So I did mention before I would write a bit about what happened with 2013 and the first few months of 2014.

Greek memories 2013

Greek memories 2013

Last summer season ran itself out in Greece with the boat and we sailed back to La Spezia mid October to prepare the boat for the winter in the Caribbean, but one that I was not going to be onboard for. It was breaking my heart that I was to leave, not for the want of leaving but for a change of crew. Packing up all my stuff, years and years of things onboard were to be removed, and oh boy did that take some doing as I have many galley items that I have collected along the way, cookie cutters, knife sharpeners, my knives, other kitchen utensils, plus of course the cook books and magazines that I adore and have to have with me. Oh the list runs on, but yes all of it bar some uniform was boxed up and removed. I was emotionally upset by it all and it took a while to sink in what was happening around me, but another chef arrived and I left the boat…

November days 2013

November days 2013

 

 

It did not take me long to fly back to Italy to absorb the life I adore in the Mediterranean.  The festive period came and I shot off to the USA to be with my Greek American family to celebrate a new year and shortly after that flew back to Italy before going onto Australia where I was emmersed in cooking, SUPing, walking and cleaning but only for a short while as I was called back to the boat. Inside there was a cry of joy, back to sea, back to cooking onboard, back to the life I love !

I flew back to the boat in late February and had a week to sort out what was onboard and prep up before an en slaught of 5 weeks of family, guests and race crew with 2 extra yachts to help keep stocked of food for 12 hungry guys. That period is almost now a blur, but if I go over texts I was sending friends during that time, especially another chef on another boat racing, it brings back memories of exhausting days, stress filled shopping trips ashore, organizing crew, race crew, guests, food deliveries, baking bread for 26 people a day to have sandwiches as we raced around Virgin Gorda ! But that stress, that exhaustion is what I live for, it is a drive that makes me love those periods, and yearn for more as they are all organized periods of chaos. 

We took part in three regattas which was great, but sadly had many things go wrong with the boat so that was not so much fun. The BVI regatta, sailing around Virgin Gorda was a great experience and one I hope to do again soon. After this we went down to St Barths via Anguilla and St Martin so that I could stock up for the next regatta. The guests had a relaxing day in Anguilla playing golf whilst we took some time to chill and regroup before our next regatta ! St Martin for me was one mad dash around supermarkets to stock up and be prepared to make 70 sandwiches or wraps again for the next 5 days as the day after the Bucket regatta finishes we were to race in the Pineapple Regatta, where 5 German owned yachts had their own race.

Regatta time Caribbean March 2014

Regatta time Caribbean March 2014

St Barths is one of my favourite islands and a great regatta but a hard regatta. The wind and sea can play havoc with us all as we go around the island one way and then the other depending on which course they set us. But the beat to windward is long and drains us all as we push the boat as hard as she can go. Again we had serious problems with the boat and had to retire from one race as it was too dangerous for us to go on. On the last day of the regatta we threw a drinks party onboard and had about 30 people walking through the boat with glasses of wine or beer ! We were all so tired and felt a little embarressed as we had had no time to clean up the boat after a day on the water and really two weeks of race crew walking through with salt water and sunscreen hands, but non of this seem to concern those visiting who happily drank the beer and wine and ate the snacks provided before they all went to the prize giving. We cleaned up and dashed ashore for a crew dinner, and a quick drink to see friends before reminding ourselves that we had a another days racing to do unlike 80% of the fleet …

March 2014 was a crazy month, of sleep deprivation, huge highs and massive lows, adrenaline flowing through me at such a rate I had no control… but I pumped out bread everyday, made sandwiches and wraps, cakes, cookies and had also prepped up some meals that I gave to the race crew on their catamarans that they were all living on! It was certainly a busy month and when everyone left at the beginning of April it was all a bit of a shock of silence for us all, but we needed it! I turned the galley around for a delivery, helped the delivery chef stock up and flew to Singapore for 4 days and onto remote Sumbawa in Indonesia for 2 weeks, then up to Bali for a detox and downtime for me which was excellent before 6 days in Margaret River and back to Italy before Valencia where I met up with the boat again…

Indonesia, Sumbawa and Bali combined...April 2014

Indonesia, Sumbawa and Bali combined…April 2014

The summer of 2014 began in Valencia which was fabulous… I cycled each morning up the beach before cycling to Cabanyal market to stock up for the day, a month of cycling around one of my favourite Spanish towns. It might be the most modern but it is a great town to have a bike in to explore. The markets are also fabulous with lots of local fresh produce and I have been invited out to one of the vegetable growers farm next time I am in town which I cannot wait to visit. Valencia has so much agriculture so close to it,  you only need to drive 10mins out of town and there are olive trees, vines, row and rows of lettuces, or carrots, cabbages, and then just south the rice fields for the paella rice, and of course the orange groves for miles and miles. I was able to find my elderflower trees to make copious quantities of elderflower cordial which were snapped up by plenty of those who adore the cordial, expats living in Valencia !

