Back To Normal?

 

Well, what have we been up to in the month since returning from our “holiday”?

Steve has decided to commission the freezer as he cannot keep up with the quantity of lobster and fish that he has been able to catch! We made this decision before heading back to the U.K., so immediately on our return we switched it on! I am quite pleased about this as it means I can now have ice-cream and frozen peas! A Chinese-style mushroom curry is much enhanced by frozen peas!!

On our first shopping trip on our return, Steve bought himself a large piece of gammon and a pack of Lincolnshire sausages. So far he has eaten half the sausages and not even a third of the gammon – thank goodness we put the freezer on!

 

We have been foraging – as previously mentioned we have made blackberry jam/jelly and apple chutney but have now also made haw jelly. This is not a spreadable jelly but more like an “adult sweet”. The book where we got the recipe from suggests serving it with a coffee. (Thanks for the book, Caroline!) The texture is pretty much like American Hard Gums and the flavour is really interesting, almost savoury but fragrant. Steve decided to try and turn some into haw vodka by adding some of the jelly to a small bottle of vodka. The jelly is still dissolving in the vodka but it has taken on a pinkish hue and when you open the bottle it smells like a very strong whisky – tastes pretty good, all the same!!

Haw Jelly
Haw Jelly With Coffee

As many of you are no doubt aware, my tipple of choice is vodka and coke and I tend to get through rather a lot of coke, so before we left Hull we purchased a Sodastream to save the extra weight of two litre coke bottles on shopping trips. This has served us well so far, the gas cylinders and concentrate are easy to find in England and France; however once we arrived here in Guernsey we were struggling to find it anywhere. Fortunately we managed to find this wonderful store called Aladdin’s Cave, probably ½ – ¾ hour cycle away that stocks it, so every so often we (or Steve on his own) make our way to pick some up. One particular return trip is memorable as Steve very nearly became a hood ornament for a shiny black Range Rover. There is a one-way road with a designated cycle lane in the opposite direction and we were busy cycling along. Coming up to a junction with the traffic light on red, we were slowing, ready to stop when this Range Rover started to pull out of a driveway. Somehow Steve just managed to stop in time, with me very nearly crashing into the back of him! The poor lady driver was extremely shocked and so apologetic it was quite funny – especially as it could all have turned out so differently! She had obviously checked for cars coming from her left but forgot about the possibility of cyclists using the cycle lane!

Back to our (or should I say, Steve’s) main activity. Since returning on 20th September and re-baiting his pot that day, he has caught:

  • Lobster – 30 (8 returned)
  • Wrasse – 7
  • Brown Crab – 4 (3 returned)
  • Spider Crab – 3 (2 returned)
  • Pollock – 1
  • Haddock – 2

The biggest lobster he has caught so far weighed in at 1.4kg and took a lot of cooling down so that he was dopey enough for Steve to squeeze him into the pan!

 

Surprisingly Steve kept up his science project of recording his catch and has come to the following conclusion:

Start with some going off gammon, a lobster will usually take the bait within 24 hours; use that lobster head as bait and within 24 hours (but sometimes as short as 6) a wrasse is caught. The wrasse bones will then take approximately 48 hours to catch another lobster and the cycle continues with the occasional white fish getting in on the action.

As I am sure we have said before Steve is allergic to crab. However, after catching a number of spider crab he decided to play “Russian Roulette” and risk trying one as he had only ever previously eaten brown crab. After taking inspiration from a devilled spider crab recipe he found, he created his own version, using the sauce from his mummy’s devilled kidney recipe. After freezing, killing, cooking and dressing the spider crab, he was then baked in the sauce in his shell in the oven. The next 24 hours would be critical for Steve!! Surprisingly, he suffered no ill effects at all and is absolutely delighted that he is able to eat any more spider crabs that he catches, even though they are far more fiddly to deal with than lobster.

 

The pollock he caught was huge (2kg)! He didn’t quite fit in the fridge (he had a bit of a bow!) and even though he had been killed and gutted I found it quite unnerving to open the fridge door and see his tail flapping up and down. We haven’t eaten him yet; he has been filleted and is now waiting in the freezer for a non-windy day for his battering!! Steve has also kept the head as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a recipe for Baked Pollock Head – I can’t wait for that day to come, I think I might eat elsewhere!!

