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.

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.


  • 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


  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees fan and line a loaf tin with baking paper
  • Whisk yoghurt, honey and eggs in a bowl
  • In a separate 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.

Chicken grilling on the barbecue

Moroccan-ish Chicken

We love herbs and spices. Any sort and in any combination. Simple flavours have their place for refined eating, but meals full of big, bold and full of flavour can knock you off your seat. This is in between. And what’s more, you can easily alter the amount of spice to suit your mood.

When I made this one, it was so much milder than the time before, but the chicken was still tender, juicy and delicious. Next time will probably involve the addition of chilli. But the flavours are fairly standard, and this whole meal can be made out of things that are usually in the pantry and the freezer.


  • 2tsp Paprika
  • 1tsp Turmeric
  • 2tsp Ground ginger
  • 2tsp Coriander
  • 3tbs Olive oil
  • 3tbs Lemon juice
  • 3-6 chicken thighs


You want easy? This is it.

Grind up any seeds that you might have as the whole spice, and then combine all the spices with the lemon juice and oil, and then marinate the chicken thighs. Use a dish that won’t stain with the paprika or turmeric, such as porcelain.

Let them sit for a few hours or overnight, but if you don’t have time, the flavour is still nice after just 20 minutes. I like to poke the chicken thighs with a fork to let the flavour really get in.

That’s it. We had them with some simple roasted veggies.

An Arabic Feast – Part 3: Main Players

Part 3 from our metho correspondent, Stephen.

So now I needed a couple of heroes. In keeping with the Arabic theme I went for falafels, a good vegetarian option, though with a difference. Let’s make them more like chick pea patties than anything resembling what you could identify as falafel.

I also wanted to do some poaching and thought about meatballs, but finally went with lemon chicken, but with a twist. I decided on a kind of cevap style sausage. Continue reading “An Arabic Feast – Part 3: Main Players”

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!


  • 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


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.

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.


  • 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.


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.

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).



  • 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


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


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.


  • 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.

An Arabic Feast – Part 2: Salads

Another post from our metho-correspondent, Stephen.

It’s best not to have too much heat in a small galley on hot humid days so I thought I’d go for a few salads. I imagined vegetarians would be ok with that sort of thing. One thing I like to do with salads is add fruit, and I love peaches at when they’re in season.  Peach salad goes particularly well with seafood, I think, especially the prawns which come off the boats a few fingers along, though I’m not doing seafood today.

Continue reading “An Arabic Feast – Part 2: Salads”

Gremolata Roast Lamb Leg

Very zingy, fresh, and a little bit greek, this is a fantastic easy mid week meal; these photos were taken aboard the yacht on a Friday night after heading to the marina after work. It’s beautiful for leftover lunches too.

Quite often, if it is just the two of us, I cut the lamb in half and freeze half of it and make a great little meal for two, scaling down the other ingredients.


  • A deboned/butterfly leg of lamb
  • 1 cup of chopped parsley leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic (or to taste – I would use 8)
  • Finely grated rind of two oranges (or lemons to taste)
  • 300g of baby spinach
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Chop the garlic and parsley leaves finely, and add to the citrus rind. Swiftly wilt the spinach in a frypan. Open out the lamb and season to taste (I like lots of black pepper). Lay the spinach and then 2/3rds of the gremolata in the cavity, and then truss up the lamb. Splash some olive oil on the lamb, and season again to taste.

Heat up a frypan to very hot, and quickly seal the outside of the lamb. Put it straight into the oven at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes or to taste – I like my lamb quite rare.

Allow to rest in foil for ten minutes before carving. You will have a lovely colourful spiral, and delicious, tender meat.

On this occasion, I served it with roast veggies with lemon which I pre-roasted in my Tupperware roasting dish, and then put the lamb on top.

Lamb shank risotto. Not really.

We had a couple of lamb shanks that needed cooking, and the intention was to make a lamb ragout to have with parpadelle. But had to alter that plan on the fly…

This works just as well for any more robust/tougher cut of meat, like beef shin, or chuck steak. My plan was to have it with pasta, but we ended up planning to head out to sea sooner than anticipated, and so we didn’t want to be boiling water in rolly seas, and needed this to be edible cold or hot. It certainly is NOT a real risotto, but it is reminiscent of one. Just not creamy – it’s more like a stew mixed in with rice so that there wasn’t too much liquid.


  • 2 Lamb shanks
  • oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • Oregano, thyme or any other flavourful herb
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 125ml white wine
  • 500ml stock – chicken or vege
  • 1 cup brown rice


This was kind of made up on the fly, and I don’t have exact details, but the principles are here.

Cook shanks in a little oil until they’re well browned.

Set aside, reduce heat and then saute the carrots, onion and celery until softened. Add garlic too if you want. Looking at these photos, that’s what I did too!

Once softened, mix in the tomato paste, white wine and herbs. Cook the wine off. I don’t bother salting this dish as instant stock is pretty salty already, but do add some pepper at this time.

If you are using an ovenproof dish, return the shanks and add the stock and some additional water if needed to cover the meat. If you need to, transfer everything to an ovenproof dish and then put in the oven at 150 degrees for about 3 hours. This works well on the boat, as our oven is not really that hot to start with!

When the meat is falling off the shanks, remove the bones, and cut the meat roughly. Add it back to the pan with the rice. Add more stock or water if needed to have enough for the rice to soak up/cook in. about two cups of liquid to a cup of brown rice. This is what I think I would do normally, but since it has been some time since I took the photos, I’m a little confused. It looks like I must have strained the veggies and meat, and cooked the rice in the remaining liquid on the stove. Either way it should still work!

Once cooked, this dish is pretty good in the fridge until ready to eat.