Square pans for square meals

RATS receives all kinds of queries (some I am sure maliciously thought up to catch us out!) though not in this case. The question was how does a singlehander cope with his youngsters and their friends descending on him ravenously hungry when he is weatherbound in harbour?With six mouths to feed he had to look to his reserve stock and decided baked beans, corned beef and tinned tomatoes, but the problem was how to prepare the meal with his limited cooking utensils. Being an experienced CA member he was resourceful and coped. However, as he said, it would have been a whole lot easier if he had had a square pan. We were able to put him on the right track as Aladdin’s Caveat Swanwick Marina can supply just the job,a 25cm square non-stick pan for £14.99. If you want something more expensive then Proleno have a 28cm pan available at £66.95 which they claim will fry without oil. Now everywhere I go there are square pans on sale; I have just spotted some in Matalan, if that is any help.

The best buy I ever made in the culinary department was a skillet (two deep-sided frying pans made to clamp together),German made and bought at a Burnham-on-Crouch boat show in the mid-eighties. It really has stood the test of time. Only greasing is necessary to cook dry, and the nonstick surface has proved incredibly resilient. It has allowed us to develop the speciality of the boat for a quick and tasty lunch, namely toasted cheese sandwiches. (It will do plain toast as well (no greasing necessary) and was always used for this before we had a stove with a grill.) The toasted sandwiches have gone down well with countless crews, but it is also extremely versatile, acting on one occasion as a useful oven when the boat’s paraffin oven decided to catch fire just as the bread was ready to bake.

Talking of square meals one of the best we always found when on longer passages without fresh food, was to make a substantial pie using suet pastry and tinned meat; the freshness of the pastry giving a tasty lift to the tinned ingredients. The young crews we carried on our tall ships’ races, were always keen and willing to cook, whatever other chores they studiously avoided, and we never missed a really substantial evening meal. On one occasion one of the lads had the job of preparing the chicken pie as we headed into St. Petersburg along the narrow channel from Kronstadt. He was enjoying himself determined to make the meal a special celebration to mark the end of our 700nm passage from Rostock. Keeping his artistic touches secret, he had decorated the pie with a superb relief image of our ketch in full sail,made out of the surplus pastry, and with the name picked out as the crowning touch. With the baking complete, he called us all together to witness the unveiling of his masterpiece as he opened the oven. It was then that tragedy struck and triumph turned to disaster; even as we all admired his superb creation, he let the oven door go, its weight overpowered the gimbals and the pie slid inexorably onto the galley floor – and of course, as you will have guessed, ended upside down.

There was nothing for it but to set to and make another pie, but this time without the decoration. As we had some way to go through the extensive dock areas, before finding our way to our berth alongside the English Quay, immediately below the first bridge over the River Neva, there was adequate time to complete and then enjoy it in a leisurely fashion when we were moored. As June said afterwards, ‘if they had been our own youngsters, we would have scraped it up and still eaten it with relish’.

from Cruising, Feb, 2008