Big Fish
Big Fish

We have celebrated yet another wedding anniversary (31 years!) and decided to go for a nice walk along the coast towards Pembroke beach. Steve even remembered to take his wallet so we could stop at the little kiosk at L’Ancresse for a coffee so we were a bit disappointed that it was closed when we got there with the possibility that it may be closed permanently. We thought we would continue to Pembroke and were sure we would be able to find a drink there. The Beach House (bar/restaurant place) looked pretty closed when we passed it on our way to the other little kiosk, which was also closed. However as we walked back past The Beach House we could see people inside and a worker sorting out the outside tables so Steve went in (leaving me outside as I would have melted going inside!) and returned with his cup of coffee and that was all!?! I was a little dumbfounded (!) and it wasn’t until he sat down with his coffee that he realised for the FIRST TIME EVER he had bought something for himself and nothing for me! Happy anniversary, darling!! (I did have a bottle of water that we had brought with us so I wasn’t going to die of thirst!!) After he finished his enjoyable coffee we set off again, across the common this time and for some reason I had my “fungi-eye” in and kept spotting mushrooms! In the end I succumbed to his pressure and agreed to pick and potentially eat a large field mushroom. We also saw quite a few parasols but we didn’t pick any of them as I thought one at a time is enough for me! I had it as a very tasty mushroom curry!!

On Guernsey a lot of the restaurants take part in the “Tennerfest”. It is a way to try and encourage people to eat out during the quieter autumn months and runs from 1st October until about the middle of November. In the past most of the restaurants had £10 menus but most now are slightly more expensive but still cheaper than at other times. Several people had told us about it and then Mark and Helen asked if we would like to join them at the Beaucette Marina restaurant. Of course we said yes, although I was quite apprehensive as I do not always have the most successful restaurant experiences! Obviously to help keep costs down the restaurant has a special “Tennerfest” menu and doesn’t cook their usual menu, this then meant that there was only one vegetarian starter and main. For starter I chose the Cantaloupe Melon with seasonal fruits and berry sorbet, I found it a bit weird eating such a sweet starter but it was very nice! Good start! It took me a while to decide on the main; it was either Sautéed Mushrooms Garlic on Croute with rocket leaves, truffle oil and shavings of parmesan cheese or Beaucette Fish ‘N’ Chips, mushy peas, sauce tartare. After confirming there was no cream anywhere near the mushrooms I decided to go for that. As Steve had chosen the fish and chips I could nick a couple of his chips! When the food arrived I was pleasantly surprised with how mine looked and when I looked at Steve’s fish and chips I was really pleased I’d gone veggie! For the first time in a very long time I had a very nice meal in a restaurant! Steve was a bit disappointed with his as we cook better looking and tasting fish and chips on board! Dessert was Sticky Toffee Pudding for me and Ice Cream for Steve. Again my choice was definitely better especially when Steve passed me his ball of vanilla ice cream (after trying to fob me off with the chocolate one – not for me, that!) A thoroughly enjoyable evening, thanks to Mark and Helen for inviting us out!!

We have been watching the forecasts quite closely, what with Storm Ophelia and then Storm Brian! Brian, the storm they call Brian! (Apologies to Monty Python!) Storm Ophelia had no impact on us fortunately, but it looked like Brian might. It was good to see that the forecast was improving as one day it showed gusts of 75+ miles per hour but eventually it went down to 40-50 miles per hour. Winds were mostly from the south – southwest which, fortunately, is not a bad direction for us. The marina entrance faces east so any storm with any east in would be a major worry! It did provide some beautiful looking seas (seen from land obviously) and we made the small walk to Fort Doyle to watch the waves on both the north and east coasts of the island.

