An organised home……

I read somewhere a couple of years ago, that on average, only two recipes out of any cookbook purchased are ever used. I glanced across at our bulging bookshelf kept exclusively for cookbooks and thought, “Guilty.”

What a waste! Then my father had to go into a nursing home (he was living with us) and like parents who have kids that go to kinder, I started getting sick from the daily visits. I wasn’t bad but I didn’t move far from the couch for a month. And I employed my favourite tool, MS Excel, to solve the problem.

I started buying flags and tagging the books, with a flag placed in the top right hand corner signifying a mid week meal (after work). The flag position became more sophisticated over time.

Then I created a simple excel spreadsheet, with categories across the top, and drop down lists for the categories.

Across the top my categories are:

Meal NameName of meal from cookbook
Key ingredientsThis is the hardest thing to get, say a seasonal item
CourseProbable first course that you would use it for
Secondary CourseAnother option for the recipe
PurposeHome, entertaining or BBQ – this alludes to the complexity of the dish
VegetarianFor the veggie option!
Time RequiredWeekday or Weekend, whether you can do it after work or weekend
Marinate If you need to marinate it overnight – you need to be prepared
Cook bookName of Cookbook
AuthorAuthor of the Cookbook
PagePage of the Cookbook
CommentsFor once it’s cooked and you’ve formed an opinion

So once I flagged my books, I would just input one book a night into the spreadsheet. I now have about 800 recipes (and a few more books to go) in my database. And the benefit is……

I’m looking for an entree on the weekend for entertaining friends, and I have figs in the fridge. You just filter the spreadsheet by the Key Ingredient column, with figs as the filter, and the available recipes come up! Have a quick look through and off you go!

If you haven’t used filter function in excel before, just google it – it’s really straight forward.

I also use data validation/lists for some of the columns. My list for each column is below…..

Then came stage two, which came about from a number of things……

  • Both Lucas and I have cancer in our families and we decided we needed to eat less red meat and more vegetarian.
  • I hate grocery shopping mid week – I’d prefer to be at the gym – it’s a waste of time and wasteful and leftover food.
  • I wanted to use more of our cookbooks.

So I photocopied a stack of the recipes that had a tag on the corner and laid them out on the bench like this……

I then collected two veggie, one or two seafood, a chicken and maybe a red meat. Monday and Tuesday are veggie, and I try to pick something nice for Friday night. They all go into a folder with ten dividers. Each folder has ten weeks of recipes.

But you don’t need to do it all at once. I did one volume, then a second then a third. I am half way through a fifth. But the trick is this…. When you have photocopied a whole lot of recipes from one book (especially if it is a specialist book, such as Indonesian), then they will come through heavily in each volume. So when I did volume four, I also pulled out volume 1 and mixed them all up. And now we have great variety. I also try to plan for meals that might have an expensive item like creme creche. I used to buy it and use half and waste it. Now I make sure I have two recipes in the same week then I don’t have any waste!

I got this from Kikki K – It peels off like a post it note – I added some magnetic tape and it lives on the fridge.

I’ve got another folder full of recipes for work lunches (I like to bake something on Sunday night for the week) and all of a sudden, we are spending less, eating with more variety than ever, and saving time.

The WIP (Work in Progress) file has all of the recipes yet to be placed. The best thing is if you have had a dud meal (We are up to Volume 3 and only have one) then you just pull it out of the sleeve, throw it, and put in something from you WIP file!

We have never eaten better. The time investment is completely worth it. And we are getting value out of our cookbooks! This makes catering on the boat so much easier.

Trout Goats Cheese Tart Frittatas

smoked ocean trout and goats cheese tart – work lunch or racing lunch!

These are so simple and delicious. I had some smoked ocean trout in the freezer and the goats cheese was left over from a salad on a weekend entertaining lunch. It was Sunday afternoon and I threw it together for the week’s work lunches!

This pastry is delicious, quick and foolproof but don’t feel guilty if you are in a rush and use store bought puff or shortcrust pastry (or if that is what is in the freezer). You can make it in a quiche tin, muffin tins, or poured (without pastry) into paper cup cake liners in a muffin tin for a mini frittata, as shown above.

I do freeze these, but if you take them from the freezer to the microwave they give out a lot of liquid, and aren’t that great. Reheated from frozen in the oven is fantastic.

I’ve found a savoury tart pastry that I really like, and use it for everything. Then the filling is just whatever is in the fridge or freezer!