A few weekends away were amazing and just what I needed, before we started to set the boat back up to race in Palma in the middle of June ! Yup our first stint of this summer was a regatta which of course I cannot complain about as I thrive on them so after a month or so in Valencia we moved to Palma where we took part in the Superyacht Cup and managed to do quite well even though we had to jury rig our main sheet ! Having not been to Palma for 2 years it was good to get back and see friends, work with provisioners I had not seen in ages, go back to bakeries I like to use, or the florist, fruit and vegetable stalls at the market and of course always find new places to go to such as some great restaurants which we will be going back to at some later date…

We left Palma and sailed back to our home port well kind of home port only because we have a container there and spend winters there. Catching yellowfin tuna on our deckhands birthday was fun, and made his day especially as I think he was missing his family friends and the pub at this stage ! Well he is only 20…

Our summer then started with cruising after a few weeks fixing up the boat after the regatta, and this summers itinerary is mainly cruising in Italian waters which suits me fine… plenty of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, courgettes, aubergines, stone fruit, fish, hams, wonderful cheeses and more and now whilst we are anchored off Sardegna waiting for the owners to come back I go up to the markets again as much as I can…

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2013 cruising season was one of markets, coastlines of islands and heat…

It began in Italy rebuilding the boat after a yard period, a quick workshop in Tuscany, a regatta then to the islands south Sicilia and onto Croatia, to the mainland in Italy down to Montenegro, and then Greece… Oh my Greece it was so good to be back there for the later half of the season, well July onwards. I can never complain of being in Greece, mind you I can say that about Italy and Spain also. My 3 favourite countries in Europe, all individual in their own ways but oh so similar in others ! It was a good season with plenty of traveling and different cultures to enjoy. The islands in Greece were as always great, the white and blue theme is spectacular against the blue of the Aegean and the blue skies. It was good to be with crew that had not experienced that part of the world before so they were able to enjoy the simplicity of life over there. It was also good to go back to my old home, Rhodes where my Greek family have a wonderful fish taverna. I used to help out there and learnt so much about Greek food, the history of Rhodes, the way the locals ate from the land during the wars, which is so interesting and so good to know. I wish I had it all written down and maybe one day I will.  Last year I went back into the BBQ area and helped cook the fish for a party of 80 that came in for a special dinner one night. It was great and always brings back memories of years ago when I was in their regularly helping out. It is now good to see the young boys in the family help out their grandfather, learning how to clean the fish properly, how to BBQ the fish, learning how to prep up their mothers famous desserts, or watch how they cook the shrimps, mussels. One of the four boys will surely become a chef and take over the restaurant !

But those 3 countries, Greece, Italy and Spain all instill a happiness inside me that is hard to describe with their  smells, senses, tastes, noises, their colours, the land, the turquoise seas around them. They have so much to give via their lands, via their people and their food yet being the oldest of our European countries they appear to falter at the realism of what the world is today and have sadly struggled with the crisis. However saying that they are surviving, people are finding new ways and they are becoming more self sufficient in many ways. The markets move me each time I visit them where ever I am. I am a market freak… having to find the local ones where ever I am making sure I am there on the day to explore what goodies they have to sell. It means the freshest of foods, the foods that are in season, not the ones flown in refrigerated containers, no the foods that are ripened by the sun. The foods that actually have flavour that you can actually close you eyes and bite into and know exactly what it is … To me this is so important to be able to have that first taste in my mouth as I bite into say a nectarine, a plum, cherry tomato, cucumber… It does not matter that the fruit or the vegetable might be mishapened, or small at least they are from the place I am buying them and they have the flavour I am looking for.

Anchored off Portisco, Costa Smeralda I have my granny trolly ready and bags as on Thursdays I go ashore to the market in San Panteleo , this week excited at the thought as I have not been up there for almost 18mths. I have to get up there before 9am as the parking becomes chaotic with people coming to visit not only the fruit and veggie section, the deli stalls, the nougat man but also the hippie stands…

San Pantaleo market, local strawberries and blackberries

San Pantaleo market, local strawberries and blackberries

It was chaotic, so full of people it was hard to walk around all because we were a little late, due to not finding our new rent a car ! oh well there is next week but I cannot complain as we cam away with a basket of figs, tiny cherry tomatoes, wild boar loin, great local pecorino, local strawberries and much more.