Yesterday morning, whilst pottering around inside the boat, there was a “twang” followed by a “thud”. Steve was busy in the galley and called up to me to ask what was wrong. At this point I was having a look out the window to see what had hit us (the sounds were definitely like a bird of some sort hitting the rigging and then the deck). Sadly there was a beautiful, healthy-looking pigeon except for the damaged wing and the pool of blood underneath him. We weren’t really sure what to do but, with the state of his wing, it didn’t look like he would be able to “shake himself off and fly away” so Steve went to see if he would be able to catch it. He was unsuccessful on his first attempt and suggested we should contact the RSPB or some other organisation. I was a little unsure as, after all, it was only a pigeon, but looked online and couldn’t find a contact number for RSPB on Guernsey so instead we called GSPCA – the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Steve spoke to them and they agreed to send out their ambulance. The pigeon had found himself a relatively safe position under one of the seats at the back of the boat by the time the ambulance arrived (approximately 20 minutes) and the GSPCA chap climbed on board with Steve on the pontoon to make sure the pigeon didn’t try to climb over the toe-rail and fall into the water. Within a matter of seconds the pigeon had been caught and was secure in the carrier the GSPCA man had brought with him. I doubt if we will find out whether he survives but if he doesn’t I think we did all we could to help him.

 

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Work, Rest And Play

I can’t actually believe that we are now in October! Where has the time gone? We seem to have been quite busy however we don’t know what we’ve done!!

Steve has continued with his pot-fishing and has decided to try and turn it a bit “sciency” to see if he will be able to predict what he may or may not be able to cook for dinner.

We have finally had our first (and only) visitor – our first-born, Sean!! The day before his arrival, Steve commented that it would be ideal if he was able to catch a couple of lobsters to feed the protein-hungry child, but then thought that two in the same pot wasn’t a good idea as they would fight. However, that morning Steve lifted his pot to discover two lobsters, one being the largest he’d caught to date – weighing 1kg. Steve then started to worry whether it would actually fit in our biggest saucepan.

Sean came for a long weekend (and I think he found it a little bit of a culture shock as the pace of the life can’t be further from his usual London lifestyle). However, the restaurant that is Shearmyste, may have made up for the other short-comings, including a lobster roll breakfast, made with homemade bread roll and freshly caught lobster. We did try to entertain him but our choices of entertainment were quite limited – generally either shark fishing with daddy (with son as bait) or snorkelling/swimming with mummy. Surprisingly he chose to go swimming with me – this then caused me to return to being the worried parent with small child at the beach. I did very little swimming as I was panicking that I couldn’t see where he was – it was like he was four years old again and not twenty-nine!  It was absolutely brilliant to see him and we hope he will join us again!

One of the major jobs we had on our Job List but kept putting off was the coach-roof leak repairs. We had planned to replace some small sections to see if that would cure the leaks using the wood supplied at Christmas by Mac. Unfortunately this repair, although looking good, actually created other internal leaks. This meant that we could no longer put off the inevitable so, before starting to rip it off, Steve checked with the local timber merchant that they would be able to supply a hardwood. As the price wasn’t too eye-watering the job could commence. Steve was adamant that it would be a relatively easy job and take a maximum of five days. We have a large tarpaulin that would cover most of the roof and provide protection from any rain. What a mistake to make!! Without paying too much attention to the weather forecast he decided to start ripping off the old teak-faced plywood after removing the grab rails. Unfortunately the rain decided to come with a vengeance and the tarpaulin acted like an old frame tent and as we all know frame tents when touched from the inside leak like sieves. Removing the handrails had created an extra 24 holes and with the two large window openings no longer fully secure the rain came in. To make matters worse as the rain came in Steve was busy in the galley filleting a wrasse! I was running around grabbing buckets and towels and trying to catch as much rain in my hands as I could! Happy Days!!! Four or five buckets later we had been able to catch the majority of the water ingress. Once the rain abated Steve was more focussed on getting the job done.   Once all the wood was up, it was time to fill all the holes (at least another 50 grub screws!) The wood would take two weeks to be delivered so we had that time to do all the prep work and this also pushed us to remove the teak under the sprayhood as this was in poor condition as well (but didn’t leak!)

