brain, which surprisingly was attached to my mouth, said “is it because there used to be an internal steering position?” It was amazing to see the light bulb go off above his head and it shone so bright that I’m sure it could have been seen from the international space station! “Aaah,” he said, “of course!” See I do have my uses sometimes. This meant that he could re-engineer the cabling and get rid of the redundant stuff! It has even helped to make it easier to get into the engine room and perhaps I might even be able to use the throttle now!
I must have been on a roll that week as we then decided to try to sort out the GPS feed to the VHF radio. Originally it was fed from the GPS plotter which we had had to get changed in Ramsgate, but after the upgrade this was no longer the case. Positive Marine would have sorted it for us but unfortunately their schedule and ours meant it was not possible at the time. This isn’t a big issue, just that we would have to manually input our co-ordinates into the radio if we had to use it in a distress situation. Steve was convinced that there would be some way that he could wire things up and make it work. We spent some time testing the cables and checking out diagrams in the technical data sections of the manuals. His first attempt resulted in a blown fuse on the Smart Pilot!!!! He tried a few more things but soon lost patience, gave up and moved on to a much easier job – fitting a French 240 volt socket in the galley (did I say easier? That’s another story in its own right! However, he did persevere and complete that one!!)
I decided to do some research online to see if I could figure out how to do it and after asking Google some weird and wonderful questions managed to find a website that took great pains to describe how NMEA works. After some note-making (which wire on this connects to which wire on that etc) I thought I had it so once he’d finished with his socket I suggested he try my attempt. He followed my verbal instruction of connection “a” to connection “b” etc – and guess what – we can now get the GPS on the radio, as long as the chart plotter at the chart table is turned on – RESULT!! Not the best result, but a good result none the less!! Steve now has decided that he does mechanical and electrical and I am “Miss Electronics” as he (in his own words) hasn’t got a clue with electronics.
Finally our first foray on the French public transportation system! Steve thought it was high time that we expanded our horizons so after a bit of research we decided that we would catch the bus to Deauville/Trouville – two towns on opposite sides of the River Touques joined by a bridge. Several yachties had told us what a wonderful place it was and as we have already passed it and not called in we thought it would be a good bus trip to make. Steve wanted us to catch the 9 am bus into Caen however we are not that good at getting up (he is convinced that my body clock is still on English time!) so it was the 10 o’clock that we caught. Whilst waiting for the bus to arrive we noticed that another couple waiting were also English so we had a bit of a conversation with them. They were from Sandwich in Kent and asked what our plans were. When we said we were heading to the Med, they asked if we were going round or through the canals to which Steve replied: we can’t go through the canals our yacht is too big (does that make him a pompous arse?!!) However, they seemed fairly impressed with that (so maybe not!!) When we were leaving the boat I had asked Steve if I needed to bring my phone and he said there wasn’t really any point and it wasn’t until we were at the bus stop that we realised we had no way of knowing what the time was – he has adopted my practice of no longer wearing a watch!! We did have my camera but the time has never been right on that so that was no use!! I had been practicing and practicing (in my head) how I was going to ask for the tickets and in the end cocked it up and said something completely different! However the bus driver understood and we paid our three Euros for the trip into Caen. We each had a ticket which had to be inserted into a reader/printer thing that acted like the till from the old sit-com “Open All Hours” so it grabbed your fingers as well as the card and if you’d done it correctly it printed on it and if not it just spat it out for you to try again! (I wonder how we know that!!)
Upon arrival at Caen bus station we bought our ticket (billet) for Deauville. I stood back and allowed Steve to try to buy the tickets but had to step in when he asked for return tickets to Honfleur! This time we had one ticket between us, and from having read something on the bus company website I believed we would have to insert the card twice each time we used it – Steve initially didn’t believe me as he thought it would register as a two person card – but again I was right! That seems to be happening a few times lately!!!