Then on to Olbia market on Saturday mornings, which can be very busy so again I hope to get in their early so I can park close to the market area. This market is full of local fruit and vegtables, wonderful meats and cheese stalls, also selling local olives, oils, honey, local nougat, one man just selling figs and garlic and then there are the clothing stalls, the kitchen wear stalls and the odd stalls selling all sorts of things. This week I managed to go to Olbia on my own and in my own time so had no rushing around trying to purchase food for the boat, it was more strolling through the market trying to find the people I used to buy from, and looking at the produce available, talking to the stallholders, finding new bio cheeses, or grapes. It was certainly less of a fruit and vegetable market this time, but lets hope it grows again after the summer craziness of tourism dies off a bit and people need to eat, rather than eating little to look good on the beach ! I had a wonderful time wandering around slowly absorbing what was on offer and what people were buying as it is always interesting to watch the locals buy. They only buy for a few people and maybe only for a few days, unlike when I shop and buy heaps. I am sure I am looked at strangely at times as I buy kilos of fruit and vegetables, hardly the amount for a normal household and then can barely lift the bags. One stallholder asked me why I was so interested in taking photos of his cheese, and I told him about blogging and sending the photos to family and friends telling them about this wonderful stall full of pecornio, some bio some regular and how it was fun to listen to the people and hear what they are going to do with their cheese, or as on other stands listening to what they would do with the fruit and vegetables… It is such a great way to shop and one I hate to miss where ever I am. It is so much better than just doing the normal supermarket run where the fresh foods have generally traveled for miles and always in refrigerated containers…

My bags are taken into the tender and I am driven back to the boat where I unload them and start to think of things I will make with the foods I have just bought. It is always a fun part of the day after the market deciding on what to give the crew or guests… They need to taste the cheeses and meats I have bought, the local sardinian bread that is so thin and crispy flavoured with rosemary or chilli. The olives, which sadly none of them are really interested in ! I have a few days to enjoy the foods that are now back with me onboard until I venture out back up to San Pantaleo next week and this time get there earlier so I can get the best of the best as well as be able to take a few pictures without the crowds shadowing me.

Olbia market... Pecorino and more

Olbia market… Pecorino and more

Olbia market wild boar meat selection

Olbia market wild boar meat selection

So another year has slipped beneath my toes and I have not written. Not because I have not wanted to but because I have not finished a post, and so on seeing a friends post and the fact that it does not have to be paragraphs long, with copious awesome photos I felt it was time to start again and write. Fill in a few gaps over the next few weeks with what has been happening during the last year and what is going on now.

At the moment we are anchored out in Sardegna, in a place called Portisco, which is on the Costa Smeralda and it is August 15th, Ferragosto, Italy’s biggest holiday, one that basically closes the country down and people go to the beach. If you were inland in some of the cities there would be silence as everyone has vacated the cities for the coastal regions of Italy and Sardegna is one of their favourite spots. We are actually fighting a mistral, a wind that is howling around us so not only are we anchored off the island in a fairly protected bay but so are numerous other yachts of all sorts of size and shapes… sail and motoryachts. There are certainly far more motor yachts anchored out here, as in superyachts or giga yachts than the sailing superyachts ! As far as sailing giga yachts there are not really so many in this world and really do you want to go so big ? I really feel this whole size of yacht is getting out of hand especially in the motor yacht world. The wealth to own one of these could feed a small country,  let alone probably help out some country’s banking issues… But at this moment that is a subject I should not dwell upon.

We are in guest mode, but the poor guests are unable to get off the yacht due to the strength of the wind at the moment. If we could get the tender into the water we would, but then trying to get into the tender with this wind is another issue, as is getting ashore with out being soaked to the skin unless you are wearing wet weather gear in 30 degrees in the middle of August in the Mediterranean !!

I have not been ashore in a week, and am at the end of my fresh produce, so now desperate to get ashore and shop, but being that it is Ferragosto, the shops are closed and nothing really will get restocked until next week so I am weaning my crew on fresh food, but really they cannot complain as having made fresh tomato sauce that I can use for pasta, or roasted vegetables and plenty of their favourite steak in the freezer they are not going to fade away ! But as for the guests it is slightly different as the berry department for breakfast is really at it’s last limit !

