Friday, 8 January 2016

Mediterranean Moment

I have said many times there is no better feeling in the world or more idyllic than after a summer days sailing on the blue Mediterranean and you are at anchor, your skin is warm from the days hot sunshine and your lips are dry from the effects of the salty breeze, you and the crew are ready and in need of liquid and foody refreshment. Time for relaxation, good company and your evening meal.

This recipe can be easily put together on board in no time at all with minimum effort, all you need is organisation and timing. Organisation being ready and prepared with the ingredients and timing being as the hot sun is setting over the Mediterranean and you open a cool bottle of vino blanco!

I really am becoming a big fan of the hot smoked salmon which is becoming readily available in modern Spanish supermarkets, it is one of those perfect ingredients for the sailor chef as all the hard work has been done for you and all you have to do is simply add it to your choosen dish at the later stages.

Another addition to my culinary cupboard recently has been samphire, a native of the Mediterranean which grows on sea coasts and cliffs. This underrated green spindly delight which tastes of sea breeze and salt is a perfect partner to oily fish such as salmon, it gets even better as samphire can be classed as a super food being naturally rich in minerals and trace elements.

So, here we go, charge your glass and lets get cooking for the hungry crew.

For this recipe I prefer a spirali type pasta which holds the ingredients together well and ensures a consistent spoon of deliciousness every time.
Get the the pasta on a gentle boil and you can then concentrate on bringing the other ingredients together, put a decent splurge of olive oil in a sauté pan over a low heat and add a couple of finely sliced garlic cloves and a sliced red chilli, the idea being not to fry these but to flavour the oil. If you want to be cheeky a nice addition at this stage is some chorizo pieces!! After a couple of minutes add to the pan a couple of handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes, the zest of a Spanish lemon and a small handful of capers and continue to gently heat through, the flavours of the Mediterranean are now coming together nicely. Have a taste, and by now you should be on the second glass of vino blanco, so whilst you are re-charging the glasses add one to the pan turn up the heat and reduce for a couple of minutes, remember to keep tasting, now is the time for seasoning ie sea salt and black pepper, check and check again until you are happy with the flavour then reduce the heat to a minimum.
You will be about 8 minutes into the event by now and the pasta should be about ready, at this stage you should add the samphire to the pasta pan and cook only for a minute or two, remove the samphire then drain the pasta reserving some of the starchy water as you may need to add liquid to the sauce.
Thats it, the cooking time complete, turn off the heat and add the drained pasta to the pan and give a good mix up to coat the pasta in the deliciousness of the sauce, if you feel the need you can add some of the reserved pasta water at this stage, you can then roughly break up the hot smoked salmon into the pasta taking care not to break it up too much as you turn it in with a spoon.
Phew, almost ready, whilst the flavours of the Mediterranean amalgamate in the pan have minute or two with another well deserved glass of Spain`s finest, take in your surroundings, the warm air, the vivid colours, the aromas and of course the company.
Time to plate up and treat the crew to a true taste of Spain, serve in bowls and place the amazing samphire on top, drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

This is a dish full of the flavours of Spain and the sea, add to this cooking on board at anchor and this gives a complete new dimension, a truly memorable Mediterranean moment.  

Enjoy your evening.

Disfruta de la Vida.   

