Tuesday, 30 October 2012


 I ran into a problem last night, no the house didn’t explode, nor did I get run over by a combine, but more than that, food was a potential disaster and I had to improvise. Now on the scale of things it's hardly the big deal but it threw my plans out.
Due to the clocks going back, (incidentally the dogs have not put theirs back and so still wake at 5) or it may be greed, we have eaten earlier the last few days. Anyhow at half four I started preparing Nasi Goreng. I had a mix for the veg and spices, which I had brought from a food stall at the Devon Show. Well I opened it and it looked a little uninspiring, but I added the hot water and left it to soak. Meanwhile putting the rice on and starting to fry the pork (Actually bacon pieces). Five minutes later, it was clear that I had a problem. The veg/spices looked and smelt foul. And being the end of the month, food supplies are a little thin on the ground.
In the end I cubed some peeled potatoes and chopped an onion. These I fried, keeping them moving to avoid sticking. I kept the bacon cooking slowly and whisked up four eggs and some salt and pepper. When the potato was soft and starting to colour I added the eggs to the bacon and made a rough omelette, (posh term for scrambled egg with bacon) serving with the potato.
This was nice, but not particularly filling, for my next trick I took some puff pastry out of the freezer and defrosted it in the microwave, meanwhile mixing custard powder, brown sugar and milk in a jug. I also wound the oven up to max. When the pastry was soft enough to work I rolled it out and used it to line a pie dish, tipping on a tin of Cherry Pie filling that was hiding at the back of the cupboard. This had 20 minutes in the oven and the custard had 7 in the microwave. YUM. And there is enough for today.
Because of the excitement, the only photo is of the pie, and it hardly does it justice.

Maybe I will do all my cooking on the hoof; it must have been the inspiration of Nigel Slater on BBC last Friday.
This post was intended to showcase Yvonne’s latest bead jewellery making making efforts, so here they are. First is a necklace containing a homemade felt bead embellished with seed beads, and matching earrings,

Then a necklace using amethysts and other semi-precious stones.

I have a tiny amount of Sweet Garlic Pickle left that we used to buy from a shop in Kent. I haven’t seen it anywhere down her, and if I can’t find it I will just have to make my own. I have scanned the only label on the jar that is visible, so if anyone reading this knows where I can get some in south Devon, I would be most grateful.

To end here are some pictures of the rough seas at St Marys Bay, and a sunset from my back door.

Also two of George in Australia, up to all sorts of fun.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


I had a dream last night, about a Victorian gentleman getting off a train. It was quite vivid, and so this morning I decided to write it down, just to see where it would go. Well I must have been in the Zone, because I have written over 2000 words so far, and have developed a story from it. Once again I am amazed that the characters are in my head, and if I put my fingers on the keyboard they spring to life, and develop themselves.
Anyway I have put the first piece up on Wattpad, go to http://www.wattpad.com/8389573-steam if you're interested. I expect that ther will be more to come, although I may have to wait till tonight for another dream to see the next part of the story.

Baking at 6am

So by Friday, having started making the sourdough from a 125g piece of my starter "Hortense" on Wednesday, I finally get to make the bread, to be baked early Saturday Morning.
But as we have no bread left I made some rolls for lunch, a mixture of Wholemeal and White flours, covered with Black Onion seeds. As usual when making soft rolls I substituted 20ml of water for Olive Oil, it makes for a softer crumb.

 Incidentally, the hole in the crumb is from my digital thermometer. (95 degrees C and the bread is cooked)

To fill the rolls I mixed grated carrot and cheese with a little Mayo,

 if you’ve ever been to Totnes you may have brought rolls with a similar filling from Seeds bakery, although their rolls were different, much more wholegrain, with seeds in and on (the clue is in the name) I made the dough up at 8 am and left it to rise whilst I got on with the rolls. I also made savoury mince in the slow cooker, with onion and carrot. To accompany I roughly chopped potato and drizzled with oil and some mixed herbs. These will be cooked in the oven for about 45 minutes.

By 1 pm the dough had risen so I divided it into two loaves and some rolls. These will prove now until 6 tomorrow morning, at which point they will be baked.