The trip to Deauville was quite scenic and Steve finally was able to have his ‘hill-fix’ and I was very relieved to be on a bus and not a bike! We went through several small towns, one being Dives-sur-Mer which Steve had read about having a wonderful market hall and reputedly the best market in Normandy. On arrival at Deauville we headed straight for (surprise, surprise) the marina (ok it was extremely close to the bus station!!) This was when we discovered that the two towns are definitely only connected by the Pont des Belges and the only way from the marina to Trouville is via a water taxi which didn’t appear to be running. We found our way to the marina basin that all the Dutch had been raving about and we could see why – the perfect location for a family beach holiday with the beach just over the wall from the marina. The local racehorses are exercised on the beach as well – but unfortunately not whilst we were there. So, as we are not beach lovers I don’t think we really missed out by not calling in there.
Deauville is known as the Cannes of Northern France but it appears, especially on a late September day, not to have quite the same amount of the glitz and glamour provided by the Mediterranean – more like Eastbourne on a windy day! As we left later than anticipated it was lunchtime so this allowed us the opportunity to savour the French equivalent of a sandwich (half a baguette either ham or cheese). As there was a ‘congres’ in progress next to the only open beachfront kiosk, they had practically run out of bread, so Steve’s quick thinking changed our order to one cheese “sandwich” which we would share. We sat on the beach to eat our demi demi-baguette containing the thinnest slices of Emmental we have ever seen – Steve’s cigarette papers are thicker!! We also had a beer each (as it was cheaper than Coke!) The only photo we actually ended up taking was a line of Renaults outside one of the grand hotels.
Due to lack of a timepiece and an ice cream interlude we missed one bus by about 5 minutes (if that) and then had to wait over an hour for the next one! Guess what we did then – sat looking at the yachts in the marina!! We managed to make it all the way back to Ouistreham by about 7.15 – a good day out!
Having been reminded about Dives-sur-Mer, Steve thought it would be a good idea for us to cycle there on market day (Saturday). Luckily (?) my replacement tyres had arrived and Steve had fitted them on Friday. The route to Dives as the crow flies is probably about 12 km – however the River Orne is in the way!! This means a 4km up one side and a 4km down t’other just to effectively be about 300 yards from where we started!! The weather forecast was favourable-ish but the wind was quite strong and from the south in the morning. There is an established cycle route to follow which takes you through the nature reserve at Sallenelles and we did a slight detour through the dunes at Merville Franceville. We arrived in Dives and our first stop was yet another marina – our neighbour, Guy, is thinking of keeping his boat there so we thought we would have a look. We then made our way into the town centre and found the market hall and some other rather beautiful buildings.
Dives-sur-Mer Market Hall
Cheese Seller and that wonderful ceiling again
Pretty building and fountain
Another pretty building
Yet another pretty building
William The Conqueror Woz ‘Ere
It would be amiss not to mention French markets – everyone seems to rave about them. However our experience thus far is that they appear to be more expensive than the supermarkets and even though the produce looks good today, in our experience it is not the place to do a weekly shop as the shelf life appears to be less. The market hall lived up to expectations; however the produce appeared no better or worse than any other market. There was a very expensive cheese seller, cheddar and parmesan at 30€ a kilo!!; a butcher selling horsemeat and the biggest brioche we’ve ever seen!! Outside you could buy mattresses, a huge, extending dining table, Rasta hats and just about anything else!! On the cycle back the wind appeared to have shifted and increased in intensity – it was now coming from the southwest – which, funnily enough, was the direction we were travelling! But at least it was flat!! When we got back we decided we would work out how far we had actually travelled. I thought it had to have been about 20-25 km (I knew it was further than when we had gone to Caen), however Steve did make the comment yeah 20 km one way! So Steve was right this time, our total distance travelled was about 42 km (26 miles!).