As I look out of my porthole, I am watching as we sail around on the anchor, white caps breaking all around us…I am wondering if the guests are going ashore for a dinner they have been invited to, as I must get on and prep their dinner should they not be able to get ashore, and need to get on with crew dinner. So for now I need to fly, start the oven up, thread the teriyaki tuna onto skewers, steam some rice and prep up some vegetables for the crew, before salting the prawns for the guests as a starter and prepping up their main …. and oh la their dessert a roasted peach and vanilla risotto, a new recipe to play around with.

Photos will be posted next time as will a little bit of what has been going on in the last year… but until then I need to go as time yet again is slidding fast underneath my feet

At anchor in the calm... unlike today in Sardegna ! Ferragosto 2014

At anchor in the calm… unlike today in Sardegna !
Ferragosto 2014

The past few weeks have flown by, literally as we sail from Italy to Montenegro to Croatia and not only to Croatia but managing to sail from the bottom end to the top in a matter of days barely stopping for a walk ashore, but then there was that time I would dash in, and scour the markets as I remembered them from 12 years ago.

My favourite, over the last month and one that will remain my favourite it Siracusa in Sicily where the vendors each year become a little more vocal as slowly more tourists make there way to this street full of stalls, and small shop fronts. I visited the market 3 times in as many days that I could get ashore just prior to the guests arrival. The produce is all local, almonds, pistachio, tomatoes and of course the worlds best cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, swordfish, tuna the list could go on so easily but really you must put it on your list to visit as it is wonderful.

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The vendors are all vying for business and have plenty of tasting plates on offer bread with sun dried tomato paste, tinted with some chili, shaved pecorino on top, slices of salami, home made caponata, black prosciutto, various pecorino cheeses, or roasted ricotta…you are bombarded with flavours, textures that your taste buds are on a passage of exhilaration. My memories of this market from year ago was great so to go back and experience it again when I had my own time was wonderful. So much was tried, so much was bought, enthusiasm from the locals at my interest in foods meant that I was spoilt with things to try, wines, olive oils, more olives that are hidden from the crowd, biscotti, oh and this cheese you must try this. Then we go into details of production of cheese, or the drying of the tomatoes… I could have spent every day there and learnt so much more of the way of life and the local food production there at the market it would have been incrediable but I will save that for another day.

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My bags were so heavy full of all sorts of goodies it was hard to walk away and find someone to drive me back to the port, as I could have continued to buy. There just seems to be more and more things I was tempted to take, as once onboard I was not going to be able to get anymore. I had to have help carrying so once the taxi stand was found the bags were left so that I could go and pick up more that I had left at certain stalls, and also boxes of berries. A man kindly with his little moped van filled up the back of his moped pick up and took me and my bags down to the port. Before left I was asked by a lady if she could have one of my shopping bags as she had not seen the ones I had and she would really like it, so I unpacked a bag moving the shopping around a bit and satisfied a local Sicilian with merely a shopping bag from Coop on the mainland ! It was great to see the gratitude in her face.

My memories of Siracusa stay strong thanks to the pictures I was taking and also the tastes remain strong in my mouth of those wonder times spent at the market. I will be back …

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A few days later …. And miles further East we arrive in Montenegro for 24 hrs and onto Croatia but they will be posted later…

Autumnal weather in one continent means Spring weather in another and you know me I follow the sun, so the time to climb up to the Northern Hemisphere is nearing…

I think Spring is the most wonderful of seasons with flowers, blossoms of fruits all awakening from the cold dark winter days. Everything is so young and fresh. The green of the leaves is so bright, the white of flowers is so white and then the new tastes of fruits and vegetables is always so vivid and fresh. I am eager to get back to the Elderflowers, to make some elderflower cordial which is loved by all, watch how the Wisterias are flowering and drooping over buildings, fences and other trees, the leaves on the trees growing the changes along streets as shadows form from the new leaves, alleyways are covered in ivy and the heat of the sun makes everything open up again after those months hidden away in the cold. There is of course the launch of the boat again after a winter ashore which is always an adventure in its own, then the stepping of the mast, the hoisting of the sails and of course then the sea trials to make sure we are all sorted again to start a summer of sailing, racing and fun throughout the Mediterranean.

Now is the time to start writing again and fortunately I have a workshop to attend to help with food photography so I hope this coming summer there will be some more photos of foods, markets, places I have visited to share with everyone

 

 

Wow so the last post was a quick over view of the summer of 2011 and now I must catch up with 2012 so I can get up to date again and begin a fresh start of 2013..even though I have missed January and if I am not careful it will be March before I know it missing the whole of February as well !

2012 was a long year of cruising, not that I am complaining it was a lot of sea miles, and a lot of hours cooking and creating, which together were great.