When the wood arrived we fixed the centre sections of the panelling then we had to wait for a two day weather window as we knew we would be unable to complete the hatch areas in a single day. Our first planned start of this next section was going to be the Sunday/Monday following the Beaucette Marina BBQ on the Saturday. However, due to the free-flowing free beer and good company, Steve woke with a headache along with a large number of other marina berth holders! (As did I, however I took headache pills and neglected to tell Steve!!!) This caused a two day delay as more rain was forecast. We managed over the next ten days (in between the rain showers) to fit the remaining wood sections and seal and return the boat to a watertight state (ish). Unfortunately we were still experiencing leaks around the hatches, so more sealant was applied. We are now pleased to report that we are leak-free!!!!

The other debate whilst we were fitting the wood was how to finish it. Neither of us are keen on silvered hardwood so our options were oil or varnish. As we have not had a great amount of success with oiling, varnish was always going to be the preferred choice (for Steve especially, as varnishing always seems to be my job). We set up the tarpaulin to protect the newly varnished surfaces form our resident seagulls who like to deposit from the top of the mast, but this seemed to turn the space into a greenhouse and also happened to coincide with what felt like the three hottest days of the year! We managed to apply it over the three days and are extremely happy with the result.

dsc02550.jpg
Varnished And Leak-Free

Overall Steve’s five day job took from 26th June until 28th August – the longest five days I’ve ever heard of. Did he really earn a living as a project manager?

With Steve catching all this stuff (fish) that I don’t really like eating, his focus has widened to try to provide other foraged meals. The first foray was mushrooms. With a newly purchased book in hand off he went to return with the following items:

  • Fairy champignons
  • Field mushrooms
  • Puffballs.

With a view that these would cooked and placed on my pizza that evening, Steve prepared the mushrooms and cooked them in a bit of garlic & butter. First I tried the fairy champignons, they slid down, slimy and tasteless – urgh. Then the field mushroom – which was pretty bland and finally the puffball – the worst of the lot – the texture of undercooked lamb fat – bleurgh. So I had tomato and pepper pizza instead!! This hasn’t stopped our foraging but has stopped me trying any more mushrooms so far – he is still working on me. So, on the island, non-fish based foraging has resulted in finding blackberries (which has renewed my love of homemade jam – without bits, sorry mum!), apples (spicy apple chutney), chestnuts (still to be eaten), wild garlic (our very first foray, back in April!), nasturtium flower heads and leaves (very peppery), wild onion and wild fennel. We are still searching for nut trees on the island but have been informed that there is a walnut tree within an hour’s cycle! We now have our eyes on the haws. Haw jelly is the next planned test.

Having received a call from our youngest, sometime in July, suggesting daddy might like to go to the rugby double-header as his birthday present (perhaps I should swap birthdays with him as it is more a present for me!!) we decided to make a “holiday” of it as this may be the only way to see our families as they don’t appear to want to travel to see us – or perhaps it’s just the sleeping on the boat putting them off! With the Southampton Boat Show also on in September we decided to arrive just in time for the rugby and leave just after the boat show. The most convenient route for us was to travel overnight on the Clipper, arriving in the early hours in Portsmouth and then take a train into London, stay with Sean and Laura for the weekend and then travel north to see my sister in Skegness and my brother in Burton on Trent and then return south to spend time with our parents before returning via Poole to Beaucette.

This gave us a deadline to work to, to finish the coach-roof and to reduce the contents of our fridge. Steve was reluctant to quit fishing, as he needs his twice daily fix of pulling his pot. We carefully planned our last ten days of meals, not accounting for any new arrivals. The lobster were obviously unaware of our intentions as in those last ten days Steve probably had lobster every day and also supplied three other boats with at least seven adult portions of lobster – even providing an evening of instruction on the best way (his) to dress one. This, in turn, added to our predicament as, after instructing, we were too late and too inebriated to bother to eat our smoked eel or Mediterranean veg quiches! We did end up leaving some cooked gammon behind in the fridge but Steve had decided to allow this to go off to use as his first bait on our return!

