Monday, January 15, 2018

Thames Barges, Weekend Cooking,

Something I saw or read made me think of my early days. After the war, that's World War II, my father who was always boat mad, discovered a place on the river Medway that was converting Thames Barges into livable accommodation  but retaining the basic sailing abilities of the vessels. My father was immediately captivated and ended up buying one and selling the very lovely Georgian house we lived in. Thames Barges were originally designed to carry all kinds of goods such as bricks or straw, up and down the rivers of England and along the coasts. The black and white picture is that of our barge, Iota. The coloured one shows a barge fully rigged.
They had a very shallow draft (i.e. didn't need much water) and could be handled by a man and a boy. They were quite majestic to see sailing the coasts and rivers and it is, to me, so sad to see them rotting on the shores these days. Including the one we lived on. I was sent a photo of her which I can't find. My father decided to take her, Iota, to France, Belgium and Holland even though they were not built to cross the Channel or North Sea. He also had part of the keel removed, it was partly inside the boat and in some barges who's owners had left it, you had to step over it to move about the living areas. Very awkward. My dad was told that Iota would break her back, she certainly didn't, despite the odd predicaments he landed her in. One time he got caught by an ebbing tide and ended up with the bow on one mudbank and the stern on the other with nothing supporting her in the middle. I think my father was a tad nervous but she survived it for close on 6 hours before the tide came back. He also entered Iota in some of the Thames Barge races which took place in those days. Barges were originally black, but some of the barge owner competitors had painted them white and they looked quite fantastic taking part. I see the races are still happening so I guess not all barges are rotting on the beach.

For Saturday at dinner I cooked the Apricot Glazed Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin which I prepared on Christmas Day. This time I made a better job of it and it was really good. Christmas time the bacon I had was a bit too thick but I hadn't bought it specially because I hadn't anticipated cooking on Christmas Day!! If you are looking for a special dish for an occasion I can highly recommend it. However, I have decided I cannot make Chocolate Volcanoes. Mine definitely do not work properly. So, screw it, I will buy the ones from my grocery store which are very good. I don't know why they don't work for me, I use the same recipe Matt used and they worked fine for him. Mine are kind of OK but don't turn out of the pots very well. We ended up eating from their pots with a dollop of cream on top.

I thought this looks good for a cold winter's night. If you live in Australia you will have to wait a few months I guess.

Slow Cooker Thai Beef Curry

The challenge: The flavors are always too bland.

Our solution: It’s true that the long, slow cooking period mellows flavors. But bold spices, in bold amounts, will hold their own over time. Here, we start with big flavor from a good amount of curry
paste and fish sauce, and we finish with fresh touches of cilantro and lime juice that amplify the taste of everything. Serve over a bed of brown rice or brown rice noodles to catch all the sauce.

1 Tbs canola oil
2 lbs beef stew meat
1/2 cup unsalted beef stock
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
2 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs light brown sugar
1 (10-oz.) yellow onion, sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup well-shaken canned full-fat coconut milk
8 oz haricots verts (French green beans), halved crosswise
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
9 oz fresh spinach (about 9 cups)
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add beef, and cook in 2 batches, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Place browned beef in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add stock to skillet, stirring and scraping to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet; transfer mixture to slow cooker. Add curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, and onion; stir to loosely combine. Cover, and cook on low until beef is very tender, about 8 hours.

2. Add coconut milk and haricots verts to slow cooker. Increase heat to high; cook until haricots verts are tender, about 12 minutes. Turn off heat; add cilantro leaves, spinach, and lime juice. Stir gently until spinach starts to wilt. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired

Servings: 8

Author: Ann Taylor Pittman
Source: Cooking Light

Have a great day
 

16 comments:

  1. That's wild - how many years did you live on that barge? You must have some amazing memories of it.

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    1. You know, I'm not sure Alex. I think I was about 9 or 10 when we moved onto the barge. My dad bought another boat later and then a third after I had left home. My first wedding I had to walk along a catwalk in my wedding dress.

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  2. A barge with sails? I didn't know they came with sails. That's very sad the one you lived on died of neglect.

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    1. It is sad Diane. Especially as so many of them still seem to be sailing if not working.

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  3. Sold the house you guys were living in?

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    1. Yup Ivy. It was like living in a 3 bedroom apartment which sailed.

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    2. Well, that is cool though too.
      An adventure ...

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    3. I wasn't really old enough to appreciate it Ivy.

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  4. How old were you when your parents sold the house? Those look much different than the barges we see here. I think barges were mentioned in 'the golden compass' as the transportation of the Gyptian people in the Thames and it's estuaries, and I wondered what the vessels looked like. Now I know.

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    1. About 9 I think JoJo. Not sure about the Golden Compass (have read it but long while ago) the Egyptians used barges to travel along the Nile, they also use barges on the waterways and canals of England, but Thames Barges were never used for human transport, only for cargo. Canal barges have become very popular in the UK over the years for people to live on and travel the waterways of Britain.

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  5. I watched a documentary about Thames barges a while ago. Very interesting. Living on one must have been quite an experience.

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    1. I would love to have seen that documentary Helen. As I just said to Ivy, I was really too young to appreciate it.

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  6. I couldn't have done it. Motion sickness has been with me all my life. But what an adventure!

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    1. I used to get very sea sick Yolanda.

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  7. How very awesome! My parents moved me into our house when I was a week old and I lived there until I married. Nothing as exciting as your story! We did have a blow up one-man boat my brother tried to kill himself in the ocean with. LOL

    Speaking of barges, here along the Ohio River the snow and ice are raising the river levels and several barges (industrial type for hauling coal, etc.) broke loose and were heading unmanned down the river.

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    1. I have never lived anywhere long Liz.

      Thames Barges were industrial originally, they also hauled coal, bricks, whatever was necessary.

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