Starting out in Antigua, in the West Indies where we cruised south through the islands.The islands are volcanic, and lush full of vegetation rain forests on some, sugar cane on others, or sand cays just made literally of sand, broken shells and maybe a palm tree with reefs around them full of fish, squid, shells and live coral, wonderful different sea weeds but this year was the year of the Sargasso seaweed invasion. It was so bad that on the eastern side of Antigua people had to be evacuated from hotels as the fumes were so toxic after the seaweed had filled up the bays. We saw the seaweed all season and even out into the Atlantic on our crossing back to the Mediterranean.

Pitons, St Lucia

Pitons, St Lucia

The winds are always fair in the Caribbean, so everyday the sails go up and we are sailing in fantastic conditions down island. As we are sailing almost all day meals are somewhat restricted to what I can prepare at a 30degree angle without everything in the fridge flying out of the doors if I dare open them ! My repertoire of sandwiches or wraps has grown so much in the last few years and so now in the Caribbean waters it changes again with the different foods stocks I can get there. The Caribbean is dominated by American imports until you get to the French or Dutch islands where the European foods are shipped in ( much to my delight !) They have wonderful fresh tropical fruits here which we devour with enthusiasm, pawpaw, mango, local pineapples, the black pineapple, avocados so big you have to hold them with two hands, passionfruit so sweet and full of flavor, pink grapefruits, soursop, custard apples, limes then there are the real starchy root vegetables used in all kinds of West Indian dishes dasheen, breadfruit, yams, sweet potatoes, callalilou, with plenty of ginger, nutmeg, chillies, lemongrass, coconuts and young coconut to drink and sugar cane ready to be chewed, not to mention the herbs and other locally grown veggies. The markets are always lively, full of noise ladies singing, men arguing, discussing the cricket. The colours are vibrant with umbrellas protecting the produces, the stall holders clothing and then the fruits and veggies.Johns Market, Antigua The fish markets are often filled with reef fish, that they sometimes skin before you see them which I find quite hard to look at, but there are also the Mahi Mahi, Tuna, spanish mackerel, conch and of course spiny lobsters are caught locally in the waters around the islands, and are sold from the local boats or sometimes in the markets.

Buying Lobsters from local fishermen in St Lucia

Buying Lobsters from local fishermen in St Lucia

Finding more organic produce this year was such a bonus, in the BVIs and the USVIs. Being able to find locally grown produce is such a benefit to us all, not only does it provide income to local farmers, but the produce lasts longer, has such wonderful taste, is in season and so therefore is full of nutrients as opposed to the ones flown in or shipped in, in refrigerated containers. These foods do not last and have very little flavour. We did do an experiment with some strawberries that we bought, obviously shipped in from the USA, and they lasted for 5 weeks in the fridge with no sign of mould, or decrease in shape or size… Did make me wonder what they had pumped into these poor fruits before they made it onto the shelves. I now make sure I do not buy that brand. Strawberries are spring and early summer fruit so why not just enjoy them then!

Dog Island, Anguilla

Dog Island, Anguilla

We had a great season cruising the Grenadines, Windwards, Leewards, St Barths, the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands before turning Eastwards and sailing back to the Mediterranean via the Azores. Catching fish along the way but our biggest catch was just inside the Mediterranean as we passed through the Gibraltar Straits, ships all around us a big fat yellow fin tuna, about 25kg.

Yellowfin Tuna in the Gibraltar straits

Yellowfin Tuna in the Gibraltar straits

We arrived in Valencia in early May and had about a 4 week stay there which was magical. Cycling to the market each day in Cabanyal was wonderful as I would come back to the America’s Cup Port, balancing bags on the handlebars, tied onto the back and of course in my backpack swerving through the barricades that they were putting up for the Valencia Formula 1 Grand prix. Each day I would have to go another way. Sometimes I would cycle there with another chef off another boat and other times alone. It was the start of my day.

Valencia

Valencia

Valencia has so much to offer so many cycle lanes, the old town, the new city of arts which is build in the old river bed, the paella rice paddies, the long sandy beaches, the vineyards close by… If you have not been go and visit. Being there at that time of year was great, all the spring vegetables young favas, asparagus, wonderful rafa tomatoes, speciality of this area together with the Valencia tomato which is like a large beef tomato that they fill with tuna to serve. There was dried fish, smoked dried tuna, the markets are just so alive with food, and people I hated the days I would miss going there. My Spanish improved yet my Italian took over with most words but I was understood by most people. I am still not fluent by any means but one day..