With our bags packed, off we trundled with our faithful trolley loaded, bus to the ferry and proceeded through Customs! This was the most lax customs we had ever seen, I’m sure they carry out more checks on the Isle of Wight ferries!! We hadn’t booked a cabin as there hadn’t been the option to do so online but had booked reclining seats in the quiet lounge (unbeknownst to us at the front of the boat). We had seats 3 and 4 – giving us a dual aspect view right at the pointy end! Leaving St Peter Port we were escorted by a large pod of dolphins (always makes any trip better!) The route was via Jersey to Portsmouth with a two hour stop in Jersey. Just before entering St Helier another pod of dolphins greeted us. The crossing itself was calm (fortunately) but the seats weren’t that comfortable so Steve took to sleeping on the floor. We were not as prepared as others, who appeared with mattresses and sleeping bags! We had booked a 10 o’clock train so we would have plenty of time to get to the train station and also find breakfast. As soon as Steve spotted the Sainsbury’s he promised me almond croissants (remembering back to Lancaster – best almond croissants ever!) Unfortunately we were half an hour before opening so had to wait outside on a bench, feeling like we looked like bag people. Steve returned with a pecan plait for me (a suitable alternative as they had no almond croissants!) and a plain croissant for himself. It was a really lovely train trip to London Victoria, passing Arundel Castle in all its glory although the train did get a little busy at Gatwick! Still, it was certainly better than going into Waterloo as they had issues with overrunning engineering works!! We finally arrived at Sean’s in the afternoon (23 hours after leaving the boat – compared to Sean’s four hour trip the other way by plane!!) and Alex arrived early evening. Chinese takeaway for tea! The following day’s plan was to leave Sean’s midmorning, grab some lunch with a view to getting to Twickenham in plenty of time for the first match kick off. Having navigated our way across the smoke we found a lovely little chip shop with a park opposite. Sitting down to eat our lunch we were joined by some very inquisitive and tame squirrels – who also enjoyed the chips! Probably not the best diet for them, but they looked pretty healthy!

Lunchtime Companion
Lunchtime Companion

The rugby was pretty good although Harlequins did lose. The first match was Saracens v Northampton and as we were sitting amongst a large number of Northampton fans, it was very entertaining as they well and truly got their arses kicked!! Fortunately (as I am not a big fan of Sarries), I didn’t make too much of it, which was just as well when we lost!!

As Melanie (my sister) failed to respond to phone call and voicemail we changed our plans and Alex drove us to Mac and Mum’s instead. We spent about a week there, foraging whilst walking Jake (the dog). Steve found hazelnuts, beech nuts, more mushrooms including chicken of the woods and an inedible bracket fungus. He roasted the hazelnuts – very tasty. The best smelling man in the world (brother-in-law Kevin) joined us for a few days and it was decided that we would take him back to Burton on Trent and meet up with David, Zoe and the kids for a pub lunch. Squeezing the five of us (and Jake) into Mac’s Mazda 3 was entertaining – we almost thought we’d have to put “granny” on the roof Griswald-style (National Lampoon’s Vacation), although David suggested we might look more like the Clampetts!?! Mac had put Steve onto his insurance so Steve got to drive a car for the first time in over a year – and a manual one at that! Mac finally managed to get rid of us by very kindly driving us to Steve’s parents, I think he did it to make sure we got there and didn’t reappear on his doorstep!

We planned a week with Steve’s parents as well. With the weather being good, we went for a relatively long walk one day and Steve found an apple tree a stone’s throw from his parent’s house. So he started climbing and picking. Steve’s mum thought we had been up to no good when we returned as I brushed the remnants of the tree off his back! Steve took his dad and a large bag back and they managed to pick 9lb of apples from a tree that his dad had no idea was there! Plenty of apple wine on the cards now.

