Monday, 17 June 2013

Simple Barbeque

A simple barbeque, minimal work. Allowing us to carry on working on the boat while our meal cooked.
lighting the Cobb
The Cobb is ready to cook on when the flame goes out, and carries on burning for at least a couple of hours after.

Using 'Penbead' brickettes I used about 7 to cook this meal. I think I could have managed with one less.

wrap peppers and mushrooms in foil with a light drizzle of oil
Potatoes were wrapped in foil, as were the red onions and sweetcorn. Mushrooms and peppers too, but these need less cooking so can be stacked on top of other food in the Cobb oven.

Final meal, with cheddar

Medium potatoes will take about an hour, larger ones longer, so it's better to have more smaller potatoes if you want to eat fairly soon.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Cobb Oven - Stuffed Mushrooms

I've had a few chances to experiment with the Cobb oven now, and have been extremely pleased with it.

So far I've managed a family 'barbeque' including baked potatoes and sweetcorn.

Even better was Paella, cooked by the canal in Boxmoor - very pleased with this as I've never cooked Paella before.

A successful vegetable curry, using a jar of sauce.

When I do these things again I'll take photos and add the recipes.

Today I got to make stuffed mushrooms, something I've done successfully in the range before, but this was the first time I'd done anything like this in the Cobb.

It took a little bit of preparing, but once started needed minimal supervision or checking.


  • 2 large flat mushrooms - the ones I had were huge
  • Butternut squash - I usually buy this fresh, but on this occasion took some frozen chunks with me. Frozen squash minces much more easily than the fresh stuff I've used in the past
  • 1 red onion
  • courgettes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • cheese - cheddar 1 - 2 ounces
  • herbs, pepper
 Vegetables to cook alongside the mushrooms: sweetcorn, asparagus, pepper

I usually cook this with wholegrain rice, because you get a good vegetable stock/gravy that goes well on the rice - but today, just veg.

Mince all the vegetables for stuffing - or chop up as small as you can. Add herbs, 1 teaspoon of oil, grate cheese - mix in together.

Stuff the mushrooms as full as you can. Wrap in foil - shiny side in.

Put into the Cobb oven until ready - as these mushrooms were very large it took about 1 and a half hours - normally it would take an hour or so in the range.

Wrap other veg in foil (shiny side in) add olive oil if needed - add to the Cobb - asparagus doesn't need as long as sweetcorn!

It worked very well, was very filling and had loads of flavour.


I have very limited room on Sickle, so I have to be careful about what equipment I can have.

I have a drawer with cutlery - including a few sharp knives, a couple of wooden spoons and a cheese grater. I have one very small measure which claims to be able to do anything from a teaspoon to a tablespoon and which I rescued from my late MILs house.
  • One saucepan - with two steamer sections
  • One medium sized teflon coated frying pan
  • A collapsible silicon colander
  • A couple of chopping boards
  • A small/medium pyrex dish
  • A cast iron enamel casserole - this takes up a lot of space, but it can go on the hob, or in the oven (I measured it carefully), and will allow slow cooking for those days when you are doing a lot of locks, and haven't got time to faff around with the food.
  • A medium pyrex bowl, for mixing things
  • A plastic liquid measure
  • A Tala dry cook's measure
  • Aluminium foil 
  • An oven glove
  • A 1970s spong mincer - which generally lives stashed under the bed with the tins as it doesn't get used much
Most of this stacks, and is stuffed in a small cupboard.

Other than that a limited number of plates, bowls, mugs. An insulated cafetiere (I can't do without decent coffee) and an enamelled teapot which can be put on the stove to keep warm and was also rescued from my MILs home.

Additionally I have two stacking washing up bowls, which live under the counter (an area under the back deck, immediately above the water, and accessible from the cabin), and contain the washing up until I am able to do it. Why two? One to put the washing up in as you take it out of the other bowl - I don't have the luxury of a draining board.

Finally, a folding crate, which also lives under the counter and is used to store fruit and veg in a relatively cool environment.