Steve has made me the happiest woman in the world! How can that be, you may ask? Well, he bought a tin of marrowfat peas (Pisum sativum var. medullare) from the World Foods aisle at the supermarket(!) and came up with this:
1 tin of marrowfat peas (small tin here 1€30)
Pinch of salt
Combine egg, flour, vinegar and water and mix to a thick batter, leave to rest. (Batter recipe based on a Brian Turner one)
Drain peas thoroughly, then using your right hand (so apparently if you are left-handed you can’t make them – that’s my excuse anyway!!) manipulate the peas until they squelch through your fingers. Then add the required seasoning (salt). Best salt to use is the crappy table salt (none of the fancy sea salt for this recipe). Form pea mixture into neatly shaped, meat ball or cork ball float (for the yachties amongst us) size balls and lightly flour them.
Peel potatoes, then cut into batons approximately 3/8” square (length dependent on potato). Hide under a paper towel so the recipient can’t see what you’re doing.
Using a wok, as this is the only safe boat method for us, add approximately an inch to an inch and a half of oil – must be vegetable, however the purists could use lard or beef dripping – but not on my boat! Heat oil carefully to a temperature that would fry a bread cube to a crisp in minutes. Place hidden potato into said oil and fry for approximately 5 minutes turning frequently to ensure even fry. Remove and place in a position where the recipient can’t see them. Place preformed pea balls into the batter, coat thoroughly then place into the hot oil, turning occasionally to ensure thorough browning on the batter. If you have a deep enough pan, they could be considered done when they float – however on board that is not possible! Once the peas are nearly cooked, carefully return the batoned potatoes to the oil until everything is nicely golden brown. Serve with loads of salt and vinegar (again crappy salt works much better than fancy salt, and the vinegar must be malt vinegar!) No other garnish required. And there we have the southerner’s pea fritter and chips!!!
Oh and as for the half a pineapple? There is a chap who may also be living aboard in Ouistreham, we have seen him out and about a few times. One evening Steve had a brief conversation with him in the gents, explaining that we were staying here for the winter and later that evening he turned to me and said “demi anas” – I thought he’d said “demi ananas” (half a pineapple) and asked him what on earth he was on about. He had been thinking how he could explain how long we were staying here in words he already knows – he knows that demi means half and thought he knew that ans was year – so he thought that by combining them it would mean half a year – which it nearly does – but his pronunciation let him down again – the poor boy, I was giggling about it for ages!!!!
Choking chilli sauce, the ongoing flour saga, lightweight patisserie and Theresa’s engineering fist-pump moments!!!
After seeing the start (well, nearly) of the Normandy Channel Race, we were able to follow the race online. They used a similar system to Yellowbrick (which was how we had managed to follow Alex’s exploits in the Fastnet). This gave us our daily fix for a week of how the race was progressing. For most of the race the lead yacht was Imerys skippered by a Brit from Jersey – Phil Sharp, closely followed by two Spaniards in Tales II. We had actually seen the Spaniards in the Carrefour in Caen when we had visited the race village on its opening day. They were very short (probably no taller than 5’ 2” each) and therefore created themselves a special place in my heart!! So we really wanted the Spaniards to win although patriotically we wouldn’t have minded if Imerys won!! As it happened the Spaniards overtook the Brit with approx. 36 nautical miles to go and finished 2mins 49 secs ahead – after over 900 nm, this must be one of the closest finishes! Unfortunately the day they finished it was chucking it down with rain so we decided against seeing them through the lock. However we were able to spot them as they made their way along the canal heading back to Caen.
We decided that we would cycle to Caen again on the Sunday to see the presentation and also to have a walk around Caen market. This was the biggest we had seen so far, lots of fruit and veg stalls, cooked food stalls, clothes and other tat but still sold the obligatory mattresses – thank goodness, I think I would have been upset if they hadn’t been there!! The presentation was one of the longest I have seen, each competitor (whether they completed the race, pulled out or were yet to finish) were announced and awarded tee shirts and hampers – luckily there were only 27 competitors! Afterwards Steve admitted that he had known what to expect as he had previously sat through many hours of French presentations in his previous (that is – work) life! The final competitor to finish, Simple Ve (21st place), eventually finished some five days after the winners but don’t worry, the wife of one of the crew had collected their tee shirts and hampers!
