I am surprised with my own cooking skills. It turns out I knew a lot more about cooking than I thought. It turns out that I can actually cook, and rather well too. Like I said I lacked knowledge in regards to spices but I can proudly state that that has changed and majorly improved. So far, I have taken care of almost all our meat dishes as Mario doesn’t cook and Ian is being excused considering all the captain work he does throughout the day. I have cooked soups, rice, pasta with at least five different sauces (particularly proud of my idea for a creamy crab sauce – I say idea because Liam actually took care of the preparation as I had no idea how to do it), various salads, eggs, stews (I had no idea I could cook a stew!) as well as cakes, pastries, and snacks.
I couldn’t possibly go on without making a special point of my attempt at French cooking. I had gone through Ian’s French cookbook and had chosen a pumpkin flan as my first French meal. We missed some ingredients and I had to improvise and the proportions weren’t quite working out but the end result was marvelous. While it was baking in the oven I can’t say I was a little more than anxious as to the final result. The ingredients haven’t been quite right and I had improvised with the measurements. Half way through the suggested cooking time my creation was still rather liquid and far from being presentable. All it took to achieve perfection was a lot more baking time though. The pumpkin flan came out superbly. Everybody was raving about it, and Ian described it as delicate. Which it totally was. It was a great first attempt, delicate and light, and a great addition to our traditional steak dinner. It was nice to thrown some variety into our dining experience.
Three weeks into the trip we have hardly repeated any recipes. Unless we’d really liked something and had an urge for it. It is getting harder to come up with ideas though and the lack of provisions necessitates extra creativity but we are still holding up pretty well. For example, we have a chickpeas/pumpkin curry with some freshly boiled rice accompanied by my very own version of vinaigrette. I remotely remember the ingredients that went into it from all those Russian party thrown by my mom and her Russian lady friends. I am pretty sure my version is not correct but it sure tastes great! That is a pretty great meal considering we only have a few onions and some cabbage left. After three weeks in the channels we have finally exhausted out fresh fruit and veg. Luckily, we are only a couple of days away from Puerto Natales, a rather big town and our next stop.
I have again gotten off the subject. I was talking about cooking and what each of us did. So let’s see what Ian is doing. On the rare occasions he cooks he comes up with these amazing curries, probably remnants from his years in India. He also prepares an excellent feijoada (a Brazilian mean/beans stew), let’s not forget the scrumptious bread he makes as well as the yoghurt. All that on a boat! Speaking of bread, Liam also makes bread although it is not as good as the one Ian makes. He is learning though. He also gave yoghurt making a try and failed miserably. We now have a thermos full of milk that tastes a bit like yoghurt. Yum!
Let’s not forget our dear Mario. Although he doesn’t cook he has made his contribution to our culinary feasts. He makes a mean ‘egg in a hat’ and his recipe book is slowly expanding. He has shown great enthusiasm and willingness to learn and we have seen him fussing around the stove, diligently taking notes on more than one occasion. He always helps with chopping vegetables or meat for the meals, and often prepares the salads with some instructions from myself or Liam. Liam has taught him how to prepare guacamole and Mario has treated us to his very own version a couple of times, each time exceeding his previous attempt.
-This might be my best guacamole so far! – he boasts. Although this is only the second time I have made it – he adds grinning.
I can’t help laughing. I know he puts a lot of effort into cooking and tries his best. I can see him enjoying himself when he knows what he is doing. He said it himself ‘Cooking is so much more fun that washing dishes’. I don’t blame him for being frustrated and feeling inadequate (I am too!) when he is not sure about something. Who wouldn’t be! But enough of our individual efforts. Let’s give you a breakdown of our three daily meals.
Our breakfasts consist mainly of oatmeal, mixed with fresh fruit and cinnamon. In the first days of our trip when we still had eggs we would have omelettes, fried or scrambled eggs. When there is bread we would have toast or French toast with jam, honey, butter, ham, cheese, etc. When we have time we make pancakes. Coffee for the guys and tea for me are always present.
For lunch we would have some left overs from dinner, prepare a fresh meal, such as veggies with rice, or boil some soup. Sometimes it is just cheese, salami, and bread or crackers. Sometimes we skip lunch although this happens very rarely.
In between meals we have a lot of mantecol (for the Bulgarian or Arab speakers ‘halva’) which is made of peanut paste and sugar but mainly sugar and does us good for all that warmth keeping. The guys also snack on cookies and chocolate, and we all have tea or mate.
Our evening meal is by far the highlight of the culinary day. We cook pastas, rice, stews, mixed with fresh vegetables and meat, plenty of spices and flavours. We also try to have a fresh salad on the side whenever possible. For us meat eaters I would often prepare steaks with mashed potatoes on the side while Liam works on a delicious blue cheese sauce to go with it.
If either Liam or I had decided to bake we would even have desert. And if not we would still have desert. We have a whole cupboard stuffed with chocolate, cookies and the likes. Some leafed tea is also in order. Or hot chocolate. Recently we have also started opening cans of fruits for desert. The peaches have been excellent and Liam says the pears are good too.
Cooking on the boat has been so much fun for all of us partly because we have enjoyed cooking for others. It makes such a huge difference compared to cooking just for yourself if you at all do. Then another important point is having all that food at an arm’s reach. It is like having a supermarket on board. We can cook whatever we fancy and the ingredients are readily available to us. Our evening meals are also the time we all gather around the table, the time we chat and laugh (not like we don’t do it at other times, we do it all day, every day!) and share our daily experiences. We put on some music and sway the night away. It is by far my favourite time of day and the dearest memory I am going to take with me from this trip.