Ingredients:

Pastry:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g cold butter, cubed
  • pinch of salt (if you would like – I don’t think it needs it)
  • 150 ml of chilled water

Custard:

  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 200ml of cream, full cream milk or lite milk, depending on how rich you like it
  • 300g of smoked ocean trout, smoked salmon, or canned salmon
  • 200g of goats cheese
  • 25g of grated parmesan
  • Chives or parsley to taste

METHOD:

First make the shortcrust. Pulse the flour, butter and salt in a food processor until it is like breadcrumbs. With the motor running stream in the water steadily until the dough just comes together (no more). Take it out and knead it a couple of time, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Whisk the eggs and add the cream or milk, and break up the trout and goats cheese, grate the parmesan and cut up the herbs that you are using. Then roll out the pastry over a greased quiche tin, preferably with a push out bottom. Prick the base with a fork and then bake weighted down with parchment and beads for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and beads, and then cook for another 5 minutes till dry and lightly coloured. Allow too cool.

Pour in the egg and cream mix, then drop in the ocean trout and goats cheese, not minding if bits poke out the top. Sprinkle over parmesan and herbs, and give it a really good grind of black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or so until it is set and the top is brown.

yacht under spinnaker with Surfers Paradise skyline

Sail Paradise – Exactly as it sounds…..

There is often consternation aboard Apriori. Lucas wants to know why I am sailing into the harbor or the marina pen when there is nothing wrong with the engine. Or why I’m sailing on and off the anchor, or setting a spinnaker in the middle of a crowded anchorage. 

The response is always the same; I just want to be good (and you never know when the motor isn’t going to start). And you don’t get good by being lazy or conservative.

Windward/Leewards also make you good. And that is one of the reasons we love Sail Paradise. Just one reason; there are many reasons we love Sail Paradise.

When Lucas and I started our sailing adventure. We rocked up to Sail Paradise. At the time I was on gardening leave and a bit bored, Lucas had been sailing for less than two years, and we thought that this would be a great and cheap way to spend a week. We had so much fun and grew so much as a team!

Firstly, it is just a stack of fun. Southport Yacht Club know how to run a party! The first night is the owners and partners’ cocktail function, and lets just say that Luc and I got our entry fee of $150 value in that function alone. Each night there is a presentation, and the comraderie at the bar is as good as it gets.

But the racing is just perfect. The backdrop of the Gold Coast with the stunning beaches and the highrises is something else. But what makes it for me is the expert race management…… The regatta is a series of windward leewards and short passage races, and they run like clockwork.

Our first Sail Paradise was five years ago. Lucas had been sailing for 18 months and we did it two up. Our first race was a passage, so not so bad. The next six were windward leewards. We set the spinnaker, gybed and dropped so many times it was a blur. Our crew-work, processes and co-ordination went from a bit of a jumble to a finely tuned machine in four days.

We missed the title by a third of a point that year, but just weeks later took out the short-handed PHRF trophy for the 308NM Brisbane to Gladstone. I put it down to our time at Sail Paradise.

We had a ball there two years ago, and missed last year as my Dad died. But we returned this year, after not having put a spinnaker up in a race for 20 months. After six races in four days, and (I am guessing) putting the spinnaker up and down say 12 times in the four days, we were back to being a well oiled machine.

The regatta is greatly enhanced by the two media reps, “Adventures of a Sailor Girl” Nic Douglas and Mitch from Surf Sail Kite. Nic does live streaming of the regatta on FB, but for us, the immense benefit is the free photos. It is so rare to get great photos of your own yacht, but Nic and Mitch are fabulous photographers and offer their photos as part of the regatta. We usually pay significant $ for regatta photos, and these guys are just part of the gig. And great to have a drink with at the end of the day. We love it.

And owning a boat is never easy. We had some engine troubles on the first day on the way out – and the Commodore Ray McMahon had organized a mechanic to be at the marina berth by the time we sailed in (note Lucas: sailed into the marina berth). These people really care about their visitors.

This has got to be the best value regatta on the east coast. And for us, as liveaboard regatta people, it is a complete blast. We race and holidayed all at once.

And of course, in between the party’s ashore and the racing, we need to organise the food……

On our way to Sail Paradise the party started with NYE, with good friends anchored at the bottom of the bay. Lots of laughs were shared, as was our lamb with spinach and gremolata.

Before we left I stuffed a large chicken with lemon, rosemary, ginger and a slice of bread, smeared it with oil and pepper and put it in an oven bag to bake for 90 minutes, in the house. I then shredded it and used it for lunch meat (and occasionally a chicken, cheese and tomato toastie if there was a hangover).  I did this at home, but roast chicken is great in the boat oven – long and slow.

I did our low fat banana bread which we had for breakfast and morning teas, and also our protein packed turmeric balls, for snacks between spinnaker changes. 