The cycle back allowed Steve to redeem himself with his wildlife photography with a couple of obliging water voles waiting patiently for us to notice them, get the camera out and take several photos!!!
Whilst cycling back I was finding it increasingly difficult and assumed it was just because of how unfit I really am. But when cycling slowly I noticed that my back wheel was wobbling rather dramatically but Steve thought I was just making it up! However a few days later we decided to go to Colleville Montgomery to the Brico and the supermarket and to placate me Steve pumped up my tyre and messed around with the suspension setting. Off we went – my word was it bumpy! I told Steve I would have to stop and he watched and agreed. When I stopped I realised that my back end wasn’t clipped properly – this was due to the fact that we do not have an adjustable suspension setting! We sorted that out and off we went again. We walked across the first footbridge and Steve then had a proper look at my back wheel and it transpires that the rear tyre is trying to give up the ghost. Now knowing that what I had was a genuine issue we had what is probably my best ever cycle on my Brompton! The only issue on the trip being when I asked Steve if we were going to cross over and stay on the road at one point (on a previous trip we had crossed the road and taken a small footpath). He said yes and headed across the road with me close behind to discover that we are in France and they drive on the wrong side!! So a quick retreat the way we came with just a shaking head Frenchman in his Citroen our only witness!
Not sure if we’ve mentioned it before but we bought a small underwater video camera from E Leclerc in Fecamp. Steve had used it successfully twice in Fecamp and decided to try it out here in Ouistreham. He donned his rubber kit and goggles and disappeared with the camera attached to his wrist and surfaced very shortly afterwards with water dripping out of the waterproof (!!) case. This has led to our first experience of trying to return faulty goods. Apparently within 15 days of purchase you can return it to the store from whence it came. If, after the 15 days, there is a technical issue you can return it to any store where they will perform an after sales service – unless you pick the most recently opened E Leclerc store where they tell you that you have to take it back to Fecamp! This meant several emails (all in my best French?!) to the Fecamp store with them finally managing to arrange for us to take the camera to the newly opened store even though it doesn’t have an after sales department yet! So now we wait the mandatory 10 days to receive some form of communication from them explaining whether we can have a repair, replacement or reimbursement. Watch this space!!!
Talking of communications – I found (online) a local bike shop – Riva Loisirs – velos et motocultures (bikes and lawnmowers!!) so Steve set off on his own to see if he could buy me a new tyre. As could be expected it was a special order item and when Steve got back to the boat he told me I had to ring the shop to give him our phone number as Steve doesn’t know it. Apparently the conversation in the shop went along the lines of:
Shopkeeper: “give me your name and phone number”
Steve: “pardon, I don’t have one – ma femme does, don’t know the number”
Shopkeeper: “ok, your name? Or don’t you have one of them either?”
Steve: “je m’appelle Steve”
He had managed to order two tyres (he thinks!)
I plucked up the courage (having written and practiced my phone number in the French style several times) to ring the store and began my own bizarre conversation! I think the chap in the shop said it was better to talk to me than Steve – funnily enough he’s not the first to say that!!!! I think I got the phone number across to him and hopefully we will be receiving a call in a few days to say that they are ready for collection! This has put a bit of a damper on our cycling trips; I can use it but if it gives up completely I don’t want to be too far away and have to walk home!!
One afternoon whilst sitting, watching the world go by, we noticed that the old fella along the pontoon was getting ready for a fishing trip with a couple of his buddies. One of them looked as though he enjoyed good food and was struggling to get into the life preserver offered to him, a piece of rope was being used to secure it so Steve thought we should offer one of our life jackets and after yet another gesticulated conversation said life jacket was handed over and fitted nicely. They seemed concerned about returning it as they would not be back for a few hours. However, when they returned we were still in the same position – watching the world go by! Maybe having partaken of one or two glasses of wine. Steve went to help them berth and was rewarded with a “sh, sh” moment of the old fella going to his catch box and handing him two pre-gutted and cleaned mackerel. Steve tried to return one but the chap would have none of it!