Friday, 6 February 2015

Hot Smoked Salmon with Linguine

Wherever possible I try to make cooking onboard as simple as I can, unless you have a superyacht it is likely you will be restricted for cooking space on a boat, so I find one pot cooking on deck with a portable gas burner is the way to go (and less washing up).
This dish is perfect example of how to produce a delightful light lunch, at anchor on the Med, using just the one pot.
As with all cooking at sea, preparation is key, it is really important that all your ingredients are prepared and are at hand ready for you to turn them into a culinary masterpiece.
Let`s start with the list of ingredients: linguine, hot smoked salmon fillet (hot smoked is nothing to do with chilli hot, it is a method of cooking where the fish is cooked by heat as well as cold smoking, giving a rich full bodied smooth flavour to the fish), desert spoonful of chopped capers, chopped chorizo, 2 beaten eggs with 100ml cream, chopped fresh dill or parsley, fresh lemon, salt and black pepper. Oh, not forgetting the compulsory dry white refreshment for the cook.
Quantities can be varied depending upon how many mouths you are feeding but this recipe will feed two comfortably.
Start by gently sautéing the chopped chorizo, when cooked remove from the pan and put to one side. Then put the large pan of water on the heat, add salt and bring to the boil. Whilst you are waiting for the water to boil get a chilled bottle of dry white out from the refrigerator and pour the crew and yourself a glass, it always helps to have a slurp or two when cooking, I find a white Rioja a perfect accompaniment to this dish with the sharpness of the Macebo grape balancing the fish and creaminess of the sauce.
Remember, cooking at sea is not just because you are hungry, but part of the whole enjoyment of your day basking in the Mediterranean sunshine on your boat.
When the water is boiling put in a good handful of linguine, about 300g dry weight and cook until al dente, usually around the 9 minute mark, then be ready to work the next stage fast.
Drain the pasta through a colander and reserve around 100ml of the cooking water, put the pasta and water back in the pan and allow to the small amount of water to boil again, turn off the heat then quickly pour onto the pasta the beaten eggs and cream, and quickly using tongs or two forks keep turning the pasta through the mixture, the latent heat will ensure the mixture is cooked and the cream addition helps to stop the eggs from scrambling, the secret here is to make sure the pasta is evenly coated in the smooth sauce. Immediately add the chorizo and capers and mix in, flake the hot smoked salmon fillet into the mix and then season with Mediterranean sea salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. Put a lid on the pan and allow the flavours to infuse for a couple of minutes whilst you chill out with your "vino blanco".
When you are ready plate up and add a good squeeze of lemon juice, then sprinkle with the fresh chopped herbs. Bon appetite, you have just created a perfect one pot dish onboard, now enjoy!!      

Friday, 30 January 2015

Best short holiday in the World

During January we managed to get a much need weekend break in the sun. A last minute decision after a wonderful Christmas and New Year spent at home in England.
We landed in Spain at 10.30am, picked up the car and headed in glorious sunshine to our Spanish home. A quick check around the Villa and with eager anticipation of taking advantage of the good weather we gathered a few provisions and set off to the Marina.
As we approached the Marina I could see in the distance the flags lying still, just dangling on the pole, a good indication that the sea state would be calm and perfect for a cruise on the Mediterranean.
We were not disappointed, the inner harbour was as still as a mill pond, the sea was as blue as the sky with the midday sun bright and deep yellow smiling at us, welcoming us back, I am sure I heard him say " come on then, look what I`ve laid on for you, take Wonderful World out, she`s missed you El Capitano".
We jumped onboard, removed the covers everything appeared shipshape on deck. Down below, checked around, everything was in order, switched on the refrigerator to chill the vino and then proceeded to carry out the important checks, engine fluid levels, drive belts, bilges, fuel, radio operation, before starting the engine for its warming up period.
When onboard everyone has a job to do, on this occasion it was just me and the first mate, El Sharona, with the engine and drive checks complete the first mates job is to uncouple the mains to boat electric supply and stands ready to cast off the stern lines whilst I move to the bow to check the anchor locker and then cast off the bow lines.
With all the boat function checks complete we were then free to move away from the pontoon, with the first mate ready with pole in hand in case of any unforeseen mishaps (yes, we`ve had few of those when the wind has been against us!!!).
Full of nervous excitement we headed out into the harbour, it is always a great feeling getting underway to the theme from Howards Way with the heat of the sun and a gentle breeze in your face.
Once outside the harbour walls we were free, free to cruise the Mediterranean, the beautiful blue Mediterranean, and that is what we did, we took a NE heading towards Santa Pola, hugging the coastline without another boat in sight as Wonderful World purred along at a steady 15 knots into the sunshine.
So here we were, 6 hours previously we started this journey, well wrapped up on a cold English morning and we were now shorts and tee shirts cruising the Mediterranean onboard Wonderful World.

Disfruta de la Vida   



Thursday, 15 January 2015

Oil Price Benefits Boaters

Well well, excuse the pun but the recent collapse in world wide oil prices is giving great benefits to us boaters.
I have Choosen to ignore the conspiracy theories of the collapse, whether it is to drive the American shale produces out of business, or due to the Chinese growth slowdown or designed to have a negative effect on Russia or Iran`s economy is anybody's guess, so lets just say the global economy is faltering and there is a genuine over supply of oil where market forces are driving the cost down. There are of course many negatives to this situation as oil companies cut back on production, exploration and investment which has a knock on effect across many industries. Enough said.