We actually went to see the new James Bond film in Paignton last night, it’s very, very good, well worth a look, so 6am felt a bit early, but I put the oven on to max before I took the dogs out. By the way Paignton Seafront looked great last night; it was lit up all round the bay, with waves breaking in a riot of coloured foam, reflected from the lights.
 I opened the door, wow it was cold compared to yesterday, or even last night, but alright once you got going, a beautiful clear night sky with plenty of stars, my old friends from the days when I used them and my trusty sextant to get around the world.
To resolve my shaping issues with the slightly wetter sourdough that I prefer, I bake in Pyrex and Le Creuset casseroles which I had warmed in the oven. On my return I put the dough into the hot containers, steamed the oven and gave them 40 minutes (20 for the rolls).

The results say it all really. And there's nothing better than sourdough toast with home-made marmalade. Now for the soup.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Fog (part 2)

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’m now back home in Glorious Devon for a few days off. After my post yesterday, the fog slowly lifted until by 1400 you could see across the river (about 600m). We had a ship which had had to wait from the early morning due to the fog and it was arriving at Gravesend at 1430, for me to put into Tilbury Lock.

Well the tugs said they would work so I got them made fast as I went out in the pilot boat. By the time I had got to the wheelhouse the visibility had dropped again and I could only just see the foremast (100m away). We approached the lock and made out the entrance through the gloom and as we inched in the visibility improved. Phew!
The rest of the shift was fairly uneventful, three more ships in reasonable conditions and then it was time to brave the drive home. I set off at 0430, the M25 and M3 were quiet with a little mist, but after I joined the A303 it got a bit worse.
I got home for 0930, so all in all a good journey and had a snooze before lunch. I woke to the smell of Chocolate Cake! If you’re reading this Amy, hide the screen from Harry NOW.

Amy and Harry are coming down next month and for Harry’s Birthday Yvonne had started a Chocolate Beetroot Cake, to be frozen, then assembled and decorated later. We’ll have to get some Clotted Cream to top it off, he said hopefully.
Toad in the hole for our supper tonight, I managed to get the Pork and Marmite sausages from Totnes, and made a batter from 4oz flour, 10oz milk, 1 egg, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of mustard. The sausages were browned for 20 minutes at 200 degrees, then I added the batter for a further 30. I fried 2 onions, added beef stock and some balsamic vinegar to make gravy, thickening with cornflour.

I think I’ve been using my camera incorrectly, and then complaining about the results. Instead of getting close and using the Macro feature, I’m trying the zoom instead with anti-shake. The results look better to me. Except the last one, although I was in a rush to eat it!
I’ve started a batch of sourdough, 125g starter, 63g flour and 63g water mixed. I’ll leave it overnight then double it twice tomorrow until I have 100g of ferment. I can then bake two loaves and some rolls on Friday.

We decided to eat early as our Dog Tizer is unwell and is off to the vets. He’s had an upset tummy (diplomatic version) for a couple of weeks. It’s cleared up twice but then recurred after a few days, so I thought that he’d better see the vet. Of course the only appointment is at 1700. Anyway I had my breakfast on the M25 at 0500 so I was hungry. Tizer is 9 now and is Epileptic, I just hope he’s not in any pain, I wish I had taken him earlier but as a Labrador he’s always eating anything he can find and usually fasting for a day resets his system. He’s been fine in himself, running around and wagging just like usual. And he enjoyed his swim on Saturday.
Just back from the vets, he thinks the dog has a worse than usual case of dia*****oa and has given anti-biotics and other things to sort him out. That’s a big relief because I feared the worst.

Monday, 22 October 2012



It’s the one thing that I don’t like when I’m at work. When I’m not at work I don’t mind it, in fact I think that it’s quite beautiful, how it distorts colour and softens the shape of otherwise ugly things. To see the sun as a ghostly butter yellow orb through a veil of fog or trees appearing like shy skeletons through a wall of grey. And the effect the water droplets have on spider’s webs or leaves is mesmerising.

But, when I’m driving a ship fog is a different thing altogether. I know you will think “You have radar” but it doesn’t quite work like that. Some manoeuvres are straightforward, such as leaving a jetty and going up and down the river, but arriving at a place you can’t see is not so easy. And of course there is the time element. Do you set off not knowing if it will be clear when you get there, but hoping because it’s an hour away and it may clear, or do you stay and find that you could have gone?

I’ve had some fun in the fog, I once took a ship from Tilbury Lock to the pilot station off Harwich (about 55 miles) and the only time I saw the front of the ship was when I walked past it in Tilbury Lock. Or the passenger ship I joined at Gravesend, intending to go to Tower Bridge. Again I couldn’t see the front of the ship from the wheelhouse, but was assured that the fog would lift before I got to the Thames Barrier. It did, but only just, yet by the time I got to the Bridge it was a bright sunny day.