Superyacht Cup Palma 2012

Superyacht Cup Palma 2012

After Valencia we sailed out to the Baleares, Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Minorca. We raced in a regatta in Palma which as ever was great fun, but frustrating as we did not do as well as we could, but it was worth the effort to get back into race mode for the season. Straight after the regatta we shot off to Sardegna to celebrate birthdays with many guests onboard with wonderful summer weather, catching more tuna along the way. I had plenty of filleting to do and prepared sushi and sashimi for the guests and crews delight as it was so fresh.. From Sardegna we cruised Corsica which was full of interesting bays, red rocks, pine forests, calm seas, warm weather and long sunset sails, before we headed back to the Italian mainland, and along the French Riviera in the height of the season.

Expensive cherries ! St Tropez

Expensive cherries ! St Tropez

Tackling the market in St Tropez in July is something I could do without. I had not been there at that time for at least 20 yrs and could not believe the change, in fact saddened by the change as it appeared to have lowered its standard and the fruit and vegetables stands were nothing like they had been. But saying that I still did manage to buy some wonderful things at wonderful prices and had to fight my way back to the port loaded up with bags on shoulders filled with wonderful breads, berries, other fruits and vegetables and a granny trolley filled to the brim. I am not sure the holiday makers in St Tropez really enjoyed having to tackle me on the narrow walkways or pavements as I lugged everything back down to be picked up by the tender. Lobsters at the market were brought back for dinner that night so I prepared a feast whilst the guests enjoyed an afternoon in the sun.

From France we headed back to Italy to start out regatta preparations. We did our regatta preparations in La Spezia this year as sadly our place in Isola da Maddelena was closed, so we worked with others during Ferragosta the big Italian summer holiday, prepping up the boat, emptying her of all unnecessary items, sails, dinghies etc that we do not need whilst racing and hit Sardenga with a bang for the Maxi Rolex Cup. A whirlwind of crew, food, racing, parties etc for 10days exhausts me but I love it as we pushed ourselves and came in 2nd in our class which was fantastic.

wrap a regatta up..!

wrap a regatta up..!

Banoffee whoopee pies

Banoffee whoopee pies

A quick turn around and we were off in perfect conditions to get back to La Spezia to refit the boat before turning around and heading to Greece and Turkey for the last of the Mediterranean summer warmth. We were so spoilt with the weather it was amazing. We cruised the coast of Turkey going to Greek islands when we felt like it and had a relaxing time at the end of the season over in the Eastern Mediterranean enjoying autumnal fruits and vegetables, eating wonderful local foods ashore and enjoyed a tranquil pace of life as the season was slowly coming to an end but with a long Indian summer. Buying fish and prawns from local fishermen, small boats coming up offering fruits and vegetables, or ladies making spinach and feta pancakes which are just so tasty when freshly made I can never pass them by.

Spinach and feta pancake seller...Olu Denis, Turkey

Spinach and feta pancake seller…Olu Denis, Turkey

Being back with very old friends there was wonderful, not only did I catch up with close friends in Turkey who taught me a few new recipes using dried aubergines and courgettes, but my favourite time was with my best friend and family in Rhodes, where we ate at their restaurant and spend as many hours as I could with them. Pappou the grandfather, who is just a wonderful character, told me off for not preparing my octopus the correct way to dry it, but oh boy did it taste good once it was fully dried and then grilled. It was the first piece of seafood I had tasted in 2012 as this was the year I gave up eating all seafood, for environmental reasons.

Dried aubergine, courgette and chilled. Kusadasi market, Turkey

Dried aubergine, courgette and chilled. Kusadasi market, Turkey

Drying octopus on the life lines whilst cruising in Turkey...2012

Drying octopus on the life lines whilst cruising in Turkey…2012

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Our crossing back to La Spezia was just a dream, we seemed to miss any form of bad weather and hit the dock in time for a storm to come through and dump snow on the mountains in the first week of November ! Our fishing success continued until the end when we caught the most magnificent Mahi Mahi between Greece and Italy. We docked in a small village just outside La Spezia called Le Grazie which is stunning, and the small dock is full of classic yachts, so we did stand out in a crowd there being a carbon fibre yacht amongst wooden yachts. The locals were insistent that I should be served first at the only fruit and vegetable shop so long as I told them my story and where we had been, how long we would be there for, how many people onboard and anything else they saw necessary to ask me. Again my broken Italian helped me become a local for those 2 weeks we were there and I know when I go back in May they will once again question me as to where I have been for the winter and what I will be doing for the summer. I do also benefit from all the questioning as I ask them what they are going to do with the produce in their hands for lunch or dinner as everyday they come in and buy what is required for that day, no more or less. Unlike me who is always buying a bit more just incase we suddenly drop the lines and go to sea ! Once the yard was prepared for us we motored over to the other side of the bay and came out of the water for the winter. The boat is out of the water for the whole winter, having lots of maintenance done on her and I was given time off.