Whilst we’d been at my mum’s, she’d mentioned that she and Mac were keen to get a map of the footpaths around the village and she wanted to ‘posh up’ her cake eating with some of those little cake forks – the ones with the little knife-like bit on one of the prongs, so this was in the back of our minds. As usual we found ourselves in the charity shops in Hythe and Steve spotted a map section in the Oxfam book shop. Amazingly, in there was the Ordnance Survey map covering Owslebury – result! Steve had spotted, whilst returning from his sisters, a large catering shop in Southampton so a plan was hatched. When the opportunity arose to go into Southampton, we got dropped off nearby and investigated the shop. The only suitable forks available came in a pack of twelve so we purchased those and packaged them up with the map and posted them. The next day I got a phone call thanking us, although mum did say we should have bought her bigger cake tins if we expect her to provide cake for twelve!

I’m not sure whether it was because he took over or was encouraged to take over but Steve cooked every other day at mum and Mac’s and every day at his mum’s (except one – the traditional pea fritter and chips or fish and chips night!!) I did do some things – I gave my mum a bread making lesson and we had homemade bread, rolls and pizza! We also had at least four crumbles there – different fruit each time (and requested by us!!) Steve made fish pie, devilled kidneys and toad in the hole for his parents. We also had fruit crumble with Steve’s mum and dad – we certainly overdid the puddings on this trip!

One of the most unusual things to happen, food wise, was that on the day we arrived at my mum’s she had made cheese scones. Now I haven’t had cheese scones in I don’t know how long and Steve wasn’t even sure if he liked them – funnily enough he did! That in itself wasn’t unusual, however the day we arrived at Steve’s mum’s she had also made cheese scones! What a coincidence!!

The boat show was very quiet. We went on the Monday but speaking to some of the exhibitors it hadn’t been any busier over the weekend. We had a good wander around and got the information we were after about possible berths for 2018, potentially on the southwest coast of England and a few bits we were after. A good tip: if you are going to the boat show and fancy a glass of wine at lunchtime visit the insurance brokers!!

Our return ferry was the faster Condor Liberation out of Poole. This should have taken 3 hours but was slightly delayed as, apparently, they made a mistake loading the cars and then because of tidal constraints we had to take a slightly different route, going through Big Russel instead of Little Russel. Again we were extremely lucky with our seats, getting a huge amount of legroom, right next to the duty free shop. Yet another smooth crossing – thank goodness! Arrived back at Shearmyste having had a very good break and fortunately Steve helped me put everything away before getting to his most important job – baiting and lowering his lobster pot!!

Separate Lives

Having spent the first three weeks in Beaucette checking the weather for an appropriate weather window coinciding with a favourable tide time, we did quite a lot of soul searching and wondering just what it was we were doing. Whenever we saw Ricky (the marina manager) and advised that we would be staying a bit longer, his response was: “stay as long as you want”.   I believe this sowed a little seed in Steve’s head and made us face up to some difficult questions – What are we doing? What do we want out of this life?

It felt like all we seemed to do was watch the weather, looking for the opportunity to move to another marina to do the same thing again there – relax, drink and people watch. Neither of us particularly enjoys the sailing side of things but absolutely couldn’t go back to living in bricks and mortar. Steve felt that he wanted to put down some tentative roots – in fact it appears that we are not the gipsy/roaming types we thought we were after all!

Why is Guernsey the right choice for us?

  • The people are amazingly friendly. When we have been out and about, looking blankly at our map of the island, people stop (whether on foot or in their vehicles) and offer assistance
  • Steve can understand the locals
  • The ‘hills’ aren’t big
  • Honesty boxes are prevalent for local produce
  • The marina is picturesque, gnarly (being an ex-quarry), entertaining during strong easterly winds with a good mix of friendly live-aboards
  • Great walks – as we are in probably the least populated part of the island where beach and cliff walks are plentiful
  • Even in hot weather, as we are a stone’s throw from the sea, it is at least 5 degrees cooler

Why is Guernsey a poor choice for us?

  • Wine at English prices
  • Bread selection is poor as there doesn’t appear to be any small bakeries on the island (only the supermarkets)
  • Haven’t managed to find an egg supplier yet (other than supermarkets)
  • Shower block/toilet trips are best planned to coincide with high tide (the ramps are a tad challenging at low water). This also applies to trailer shopping trips as the decline is quite impressive which could result in a runaway trailer!