Store cupboard

I have a couple of battered old insulated bags, one kept inside the other, which will keep food slightly cooler than the rest of the cabin. For the first couple of days of a trip we will have freezer blocks in there too. We keep them down behind the coal box, just above the water line, to help to keep the temperature down.

Despite this milk will last only a day and cheese has to be bought regularly. Any frozen or chilled stuff needs to be eaten within a day. Butter will however keep OK.

In some parts of the canal network stores and supermarkets are few and far between, so we have to be inventive, and have a number of dry and tinned foodstuffs.

In the table cupboard we keep mostly dried products and a few packets.
  • tea
  • coffee
  • oatmeal (not rolled oat, oatmeal makes much better porridge)
  • dried pasta
  • wholegrain rice
  • risotto rice
  • small bag of plain flour
  • squeezy golden syrup
  • sugar
  • stock cubes and blocks
In the bed locker are tins, bottles, jars and larger, bulky packets.
  • soup
  • baked beans
  • tinned chopped tomatoes
  • small tins of vegetables - generally French because they understand that food should not taste like packing materials - peas, green beans, mushrooms
  • small packs of passata
  • beer
  • wine
  • squash
  • a box of herbs, spices and various powders in small jars: curry powder, baking powder, etc

What is this blog about?

I've been a vegetarian since 1979. My husband is vegetarian, our sons are vegetarian.
Being vegetarian now is very different to when I first gave up meat. It's much easier, there is a much wider range of products. Pubs and restaurants have a range of interesting and tasty meals, instead of looking at you askance and saying "you can have the fish". I take pride in providing healthy, interesting and nutritious vegetarian meals.

We also own narrowboat Sickle, a 1936 Middle Northwich boat, which was converted to an icebreaker in 1942 and ended her days as a British Waterway's maintainance tug. She was condemned in 2000, but fortunately, was rescued by the Parrott family and restored.  We were lucky enough to be able to buy her in 2011, and my husband and I now take her around the country to historic boat festivals.

And there is the problem. While moving Sickle we live in the very small cabin - about 6' by 8', and I have a small traditional range to cook on. The range takes some time to get up to temperature, and retains heat for a long time after use. From lighting the stove to your first kettle of boiling water can be between 1 and 2 hours, and it can take 4-6 hours to shut the stove down when you are leaving the boat. Once lit, we tend to keep it going. This isn't too bad over the cooler months - the range helps us to dry our wet clothes, and keeps both the cabin, and to some extent, the steerer warm. We've always got a ready supply of hot water. There is a small oven, and room on the top for a kettle or a saucepan, or a frying pan.

However, in the summer it is another matter - the cabin becomes stifling if the range is on, so we have a one burner Origo stove, which uses meths. It's very efficient, bringing a kettle to the boil quickly, but you have to be very careful with a spirit flame, which is difficult to see, especially in sunlight, and unfortunately, a direct flame onto a cold surface (for example a full kettle) will produce CO - Carbon Monoxide, which kills several people on boats every year.

We are equipped with a CO detector in the cabin - but aim to always try to use the spirit burner outside the cabin, as CO is an insidious poison, and has the added problem of being cumulative.  

This means that our summer cooking has been much more restricted than our spring and autumn meals. We can eat in the canal side pubs, but I don't like to do that all the time, apart from the consideration of our waistlines, it is a heavy burden on the wallet.

Enter the Cobb Oven - which I bought at the Rickmansworth Canal Festival. This needs to be used outside, but allows a much wider range of foods than cooking on the Origo will. There are a lot of meat oriented recipes for the Cobb on the Internet, but very few vegetarian meals. 

The Cobb uses either a proprietary fuel 'cobblestones' which heat up very quickly, but are more expensive, or ordinary charcoal briquettes. I have been experimenting with 'penbead' briquettes, which claim to give more heat for longer (but are more expensive). 

For my needs 9 'penbead' briquettes are more than enough - I will try reducing by one each time until I find out the optimum number.

This blog is to keep a record of recipes, and techniques for the vegetarian cook, using a small range, a Cobb oven, an Origo stove (and occasionally a traditional barbeque).

Obviously, it's always possible to add meat, or to use meat if I use a vegetarian option, such as Quorn.