Back online…

I know it has been ages since I last wrote, but work took over and time slipped by way to fast for any control with my writing !

Where to start as there appears to be so many months that have been missed so I will have to condense the last 18mths or so into a few paragraphs with a few photos to help catch up to the present.
The summer of 2011 flew by with intense racing and cooking, then cruising and cooking, back to racing and cooking and into a yard period before heading off to the Caribbean for the winter months. The summer was spent mainly cruising the Spanish and Italian waters, going from La Spezia to Sardegna, Menorca, Mallorca, Barcelona, back to Mallorca cruising Ibiza and over to Mallorca again and onto Sardegna for another regatta before heading to the Italian mainland and French Riviera before being hauled in La Spezia and off to Antigua.

Summer as always was fun, full of fresh fruits and vegetables that I could find in local markets. Visiting Barcelona was wonderful even though it was rushed with guests I did manage to get to La Boqueria one of the amazing markets there, where I scoured for vegetables, fruits and fish. Parts of the market have become so touristic with juices made up, fruit cut up ready to eat in more plastic containers, but into the depth of the market you could find the real fresh foods that I was looking for. The fish market was so full of fish I wondered where all the fish had been fished, caught let alone who was going to buy it all by the end of the market. Did it really all get sold was going through my mind as I left there, and really how many other markets were filled with fish each day and was all that sold as well…

Las Ramblas fish market

Las Ramblas fish market


I could have just kept on buying as I just kept on thinking of new recipes and ideas to use with all the delights around me but also understanding that the fridges would be over flowing with food if I bought more and also the fact that I could barely walk with what I had already bought. I was so thankful that I had a taxi that would come back and pick me up as I had left wonderful fresh bread that I had bought at a fantastic artisan bakery. Wonderful spelt breads, rye breads, regular wheat breads and the delicious smells of a bakery were just wonderful as I walked into the shop. A place I will definitely be back to visit, and buy…
So Barcelona was fun, I did of course have to do the normal run to a supermarket as well, which is always fun to me as you never know what you might find or not in some cases.

Coming back to the boat full of goodies meant a good hour re organizing fridges, storage lockers and just getting my mind around the fact that crew needed lunch and the guests would be back wanting a snack for tea and then a three course dinner. Now was the time to decide as to which piece of fish to use, which vegetable to add to the dish, what starter and thankfully having planned ahead there would be a dessert ready in the fridge.

From Barcelona we headed back out to the islands and ended up anchoring off Formentera the small island off Ibiza which has wonderful white sandy beaches.

Sunset Formentera July 2011

Sunset Formentera July 2011

Formentera to Ibiza to Mallorca and that ended up being our milk run for a few weeks during the summer months before we headed East towards Sardegna to get into regatta mode

Cooking continuously for crew and guests came naturally as we sailed around the islands enjoying the tranquility of the bays we would find to anchor in for the night. We changed guests, food likes and dislikes changed with the guest change, and I served varying meals throughout that period, figs stuffed with mozzarella and basil and wrapped in Jamon, seared monkfish with roasted Prosciutto, skate seared with a rich tomato sauce, sesame crusted tuna, grilled calamari, chicken stuffed with sun dried tomato pesto, octopus and potato salad, roasted snapper, chicken kebabs marinated in yogurt and spices to name but a few and as for desserts the list continues… chocolate mint cake, chocolate fondue, plum and cardamon mousse with roasted plums, pistachio meringue, lemon freeze slice, chocolate tart, rhubarb fool with ginger shortbreads, stripped ice cream cake, poached pears, white chocolate shots with strawberry syrup, pavolova roll with berries…

Berry pavlova roll

Berry pavlova roll

Sardegna meant the final regatta of 2011, the Maxi Rolex Cup in which we pushed ourselves hard against our competitor and we succeeded in a good week of racing and left feeling buoyant on our win, knowing full well that it meant a tougher time in 2012. We had to rebuild what we had removed for the regatta and move on up to the mainland to pick up guests for the final cruise of the season taking us into the South of France.

Leaving there we headed to La Spezia for a quick haul, timely as we had caught more fish on our sail down there so the guys in the shipyard were happy to have fresh fish handed to them as we arrived. Italians are always grateful for fresh fish !