After chatting with Sunil in the marina office and then Ricky, Steve returned to the boat with the figures for a year’s berth here! Could we do that? Should we do that? We could always do some sailing from here and return but it would mean that Steve could have his required roots and he would be able to find something, other than the boat and the weather, to occupy his time. This again caused more conversations and we agreed that it might be a good idea so Steve ‘paid up and looked happy’, but this then caused more issues!!

After having spent practically every day for the last year together (ok we did have one 24 hour period apart when he took off with a French man!) we were starting to realise that we have absolutely nothing at all in common. So after many hours discussing matters we have decided that it is in our best interests to follow our own particular dreams and go our separate ways.

To be honest, it is not as bad as it sounds! We have both decided to return to our great loves. Steve’s love is food and cooking and being the hunter/gatherer type he decided that he would try his hand at fishing. He bought himself a tin of sardines and put them into his lobster pot and dropped that over the side of the boat. He didn’t have any luck for the first few days so decided to try the other side of the boat, closer to the pontoon. I think he had pretty much given up and was going to wash off the pot and put it away when he pulled it up and discovered a decent sized lobster inside. He was like a kid in a sweet shop, so excited!!! This was all the incentive he needed.

Surprisingly my love is for getting fit again. We have walked and cycled around some of the island and have discovered some lovely beaches – good enough to encourage me to “take the plunge”! So now I cycle the ten minutes to L’ancresse beach and spend some time splashing around in the water! When we first arrived we noticed a blackboard proclaiming “Bendy Beaucette Yoga”. I have wanted to try yoga and thought perhaps a small group here might be a good introduction – although I wasn’t sure if I would be confident enough to do something on my own. However, Steve encouraged me (or should that be, pushed me) to give it a try and so far I have been to two sessions and that combined with the swimming and cycling seems to have helped me with my intermittent back aches and has also resulted in a marked increase in my fitness level, such that on our most recent cycle ride together I had to brake whilst cycling behind Steve as he wasn’t going quick enough!

One particular cycle ride stands out in my memory – is this the unluckiest woman in the world? We had bought a picnic at the supermarket after visiting the largest car boot sale we’ve ever seen (well , at least ten cars!) and ended up at L’ancresse beach, sitting with a nice bottle of cider and some bread and cheese. The only other occupants of this part of the beach were a young family and then after a while a woman and her son stopped to chat with them. I suddenly heard a “thwack” and the standing woman fell to her knees. The poor lady had been hit by a stray golf ball. The fairway that the golfer was aiming for was at least 150 yards away. The man from the couple disappeared off and, according to the kids, was going to “go and tell off the golfer”. He returned shortly with two men – they had both hit their balls off course towards the beach so were unsure which one had actually hit her! Amazing, considering how much empty beach space there was, that one of them managed such a direct hit. Fortunately the lady had turned to reach her phone so it hit her on the side of the neck and not smack bang in the middle of her face.   She was a bit dazed and shocked but I don’t believe she suffered any serious damage and the rather embarrassed golfers were extremely apologetic.

There have been some very large, beautiful yachts visiting here. At one stage we were one of the smaller ones, having been dwarfed by an Oyster 62, Hallberg Rassy 64 and a possible Contest 60ish. When I went to my first yoga session, inevitably I was asked which boat I was on so pointed Shearmyste out. Comments were made about Beaucette becoming a ‘Super Yacht Haven’ and I believe Shearmyste was included! Quite chuffed about that, although I already knew she didn’t look out of place amongst them!

The buses here are cheap (£1 per journey) so we have taken advantage of them and have been into St Peter Port (Town) a few times. You can also go all the way around the island and if you want to sit in the bus station for about 20 minutes that still only costs £1. We did the trip but broke our journey in Town. This did mean that our ‘round the island’ cost £2 but to be honest I think we would have quite happily paid at least £5 each. The nearest shops to the marina are at St Sampson which is about a 10-15 minute cycle away with a Co-op and an Iceland and there is an Alliance (Tesco) fairly close too.  There are lots of small produce stands dotted around, so far we have purchased tomatoes, strawberries, cauliflower, new potatoes, cucumber and lettuce. As they all have honesty boxes it is necessary to make sure you have enough pound notes (yes I do mean notes!!)