We were so exhausted by dinner, we usually bought something from the Friendly Grocer and put it in the oven, but nothing was bad..

In terms of a regatta, what a hoot. We will miss it next year as we will be in Hobart, but we will be back in 2022! 

If you need to get your skills up, while having an absolutely ball and getting amazing photos of your yacht while doing it, SP is the way to go!

The single-handed master clasS. It’s Time to go it alone…..

Since I was 26, people have asked me how I manage it. How do I do it on my own? And the scale ranges from competing in the Trans-Tasman or multiple trips to Lord Howe Island solo, or putting up a spinnaker by myself in our 40 footer in a club race. When I bought my S&S Defiance 30 at age 26, I sailed it from Cairns to Yeppoon on my own out of necessity – I couldn’t find a crew! So what’s the difference?

A much younger me (29), aboard my Defiance 30, anchored off Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island. My first single handed offshore landfall.

I have always said that enjoyment of sailing is an inverse curve. The more experience and education you have, the less your stress and greater your enjoyment. Conversely, if you are inexperienced and uneducated, you will have more dramas and less fun. Learn more, love more. 

But…

I know many yachties who are far more capable and more experienced than I am, who sail faster, win more races, have better seamanship skills, but alas they will never go to sea alone. So what makes it different? Or more importantly, how can I instill this in my partner Lucas, who is smart, strong and capable, but balks taking our boat out alone.

My answer to the question …. I have a solid belief in my own seamanship, and the reliability of our yacht. It’s not that I don’t make mistakes; I do all the time. I still scratch the signwriting coming into the pen and drop spinnakers in the water.  But I have faith in myself that I won’t do anything catastrophic, and, that on balance, it will be okay. We are also fastidious with our maintenance and the layout of gear on our yacht.

But how do I impart that to the person I love; the person I want to share my yacht (I also love) with? 

Lucas is strong and smart. He can put a spinnaker up on his own, change headsails or reef the main, and is an expert with the chartplotter. When we race, he interprets the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions. He can fix the lights that don’t work and runs our YA safety audits. He just doesn’t like bringing the boat into the pen or anchoring alone. So I am trying to bridge the gap.

Apriori must have been out of action, so I was racing solo on the handsome “Soothsayer”. This lovely 35 foot yacht, designed and built by Jon Sayer on the Sunshine Coast, is a joy to sail single handed, and on this occasion we won line honours. I have my serious face on. I competed against her in the 2010 solo Trans Tasman.

My latest suggestion is a week long single-handed “masterclass”. He will take the week off work (while I go to work). He will take the boat out every day on his own. 

His initial reaction was not agreeable. But our friend DK found herself, literally, in the same boat. After many years of sailing with other people, including multiple Sydney to Hobart’s, she knew she needed new skills to run her own yacht. So she went and bought one (not a small one; a 35 footer). She decided the masterclass was a great idea, and almost shoe-horned Lucas into it.

Me racing on my own somewhere. I can’t be too serious as the white mainsail is on. At 140 sq metres, this is Api’s second largest spinnaker. It can be tricky getting it down on ones own, but really makes the boat go well.

So I devised a week-long plan. A single-handed master class:

  • Sunday – Sail around Peel Island clockwise
  • Monday – Sail around Peel Island anti-clockwise
  • Tuesday  – Reef, unreef, double reef and unreef, and reef again
  • Wednesday – Set off on full sail, and change to stormsails 
  • Thursday – Turn off the GPS and sail to Hope Banks and back
  • Friday – Man overboard (with a fender tied to mooring lines)
  • Saturday – set a spinnaker on your own – choose your own space; and then choose an appropriate anchorage, set the pick, and enjoy a sundowner, staying on the boat overnight.
  • Sunday – Head home and relax, the week is over.

I would love my partner to love the boat the way I love it. And to do that, he has to be relaxed and confident.

So DK and Lucas have signed onto the masterclass in February. I will let you know how it goes…..

Bun in tin on paper

Low fat banana and raspberry loaf

I’m not sure where I originally sourced this recipe (but I remember it said low fat!), but it is perfect regatta food, breakfast (toasted in a frypan with butter), work snack, stick it in the freezer; just generally useful! I made this recently the night before Sail Paradise Regatta; we had some all the way through, either in our lunch box or for breakfast on the way out after briefing…. It lasted about a week in the fridge on the boat. And it is really moist and tasty.

