Under Pressure

March 12, 2016 at 9:25 am

After a bit of trial and error, and psyching myself up to be brave, I did finally get to grips with the pressure cooker last season.

I’d bought it for £8 at Beaulieu Boat Jumble the year before and been a bit scared of it.  It is quite like cooking a bomb, and the first few times I used it I went and sat outside in the cockpit while it cooked, rather than sit in the confines of the cabin with it’s 5 foot/sitting only headroom watching it hiss angrily like a thing possessed.

If you spend any time aboard I definitely recommend getting one as they just save on so much cooking fuel, and time. There is a great article here about how they work and it also has a handy reference table so you have a better chance of not turning your food to mush so I won’t go into that. But I would just add that if you’re making something with spices, use half as much as the recipe says as all the flavours stay in the pot rather than escape as steam as they do in normal cooking and they can be really strong tasting. The first thing I ever made was a lamb and apricot tagine from a Jamie Oliver recipe and it was lovely and tender, but very nearly disgusting.

I also upgraded to a properly gimballed Origo spirit stove last year so was actually able to cook at sea for the first time too.  Here’s the recipe for my favourite stew in the pressure cooker.  I make no excuses, it’s not a very sophisticated supper, but it is incredibly tasty. So tasty in fact I make this ashore too…

Pressure cooking at sea

Alot tastier than it looks here tbh…

Force 4 Mince 
(You can probably make this up to about Force 4 upwind on my boat, after which chopping the veg might become a bit of a risk …Unless you’re in the Solent when you could probably rustle this up in a storm.)

Serves 2 big hungry sailors (or dinner, breakfast and lunch for 1)

1 big or 2 medium onions cut into half inch squares
Half a cabbage finely shredded
Half a bag of washed new potatoes cut in half (optional)
1 pack of fresh beef mince. Go on, treat yourself to the nice steak mince.
1 Rich Beef Knorr Stock Pot stock cube.  Needs to be the Rich Beef one, it makes a massive difference. Haven’t tried Oxo.
1 cup/half a mug of water
Black Pepper to taste.
Oil of your choice

NB It’s quite important to cut the veg so they cook uniformly. I cut the onions quite big so they don’t dissolve.

Boil the kettle and make yourself a cup of tea to drink while you’re cooking. Keep back a cup of hot water though, for the stew.
While the kettle’s boiling chop the onion and cut the potatoes in half (if using).
Throw the onions in the pan with a drizzle of oil and put over a medium heat until it starts to sizzle.
Stab it a bit to start to break up the onions.
Throw in the mince, breaking into chunks as you add it to the pan.
Keep it all moving so it doesn’t stick to the pan and to continue to break up the onions some more. I don’t bother to brown the mince properly, you just want to get the pan warm and start the cooking…
Add the hot water, and the stock cube. Make sure the stock cube is submerged.
If you’re having potatoes, you need to cook them a bit before adding the cabbage so add them to the pan and stir so they get to say hello to the gravy. Put the lid on and tighten it up. Bring to temperature and cook for 4 minutes to parboil them before letting the steam out and opening the pan up again.
Then add the chopped cabbage, close the pan up again, bring to temperature and cook for 3 minutes.
Let the pan sit and cool down naturally for 10-15 minutes, if you can be that patient.
Open up the bomb and add the pepper, to taste, at the end.

Serve in dog bowls with crusty bread, or eat straight from the pan.
Braahn sauce optional.
Nom, nom.

99 Problems…

May 30, 2015 at 8:49 am

But a dragging anchor ain’t one…


This is an anchor ‘angel’ or ‘chum’. It’s a lump of lead weighing about 15 kilos. You tie a bowline through it and round your anchor line and lower it down the line til it touches the bottom. Then you tie it off tight. So theoretically under the water you have your anchor, set in well, then a line of chain (20m in my case) and the chum sits at the end of the chain before the rode  comes up to your boat.

The idea is that whatever forces are at play on your boat, the ‘angel’ has to be lifted before anything can start to move your chain, let alone get at your anchor.

Works a dream. I sat out a gusty, veering f7 yesterday swinging in a much reduced circle around the ‘angel’ whereas without it we’d have been all over the place and probably pulled the Danforth out.

Anchoring problems? What anchoring problems?

Back problems, maybe…

Sail Trim for (Singlehanded) Cruisers

February 14, 2015 at 10:16 am

I’ve never been on a racing yacht (well only tied to the dock at a boat show), and I never really did dinghy’s… To say I’m not that competitive is probably a bit of an untruth, but more likely the thought of going backwards and forwards ’round the cans’ is pretty boring to me.  I like the adventure and freedom of sailing, of travelling to new places or at least seeing places from a new perspective.

However, one of the disadvantages with this lack of “discipline” is that I’m aware that my sail trim is definitely not as sharp as it could be. I know how to trim the sails with the sheets according to the tell-tales on the luff of the genoa and mainsail, but the finer points of sheet car and mainsheet traveller positioning have eluded me. When I had the UV strip replaced on the genoa last season, the sail maker replaced the luff rope and I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what it was for…

It can’t be that complicated, surely? I reckon I’ve a pretty good ‘feel’ for how the boat is sailing and can definitely tell when the boat is ‘in the groove’, it’s just finding it has always been a bit of a lucky accident so far!

But there’s loads of info out there… I bought the RYA Sail Trim for Cruisers Handbook at the end of last summer which was very illuminating, with lots of clear diagrams.  It will definitely stay onboard with me, but it does seem quite complicated, with lots of jargon, and I think lots of differences for different boats. It definitely seems more of an art to ‘tuning’ the sails, than a science.

Sail Trim for Cruisers

Recently I’ve also found a series of videos on Youtube and I’ve found it really helpful to see it all in practice. I warn you, they are a bit ‘Howards Way’ though, made back in the 90’s clearly before roller reefing and lifejackets were invented. (And try not to get distracted giggling at the historic technology like I did either…) But I’ve watched them all a couple of times and it’s definitely making more sense to me now.

Final note though, at the end of the last video on trimming the mainsail, the presenter is shown in charge of the mainsheet traveller control continuously trimming it, in continuous communication with the helmsman. In my defence, there’s a lot more to do and think about when you’re singlehanding so I think that level of perfection is a bit unobtainable.

Can’t wait to put all this new knowledge into practice though… Anyone else got any tips?

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