Steve was well chuffed as this meant he could finally use his smoker (bought as a Christmas present two years ago and not used yet!!) and subsequently decided to make an item on his “haven’t done, need to do” list – smoked mackerel pate. He set up his smoker in the picnic area and, apparently smoking food is like cooking on a barbecue where one hand must always be occupied by a glass (although on this occasion it was a Thermos cup!) especially on one of the hottest days of the year (if not the hottest day in September, ever!) The end result to my untrained eye looked horrible, yellow and smoky – just as it is supposed to I have been informed!! To enable the production of the pate a number of store cupboard items were required that we didn’t have – crème fraiche and horseradish or as Steve thought it was going to be called “radis de cheval”. Sorry to disappoint him but it is known as either radis noir or raifort so it was just as well I was with him in the supermarket! The plan was to reward the old boy with a portion of said pate upon completion. Shame we forgot to take photos of either the smoked fish or the pate – maybe next time! For those interested in Steve’s special recipe and method it is as follows:
Two hot smoked mackerel (you can buy pre-done if you don’t have a smoker or a Frenchman to supply the fish)
Horseradish (Steve used jarred but you could use fresh)
Salt and Pepper
Place the crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, and half the fish in a bowl, then wizzy wizzy woo woo (blend). Add the remaining half of the fish, flaked – refrigerate and serve.
We placed said pate into two individual sized ice cream tubs – one for Steve and one for the old boy! He arrived that afternoon and Steve duly handed it over. (There was some confusion because of the label on the tub but fortunately I had primed Steve to say pate de macquerau fume so we think he understood!!) Steve did start to worry when after 4/5 days the old boy had not been back to his boat (we had been used to seeing him most days prior to the mackerel moment!!) and was concerned that he might have killed him off! I can honestly say that we were very relieved the day he reappeared, smiling and then while mimicking eating, said “bon”, “good”.
Our change of eating habits has meant a little bit more thought being placed on meals as a number of our regular go-tos are no longer available to us! Some have been successful, and some less so! The least successful was the stuffed aubergine from our Italian cookbook. The finished dish looked exactly like the photo in the recipe book – however it appears that I don’t really like aubergine – although the potato filling was very nice!! And so were the sautéed potatoes Steve did (as part of his meal – but then he did extra for me as I didn’t eat all my aubergine).
Having bought a larger tub of crème fraiche than required for the above pate, it was decided that another foray into quiche making was required. Having extremely hot hands most of the time I was dubious about making pastry – although it appears that it doesn’t matter anymore! I had cheese and onion and Steve had pretty much a Quiche Lorraine. My blind baking worked and, even though I had had to use Pyrex dishes as I don’t have loose bottomed flan tins, amazingly they both came out of the dish intact and no leaks!!!! And best of all they even tasted good – thin buttery pastry and a tasty filling!!!
Quiche Lorraine (sort of)
Cheese and Onion Quiche
Having previously made falafels but only cooked them in the oven and then seeing them deep fried at Caen market we decided it was time for a do-over! Even Steve agreeing to eat them – before they were even made. I used the recipe I usually use – from Toriavery.com – and made sure that there was enough spice in them to keep the carnivore happy. Steve agreed to fry them for me (I’m scared of frying on the boat!!) and we made hummus and minted couscous to go with them. It now transpires that this is the only way to cook falafels on board this boat – they were like armadillos – crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Little pillows of heavenliness! They still maintained their crunchiness when used in our usual falafel meal with couscous, harissa tomato sauce and grated cheese (a la Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!!)
As I still had some pastry left it was time to come up with another idea – cheese and onion pasties! However, whilst rolling out my pastry I decided that there would be too much for that so went for a cheese and potato pie. This time I used a loose bottomed cake tin and the pie came out of that perfectly too! Perhaps I can make pastry after all!!!
We have had a few comments made towards us regarding “Brexit” but I think the best was delivered the other day by The Belgian (two boats down). He had been out for a sail and Steve went to help him berth. When he was positioned he commented: “We don’t want Brexit – we need you!!!” Just about summed things up perfectly I reckon.