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Raft Up Provisioning

02 November 2012
This month’s Raft Up is all about provisioning. To see how others deal with stocking their boats click on the links below.

When we first left the UK I had several shopping trips to Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury and stocked up on things that I thought we’d need for our trip to the Mediterranean. I wasn’t really thinking very straight, I don’t know where I thought we were going to go but I pretty much stocked the boat for two months of never seeing a shop! As I soon found out, they do sell tinned tomatoes in other countries!

Anyway, with hundreds of bags of stores to stow away I needed a system so that I would be able to find things and know what was left. I decided to make a stock list and keep track in a notebook which is still going strong today. Initially I had two areas, behind and under one of the saloon sofas, to keep stores and managed to pack them pretty well. My initial list included such goodies as Fray Bentos meat pies (disgusting but Andy likes them), spam (yuck), tinned mince and steak (slightly better) and tins of corned beef. There were lots of other things too but the meat products tended to be the worst. They were all used up quite quickly in one pot stews when the weather was rough so I suppose they do have their place if you’re prepared to ignore the taste and texture!

Over the four years we’ve been cruising I think I’ve managed to refine my provisioning skills and we now carry enough stores for us to survive quite happily for three months. We’ve discovered the joys (yes, I do mean that) of dried beans, chickpeas and lentils. They take up little space, are very versatile, cook easily in the pressure cooker and are cheap. Rice, pasta, couscous and quinoa are easy to store and last for years as long as they are kept dry and as long as we have the ubiquitous tinned tomatoes and an onion, we can make a meal out of pretty much anything.

My storage space has expanded so that I now have two extra areas for stuffing food and I have no trouble filling them! Teabags have an area all of their own, you can’t beat British tea bags, the local ones are so wishy washy it’s unreal, three Lipton’s bags per cup isn’t enough for a decent cup of tea!

There are a few foods that we miss, proper strong English cheddar, stilton, proper bacon, Indian curries and Chinese food. We can’t do much about the cheese and bacon but a little research online has provided us with recipes to make very good curries and Chinese dishes – assuming you can get the ingredients of course. One storage area on the boat is devoted to spices and herbs. When we visit the UK I make an online order of spices that are needed so that we can bring them back with us. That way we are able to indulge our tastebuds with dopiazas, baltis and dhansaks. All visitors are required to hand over cheddar, stilton and bacon before they are allowed on board when they come to visit. We then have a bacon buttyfest! The cheese lasts for ages though as Andy’s happier with the varieties we can buy here – so the cheddar and stilton are all mine! I grow mung bean sprouts to add to Chinese dishes, they seem to make it more authentic.

We’ve been asked what are the top five things to have in the galley and it’s difficult to whittle everything down but my most used gadgets are:

pressure cooker - used almost daily for stock, soup, beans and pulses
food processor - used at least twice a week for bread making as an old elbow injury means that I struggle to knead for any length of time
stick blender – used at least once a week to make breadcrumbs, puree soup etc
grinder – used occasionally to grind whole spices for curry, the spices last longer bought whole
measuring cups and spoons – much easier to use than scales when the boat is rolling around

and the top five foodstuffs:
onions – I cook very few meals that do not have onions in them
garlic – as above!
tinned tomatoes – a great base for so many meals
dried beans/lentils/chickpeas – used four five times a week in curry, burgers, pasta dishes etc etc
herbs and spices – speak for themselves

My cooking repertoire has increased massively since we left the UK, I now have the time to research, plan and prepare. The downside of this is that we now have to carry so much more stock in order for me to be able to knock up whatever we fancy for dinner. We shop in large supermarkets if we can find them, such as Lidl and Carrefour, and restock once a month. This means that we can then go exploring the smaller islands and only need to buy fresh fruit and vegetables as they are available.

We could easily manage with far fewer stores, however, we are always mindful of the fact that Greece is in a pretty unstable state at the moment and we may need to leave at short notice. Being well stocked means that we don’t have to worry about finding a shop every few days (or even every week).

During the winter I make batches of chutney, jam and marmalade, enough to get us through the summer. Our current favourites are courgette chutney, grapefruit marmalade and mango chutney for curries. Occasionally we wander through a market as it is closing down and are handed a bag of rapidly deteriorating tomatoes. These are skinned, put in the pressure cooker with some onion and garlic and then pureed and stored in jars to make a base for pasta sauces to be used over the coming weeks.

Eggs are the bane of my life. Within the EU it should be easy to buy eggs that will last for months. A bit of research has told me that when eggs are laid they have a protective membrane over them and as long as they are not exposed to moisture (washed or kept in the fridge so that they condensate when taken out) that membrane remains intact. We don’t have space in our fridge to keep eggs so if we want them to last more than a few days then I have to buy them from a shop that sells them from a shelf not a fridge – easier said than done in Greece, they seem to be outside the EU on so many regulations!

Meeting other cruisers has given me lots of ideas for provisioning and preserving over the last four years. I am much more adventurous with my cooking now. If there is something that we miss then we find a recipe online, collect the ingredients and give it a go, usually with great success.

1st Nov – Dana – http://svnorthfork.blogspot.com
2nd – me
3rd – Stacey – http://sv-bellavita.blogspot.com
4th – Jaye – http://lifeafloatarchives.blogspot.com
5th – Behan – http://svtotem.blogspot.com
6th – Ean – http://morejoyeverywhere.blogspot.com
7th – Lynn – http://sailcelebration.blogspot.com
8th – Diane – http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com
9th – Jesssica – http://mvfelicity.blogspot.com
11th – Verena – http://pacificsailors.com
12th – Toast – http://blog.toastfloats.com
15th Dana - http://svnorthfork.blogspot.com

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Vessel Name: Norna Biron
Vessel Make/Model: Custom Steel Cutter
Hailing Port: London
Crew: Andy and Steph Marsh
About: Husband and wife team with Puss and Fluff to help out!
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Who: Andy and Steph Marsh
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