I generally pack a banana every day in my work lunch kit, but there is inevitably a couple that go black. I throw them in the freezer and recycle them into this banana bread. At work I put it in the sandwich press and heat it up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of fat free greek yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup SR flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal SR flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1.5 cups mashed banana (can be overripe – this is better!)
  • 1 punnet of fresh raspberries (or blueberries) or they can be frozen

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees fan and line a loaf tin with baking paper
  • Whisk yoghurt, honey and eggs in a bowl
  • In a seperate bowl, add flours, sugar and bicarb of soda. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yoghurt mixture, then fold through the banana. Then at the last, fold through the raspberries or blueberries.
  • Pour into the tin, and bake for an hour and fifteen minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Lamb Shoulder with Fennel and Anchovy

I love lamb, I love slow cooking, I love leftovers, and I love reheated lamb at sea. This one is easy, essentially foolproof, and delicious. On this occasion I served it with Yotem Ottolenghi’s sweet potato chips and steamed greens.

I’ve done this in the yacht on a Saturday delivery for a Sunday race, and it is a winter favourite on a Sunday afternoon at home. The leftovers for lunch or reheated in foil containers are better than the first time around!

INGREDIENTS:

  • lamb shoulder – about 1.2kg
  • 5 tablespoons of fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 12 anchovies (or more/less to taste)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • peel from two lemons
  • a glug of olive oil

METHOD:

Pre-heat the oven to 90 degrees.

Crush the fennel seeds roughly with a mortar and pestle, then add the garlic, anchovy, rosemary and peel. Mash to a course paste. Press it into the lamb, all over. Put the shoulder in a heavy roasting tin with a lid or casserole dish, skin side up. Pour over a glug of olive oil and pour a cup of water down the side, so it doesn’t wash off the marinade.

With the lid on, roast for three hours. Usually the meat gives up liquid, but if it dries out, add some more water. Once the meat is beautifully tender (but still holding its shape), take the lid off and crank the heat to 200 degrees, for a further 30 minutes. This will dry out the fat and give it a lovely crispness.

It was at this stage I put in the chips. After 30 minutes I took the lamb out of the oven, put the lid back on, and let if rest for another half an hour while the chips finished cooking.

The photos below show it on the dinner table, and then in my biome lunch box for tomorrow’s lunch.

Lamb Shank Pie – Winter Heaven

This is comfort food; as good as it gets. This recipe is really too big for Lucas and me, but I usually serve it for a crowd in winter, for lunch or dinner. The leftovers are remarkably good in the microwave at work. I usually serve it with something simple, like grilled zucchini.

I am calling this leftover lamb shanks, but the reality is you will need to make a lot of it to use it for something else and then have enough leftovers for this. I make them specifically the day before.

The savoury tart dough is short and delicious – I use it for a multitude of recipes.

INGREDIENTS – Savoury Tart Dough:

  • 1.5 cups of plain flour
  • Salt
  • 150 grams of cold, unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons of ice water

INGREDIENTS – Pie Filling:

  • 700 grams (or thereabouts) of leftover lamb shank meat
  • A handful of mint and rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of gravox (I’m not precious)
  • Rosemary to garnish on top
  • Rock salt crystals
  • One egg or milk for a wash on the pastry

METHOD:

Make the pastry.

By hand (on the yacht):

In a large bowl, stir the flour and half a teaspoon of salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter no larger than small peas. Slowly begin adding the water, stirring and tossing with a fork until the dough comes together.

By mixer (at home):

In your food processor, stir together the flour and salt. Add the chopped butter and mix on a slow speed until it represents coarse cornmeal. Slowly begin adding the ice water and mix on slow speed until the dough just holds together.

HACK: you can freeze the pastry at this stage for up to a month.

For the filling.

Put the lamb shanks and herbs in a large saucepan. Put 2 tablespoons of gravox into a cup, and add a small amount of water, and stir to remove any lumps. Then add fill the cup with water and mix it through. Add it to the saucepan and heat through until the mixture thickens.

Cut the dough into two parts, one third, and two thirds. Roll out the larger portion and spread it into an (approximately) 23 cm springform pan. Fill with the lamb mixture. Roll out the top, and lay over the top, pinching the pastry together.

Then wash the pastry, with either the whisked egg or milk. I then sprinkle rosemary leaves on top, and if you would like, a small amount of rock salt. It really makes the top look great!

Bake for 45 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and golden.

Take out of the oven and let rest for ten minutes. Then remove the top of the springform pan (with your fingers crossed that there are no leaks in the pastry!). Cut at the table and serve.

The Best Toastie, Ever!