However, lets concentrate on the short term positives, an oil price collapse leads to: fuel costs reduce, energy costs reduce, transportation costs reduce, and then food prices reduce, petrol prices reduce, so generally the cost of living is reduced. Bring it on.

Time to take advantage of the reduction in pump prices I say: the current average pump price per litre in Spain is around 1.12 Euros, compare this to the same period last year where the average was around 1.35 Euros, a nice 0.23 cent/ litre saving.
To me this means to fill up a 400 litre tank in 2014 cost 540 Euro, today that same tank will cost 448 Euro, a nice 92 Euro saving thank you. So, my logic says time to take advantage, go out and fill the tank.
Now, the situation gets even better, the recent financial markets reaction to the Swiss removing their artificial cap on the Franc/ Euro at 1.20 led to the Forex boys either getting a bashing or making a packet, depending where the money was on that decisive January day.
The effect of this action has seen the Sterling / Euro exchange rate to turn in our favour at 1.34Euro/ £1, this time last year it was around the 1.20 mark, therefore thanks to the Swiss taking this action and adding in the oil price collapse we now have a healthy 123 Euro advantage on a full tank.

Go and treat yourself to a slap up meal and nice bottle or two of Spain`s finest red with every fill up, which ultimately in the short term helps both us and the local Spanish economy!!! My prediction for the next 12 months..oil prices will continue to fall to levels not seen for many years, the middle east produces will maintain output even though demand falls in an attempt to de-stabilise world prices and  force competition to collapse.

Friday, 16 May 2014

It`s getting close to that time of year!

Soon will be that start of the sailing season for us, I will be starting to plan for getting the boat ready starting with the annual service, hull clean and new anti-fouling in readiness for long hot sunny days on the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Electronic Navigation

One of the pleasures of Mediterranean coastal motor boating is the planning of a cruise knowing that you do not have to concern yourself too much with topics like tides or tidal streams, just simple passage making between two points and keeping a close eye on the weather which plays a fundemental role in the decision whether to go to sea. At a minimum you will find daily weather forecast data in all marinas and the internet which will help your decision making process. As far as navigation is concerned for coastal passage planning the minimum requirement is an upto date chart (the nautical equivelent of a road map), and a compass which allows you steer on a choosen heading. However, in addition to having a chart and compass most boats are now equipped with electronic navigation equipment which work on the GPS satellite system, all you have to do is set a waypoint and off you you jolly well go! of course there is a lot more on offer from the electronic systems such as depth contours, depth finders, fish finders, buoyage, markers and anchorage areas, you can of course make the journey more interesting by adding additional waypoints and linking them together to form a route. These days, as technology rapidly advances, the smart phone makers have jumped on the bandwagon, I now have on my iphone many app`s which aid the sailor and are useful and informative, app`s such as marine rules and signals, rope work, compass and ship finder are all there, but the best by far is the Navonics electronic charts, for a mere £15 you get the app for iphone and ipad which gives you the equivelent of your boats electronic navigation system, all you need is a 3G signal! this app comes with an additional feature where you get the ability to take photographs along the route, the app then stores them where you took them along with latitude and longtitude co-ordinates and gives you the choice to either e-mail or share the information on Facebook. I have even heard some sailors use this as their primary source of navigation! I used this app on a recent cruise to the Isle of Tarbarca, an absolute genius little app to count amongst your navigational equipment.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Try a Sailing Day

