Friday, 31 May 2013

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.

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