In general, the tugs on the Thames won’t work if they can’t see the ship they are attached to, and that’s fair enough, but if that means that if you can’t get where you are going then you have to turn the ship and take it back out to anchor at Southend. Bearing in mind that the reason for the tugs is to turn the ship, you now have to do it without, essentially the manoeuvre without the last bit.

The reason I’m writing this now is that I’m at work and it’s foggy. I knew it was when the fog warnings woke me up at 3 this morning. Consequently all the work last night was put back 12 hours and if the fog lifts we will be doing it this afternoon. If it doesn’t we will do it 12 hours later. Trouble is, all the traffic booked for today and tonight is stacking up as well. Looks like I may be busy. The best thing is, I can only do one at a time, and I’m finished at 8 in the morning whatever happens.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Saturday Afternoon

We have had a beautiful weekend (So far) so I decided to take the dogs down to the beach for a swim.

 Well Tizer swims,

 Fliss being a Lady, will only paddle in a lady-like manner.

 Also she runs away from the waves. But she does enjoy herself; and she likes ploughing her nose through the sand.

The beach was almost deserted, just a family group at one end, so they were able to run through the surf, chasing stones and seagulls, until they were worn out.

There are about 100 steps up from the beach, which they managed far better than me, and a ships figurehead situated at the top, looking out over the most amazing view.

Continuing on around Sharkham Point, I found lots of Blackberries; it’s just a pity that I can’t pick them, it being after Michaelmas, because there are more now than there have been all autumn.

I do like walking the dogs here; there are gorgeous views and loads of room for them to tire themselves out.

Fliss is exhausted after her paddle.

I’m travelling back to work on Sunday after tea, but first a visit to Totnes Good Food Market, hopefully for a bag full of goodies, check out www.totnesgoodfood.co.uk  I hope there are some more of the Pork and Marmite sausages, and a decent bit of cake!
Nigel Slater was talking about using up leftovers on Friday (BBC1), well I don’t know about you, but I have always brought food with an eye to making more than one days meal out of it. I know that the initial outlay is higher, but I think that larger pieces of meat cook better, give more flavour and are more economical in the end. The last piece of Beef that I brought actually carved into 14 portions for £13, and did three roasts, beef in black bean sauce, two meals of sliced beef in gravy, and a salad with Horseradish Mayo. This also saved a considerable amount of cooking time and fuel.
Since we got the new recycling system, with a caddy for food waste, we actually have less than half a bag of food waste a week, and about a bucket of compostable things, which all goes back onto the garden.
Soon the clocks will go back and the days will suddenly seem so much shorter. time to get the Blackberry and Elderberry wines out and think of the promise of a new Year, whilst warm and cozy. With the wind howling, listening to the rain lashing against the windows (mind you it's been like that since March!)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

What's in a name?

When I was very young, I used to have mint sauce with every roast, it didn’t matter to me which meat it was, that’s what I liked. And we always used to have Yorkshire Pudding as well, a big one cut into pieces and filling half the plate. It was only when I was much older I realised that its sole function was to fill us up cheaply.
Again in my youth we would have “Shepherd’s Pie” a lot; well it's a cheap, easy meal and one of my favourites (and Yvonne’s) even now. But and it's a big one: to the more pedantic among you, when Yvonne or I make it we usually use Beef mince. So technically it's a “Cottage Pie”.
If you asked anyone of my children though, they would call it “Shepherd’s Pie”.
Copyright Simon Drew

The point of that story is this, to a certain extent it doesn’t matter what you call it or how you eat it, if it fills you up and gives you a warm happy feeling it's done its job.
So brown a pound of Beef Mince with two chopped onions and a spoon of garlic paste. Drain off the liquid and reserve. Put the meat mixture into a casserole dish,

 top with mashed potato, and pattern with a fork (Makes a crunchy layer)

and heat through, probably about 40 minutes at 180, at least until the tops browned.

 Skim the fat off the reserved liquid and discard, add some stock to the remainder and thicken for gravy.
Don’t forget the potato peelings, blanch them in hot oil and freeze, they can be used in hash or any recipe that calls for potato pieces.

This makes about 4 portions with veg, so it's two tonight and two for later (Freeze them and you’re sorted on a night when you can’t be bothered to cook)
While the oven was on, I made some bread and rolls.