So, I am hung up on my braised lamb shank leftovers. So be it. After you have tried these, you will understand why. This is the perfect comfort food. The perfect end of an ocean race food. The perfect end to a “big night out” food. And the perfect hangover brunch. I would happily serve this to guests for supper.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 slices of bread
  • Butter
  • 2 cheese slices
  • Some leftover lamb shanks
A toasted sandwich shown with big pieces of lamb shank and cheese melting out.
If the cheese isn’t melted, it’s a fail.

METHOD:

Do I need to tell you how to do this? Make the sandwiches and butter on the outside. I am a lover of all things toastie, and the perfect one will have a rich brown (but not burnt) colour on the outside, and gooey melted cheese. If the cheese isn’t melted, it’s a fail.

Leftover Lamb Shank Pasta

When I make braised lamb shanks, I am always sure to make extra. Over the next couple of weeks I will show how I use the leftovers; some technically a bit more difficult, and some very very easy! This one is a winner. I’ve always been a fan of pastas that have a light, olive oil sauce, rather than rich tomato or cream sauces. You could vary this, using pretty much anything left in the veggie crisper.

This will serve four.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 300 grams of leftover lamb shanks
  • A punnet of cherry tomotoes, cut in half
  • A quarter of a pumpkin, cut into cubes and roasted till cooked but still firm
  • 2 zucchinis, cut into chunks and roasted till cooked but still firm
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped roughly
  • Shaved parmesan to serve
  • Loads of black pepper
  • 400 grams of fettucini

METHOD:

Once you have roasted the pumpkin and zucchini, cook the pasta as per instructions. As it is nearing the end of its cooking, gently fry the garlic in the oil in a large, heavy based frypan. Once softened, add the chunks of lamb shanks and the tomatoes. Warm everything through, then add the pasta, pumpkin and zucchini. Fold together with a glug of olive oil. Be careful not to crush the pumpkin. Throw in the parsley at the end.

Pour into bowls with a good crack of black pepper, and top with shaved parmesan.

Wendo’s Singapore Chicken Satay

Wendo (Wendy, my mum), was a meat and three veg cook. But in the late eighties, she got really adventurous and starting trying everything! Her first trip overseas was with my Dad to Singapore; I was 17 and they left me at home alone. Mum came back with this recipe. I don’t know if it is Singaporean, I don’t know if it is a traditional satay. I don’t care. It’s simple and I love it. The title is just what she called it.

When I lived at home, and Mum and Dad went away on holidays and left me home alone, I made this dish for the guests I invited over. And when I moved out, it was a dinner party favourite.

Wendy was born in 1949, and died at 49 years old (hence the race number for Apes). She would love what we are doing now…..

Mum’s recipes rarely were more than a list of ingredients and you would have to feel your way through. I have added some guidance below. This photo is from my recipe book when I left home at 19 (24 years ago).

INGREDIENTS:

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic diced or minced
  • 2 tablespoons of chile sauce (to taste)
  • 15 grams of coriander leaves and stalks, however I have substituted ground coriander seeds if available
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce
  • 4 large, heaped tablespoons of peanut paste
  • 1 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Half a can of coconut cream (I use light, as like Mum I am always counting calories)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • Water to slacken, as to taste
  • Chopped peanuts, to garnish

Chicken:

  • 8 Chicken thighs (bone out) sliced
  • A big splash (of low salt) soy sauce
  • A big handful of sesame seeds
  • Rice to serve

METHOD:

Soak bamboo skewers in water. Slice the chicken thighs into slices, and put in a bowl with the soy sauce and the sesame seeds.

For the sauce, heat a medium saucepan to low/medium. Add the sesame oil, and when hot add the garlic and onion. Just sweat it down, rather than brown it. Once that is done, add the chile sauce, coriander, lemon juice and peanut paste, and warm through till it is a bit gooey. Then add the brown sugar, fish sauce and tomato paste. Stir with a wooden spoon till well mixed. Add the coconut cream and stir through. Taste and adjust as you would like. At this stage, I generally add some more chile, but that is just to my taste. Then set the sauce aside. Thread the chicken onto skewers, grill the chicken, either under the grill in the oven, or on the BBQ.

When the chicken is almost cooked, re-heat the sauce, and add some water or coconut cream to slacken if necessary.

Serve the chicken skewers over rice, with a generous dollop of the sauce. Enough to mix through the rice. And then add coriander leaves and chopped peanuts, roasted if you would like.

HACKS:

  • Pizza: I love to use the satay sauce as a pizza base, prepare the chicken in the same way and give it a quick flash fry before putting it on the pizza. Add some bow choy or other asian greens, a tiny amount of cheese, and you will have a lovely pizza.
  • For offshore racing, cut down the spice and mix it all together with the rice, before cryovaccing or putting in foil containers. It makes a lovely meal.