Liberation Day back in May – we took the bus to St Peter Port, saw the parade and had a little mooch about. We walked past a lady who was the spitting image of Shane Spall (wife of actor Timothy Spall) and “star” of one of my favourite TV programmes – Somewhere at Sea where they sailed their Dutch barge around the UK. It is one of my go-to DVDs as they visited quite a few of the same places we have and I have noticed a lot of similarities in our relationships! I didn’t approach her as I thought it was inappropriate but when we got back to the boat I looked for her on Twitter and she had posted a photo of the life boats taken from the exact spot I had seen her! I am just amazed that she didn’t recognise me from my avid viewing!!!

Steve has now become quite a proficient fisherman. In his lobster pot he has managed to catch three lobsters (one too small to keep), a haddock, a brown crab and an eel. He took the dinghy out of the marina the other day and attached himself to one of the waiting buoys and caught himself two mackerel. I must admit that the only item I have eaten was a small portion of the haddock in a curry! I did try the first lobster but I really didn’t like it and I think Steve was quite pleased about that as he won’t have to share any!

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Steve then turns from fisherman to chef, so far he has made:

Lobster with lime and caper butter served with coconut rice

Lobster fusilli with a lobster bisque sauce

Haddock jalfrezi with boiled rice (this was for me!!!!)

Crab and Haddock with a spicy noodle broth

Smoked mackerel on toast

Smoked mackerel quiche

As I write, the smoked eel is sitting in the fridge, excellent taste test results, no dish yet created! (Cooking time 45 minutes, preparation time a day and a half – so not your Jamie’s 15 minute meal!!) Recipes will appear on the Recipe Page!

Other food highlights have included, I’m sorry to say, yet another falafel based meal. I had made a rather tasty pea risotto and as is normal I’d made enough to feed an army! So we decided to use up the leftovers as arancini – mozzarella stuffed rice balls. Steve thought about putting breadcrumbs on the outside but then suggested using falafel mix – hence the creation of Falancini! Served on a spicy tomato sauce they were bloody lovely!!!

 

 

Chocolate Cookies

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

MUM’S METHOD

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

MY METHOD

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!!!

Uses For Stale Bread, No. 1

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.

Fennel Gratin

Fennel Gratin with Roasted Vegetables
Fennel Gratin with Roasted Vegetables

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.

 

 

Pepper Gratin

Pepper Gratin with Marsala Carrots
Pepper Gratin with Marsala Carrots

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!!)

I’m not a falafel maker, just a falafel maker’s mate!

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)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans – you must start with dry, do NOT substitute canned, they will not work!
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley  (I use dried)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted) (I use dried garlic flakes – a good handful)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne 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)

See her full post at

https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2011/01/falafel/#AlBpRHdQo7u1MQcI.99

My Method

  1. Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with about 3 inches of cold water.  Leave overnight.
  2. Next morning, drain and rinse the chickpeas well and return to the bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (apart from the oil) to the bowl.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Get your husband (or alternative fryer) to put some vegetable oil into your wok.
  7. Whilst the oil is heating, shape your balls.  I prefer smaller ones!
  8. 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.
  9. Lift from pan using a slotted spoon and leave to drain on paper towels.
  10. Your falafels are now ready to eat.
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Cooked Falafels

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

Mix all ingredients together and leave for at least an hour for the flavours to amalgamate and the numnees to plump up.

Steve’s Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chickpeas (drained)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice.(Jif will do – if you don’t have fresh)

Method

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!)

Pitta Bread

This is my adaptation from two recipes found online.

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 1 sachet dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Warm Water

Method

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!!

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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!

 

 

 

I thought he was done with hills – but oh no!

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:

Chilli Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons chilli powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cumin

Vegetable stock

Method

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!!)

Enchiladas with avocado, salsa and tortilla chips
Enchiladas with accompaniments

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

Ingredients

1 Courgette

1 Onion

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

Method

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.

 

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.

Coming next time:  Bacon, leaving our baby, Steve’s brownie points, liveaboard facts.