Happy fishermen Villefranche to La Spezia

Happy fishermen Villefranche to La Spezia

Summer 2011 was coming to an end and we had to prepare the boat for the Caribbean winter ahead.

La Spezia market was alive and kicking early on Saturday morning when I went to stock up with some fresh veggies and fruit for the weekend. It was great to get there again and walk through looking at all the wonderful produce waiting to be bought, cleaned and cooked or just eaten as is. The strawberries and peaches just piled up next to one another with melons, lumquats, apricots lying in waiting to be gently placed in paper bags weighed and taken home. I was in my element wandering around picking up what I needed. 6 large bunches of basil to make pesto, kilos of apricots for fruit salad in the morning and maybe an apricot sorbet if I have any left. Plenty of peaches, nectarines as I just devour these as they are so delicious eaten straight. Cherries ready for eating but maybe I should try out that recipe I found of cherry and chocolate cup cakes. Berries which are just so sweet and always good on their own, in a savoury salad or fruit salad. The young salads are all waiting to be taken and cleaned and tossed with other fresh salad vegetables and enjoyed. 

Fresh Anchovies

Fresh Anchovies La Spezia Market

In the middle of the market there was a crowd of people all watching and then taking part in the salting of anchovies. They are prevalent around these waters and are loved. The one village Camogli is the famous anchovy port, where you can always eat them. I adore fresh anchovies fried or marinated and was taken in by the crowd to watch as anchovies were headed and gutted and then rolled in salt and then put in large glass jars and covered in salt.

You went to the main table where the anchovies were lying in crates waiting to be bought together with the jars and salt, then there were plastic containers and sieves for you to use and partake in the salting.

Preparing the anchovies

Preparing the anchovies to be salted

There was a lot of chatter and laughter as people took part or just watched as I did, envious of the time these people had to be able to do this.  Unfortunately I did not have time to buy a kilo or more of the anchovies and salt them myself but maybe another time I will. I did however buy some that were already prepared for me to fry up quickly and sprinkle with chopped parsley and lemon zest with some olive oil. Delicious and so quick to prepare.

I also bought some King fish which I baked in the oven with olive oil and lemon juice and then tossed with boiled new potatoes, parsley, more olive oil and lemon juice, and plenty of seasoning. I topped the dish with freshly boiled eggs and served it with a tossed salad of different leaves. A great light and fresh Saturday lunch for the crew who were hard at work so that we could have a day off on Sunday before we start early again on Monday hard at it so we can leave La Spezia on Tuesday after my final shop… excitement is building for our season to begin

 

Our new 3Di race jib arrived hours before the sail designer so it was winched onboard early the next morning and laid out on the deck ready for hoisting.

3Di jib on foredeck

3Di jib waiting to be hoisted

Nihat with his newly designed sail

Nihat looking at his newly designed 3Di sail

Finally after so long we are sailing again… The first day in weeks of rain and we go sailing with the new 3Di sail. It was a short but sweet sail, as the rain came in and we had to make a few adjustments to the head of the sail before we can try her again but generally everyone is pleased and now eager to finish up in the yard and go sailing. Our sail designer Nihat from Norths came over from Valencia to spend a couple of days with us here making sure the sail is 100% for us to go racing with it in 10 days… The sail was hoisted up the new forestay and into position for us to unfurl and bear away ….before the rain hit. We had a few other people on board, the riggers just checking all the work they had done in re stepping the mast, and a few people from the shipyard. It was quite funny as you could tell who were sailors and who were office people.  We had sailing shoes on they had socks on … !!They quickly learnt that they had to take those off before they slid down the decks.

It was the first day for me to start making sandwiches for this season ! Blackened chicken wraps were eagerly eaten by the crew and extras that we had onboard. Having found several new ideas these past few months I am keen to start to make new sandwiches this race season to keep the crew interested in the food as well as the race ! Having spent a few days stocking up with dry stores I now have lots more hours of shopping for fresh stuff, so that I can start to prepare sandwich fillings, canapes and cakes for the regatta in Porto Cervo which starts in early June. There will be a few mornings spent at the market in La Spezia before we leave here and then of course down in Sardinia where the Saturday market in Olbia is always great fun to visit as it is so local and I just love wandering around it picking out typical Sardinian foods, fruits and veggies.

Yesterday we splashed…! It was great after 5 mths on the hard we finally got back into the water again … It was mid afternoon and after testing the engine, generators, thrusters and a few other things the lines were dropped and off out we went to put on the mainsail. It took us a while and by the time we got back onto the dock it was 11pm…It was a good feeling though to be back on the boat with water lapping underneath …

Splash May 23rd 2011

Travel, cruising, cooking