Now I seem to have this blog fixed I thought it time to give an update of some recent nautical activities.
This blog is mainly based around our experiences of Mediterranean cruising, up to now due to the relatively short time we can give up to spending time on the water this has been confined to the area around the Southern Costa Blanca and on Wonderful World, a motor cruiser, however when time permits I have always had it in my mind to expand this to cover much broader areas of the Med, perhaps not on a motor cruiser but on a sailing yacht.So, this last weekend me and my three sons decided to charter a sailing yacht and gain some experience for when I take the plunge and set sail on a longer journey across the Mediterannean. The charter company of choice was sunsail cruiser,I had seen these guys around the marina for a couple of years, their boats always look clean and in good order, and with the staff pleasant and helpful when I first spoke to them during the summer about a sailing day (with skipper)I knew this idea was going to be correct for this occasion. We started the day by calling for provisions, pastries and bottled water and then headed to the marina. The skipper Fran was waiting on Nauticum, a beautiful 12.1m Hanse 400 sloop. We had a discussion regards what the remit was for the day and Fran started the engine and we prepared to leave the berth, I was asked to take the helm and we proceeded carefully away from the pontoon to open water where I put Nauticum into the wind in readiness for hoisting the sails. When in position a few good pulls on the halyard and the main sail was raised, the jib sail was then unfurled, with the engine off  we then set sail on this beautiful blue sky and sunshine day towards Cabo Roig. There was a slight offshore wind and calm sea which Fran explained was typical for this time of year and would be ideal for the day`s sailing. As we begun the voyage the sails were trimmed, the auto helm was set and we sailed quietly and peacefully southbound at around 3 knots with just the sound of the sea lapping gently against the hull, this is exactly what I wanted and expected to experience, a complete contrast to Wonderful World where the norm is to get to the destination quickly driven by a powerful and noisey 5l petrol engine.
The whole day was full of new sailing experiences with every aspect explained by Fran, sailing by wind power is a joy and a relaxing experience where the main emphasis is to keep the sails trimmed correctly, trying to avoid excessive heeling and concentrating on enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean climate whilst quietly sailing.
In conclusion I think sailing by wind power is just as rewarding as the thrill of a motor boat but for different reasons, both give you the freedom of the sea and the joy that brings, but to quote Ferris Bueller "Life moves pretty fast. If you don`t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" fits perfectly with the concept of a sailing boat!

Disfruta de la Vida


Thursday, 20 June 2013

This Summers Top Destinations for Cruising the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean has to be the place to cruise on a motor boat during the summer months. Where will you be heading this season?
The Mediterranean has so many diverse and colourful destinations, each with their own individual appeal from the maxed out glamour of the French Riviera to the secluded coves of the many islands.
Wherever you choose you know you will be guaranteed blue skies, sunshine, fanastic Mediterranean cuisine, excellent wines and of course boatloads of fun with your family and friends.
Here are a few top destinations for the life of luxury you have earned....

Cannes, France
Start the summer season here in May with the Cannes Film Festival, almost impossible to find a berth so you will have to anchor off, nevertheless you will be guaranteed some star spotting and expensive lifestyle!

Monte Carlo, Monaco                                                                                                                              
Move a little further up the coast during late May to the Grand Prix, again impossible to get a berth but you will experience the glamour of the jet set and crowds. 

Tivat, Montenegro                                                                                                                                                            
 An ideal base for cruising the stunning Adriatic coastline during June, berths are plentiful and you will find yourself relaxing in an area unspoilt yet by large hotels and the tourist industry.                        

Ibiza, Balerics                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Let the party season begin in style during July, expensive berths but you are sure to have a good time here, party, party, party. Oh, and you must make at least one night time visit to Ibiza Old Town to soak up the atmosphere and perhaps visit an old favourite bar of ours "Camp Nonsense".                                                                   

Costa Blanca, Spain

During August this is my favourite place to be, a gathering of family and friends as we spend many a long day at anchor, eating, drinking and generally having a real good time with all the Mediterranean has to offer. During the evening visit Restaurant Nautic in the Marina where you will be made very welcome, nothing beats a table by the side of the Med with good food and a suprisingly good Rosado.

Disfruta de la Vida

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Treat Yourself to Mediterranean Asparagus

This is a fantastic Mediterranean light lunch dish which uses the fine ingredients you readily find in all the fabulous Spanish markets.
You will need a couple of bunches of fine green asparagus, a generous amount of fresh mint, 2 tablespoons of capers, 200g of feta cheese, cracked black pepper, olive oil, coarse sea salt and one of those big fat juicy lemons.
First, toss the asparagus in some olive oil and sea salt and layer it out on a oven tray, bang it in the oven on a high heat for about 15 minutes until the asparagus goes wrinkly and limp, roasting drives out some of the natural moisture which intensifies the flavour and brings a sweetness to the taste.
Rinse the capers and gently squeeze the water out, then in a mixing bowl throw in the mint, capers, black pepper and enough olive oil so that when all this is mixed together makes a loose sauce.
Let the asparagus cool a little, then simply pour over the sauce and lightly toss the ingredients together. You then finish it off by squeezing on the fat juicy lemon, and crumbling the feta on top, you can also add some extra mint leaves for the best presentation effect.
Now, get yourself some fresh crusty bread and a chilled bottle of white Rioja, sit back and enjoy this simple but very tasty Mediterranean treat.

Disfruta de la Vida