We finished off the last post with me excitedly getting ready to hit the town of Antibes, for cocktails at Cafe Brun, dinner at the Blue Elephant, followed by more cocktails at the Wine Bar. Us gals all got ready together between two cabins, me rather cack-handedly curling Jhel’s hair, Maria expertly doing everybody’s makeup, with the boys patiently waiting upstairs in the crew mess. By some serendipitous stroke of luck, they pretty much all individually decided to whip out a checked lumberjack shirt. Coincidence? I think not.
From left to right, we have Dylan, the South African deckhand, who loves juices with kale and especially squidgy chocolate brownies with a crispy top (no pressure there). Gabriel, the Uruguayan engineer who wishes for more pasta dishes to be put on the rotation. Steve, an English deckhand, Hamish, the New Zealand chief engineer, who comes out with whatever is on his mind, no matter what it may be, Graham, the English chief officer, who is second in command below the captain and told me my granola was burnt (I’m not bitter, I promise), and Rory, another English deckhand.
You can just about see Captain Colin in the background – but the woman is just a randomer. From the left we have Maria, me (obvs), my roommate Lovely, and Jhel.
We strolled over to our first bar, where we had a big old private room for the fourteen of us. After a round of delicious espresso martinis, I was happily slurping my strong old fashioned when head chef Michael told me he would be going back to Monaco the following day to sort out some housekeeping duties. It would be down to little old me to cook lunch and dinner for that day, plus prepare lunch and dinner for the following day, to be kept in the fridge as ‘weekend food’ for people to help themselves. Promptly, the old fashioned was pushed away and Rozza was on sparkling water for the rest of the night. Well, it was certainly fun while it lasted!
After hammering the cocktails we wandered down to the Chinese restaurant, where Michael and Colin had been uber organised and placed a massive order beforehand. Unfortunately, with it being a Friday night they were rushed off their feet, and we waited, either starving hungry or getting steadily more drunk, for about an hour before the food came. But it was delicious when it did – we had spring rolls, spicy beef salad, noodles, king prawn curry, a rather decent spread. There are no photos to show, because my hunger took priority.
Once we’d eaten, the sensible few of us took a stroll back to the boat. We have a passerelle key for each bunk, but both me and Lovely left ours in the cabin. I don’t even know what it looks like. But the passerelle is the sort of gangplank that is lowered to connect the boat to the harbour. It is down during the day, with just a little sign saying not to enter, so we can come and go as we please. But late at night it is raised up, for security reasons. The crew have told me some interesting stories of poor, drunken yachties attempting to clamber onto their passerelle without a key, and coming a cropper. Going on my to do list – locate the key!
With a fresh head, and all other crew with the day off, my day began at 8am with my first job being to start the process of baking ciabatta bread. A beautiful piece of sirloin steak was in the fridge for me to use, originally destined to become a full blown roast dinner. But with me being on my own and having double the workload of a usual day, it was relegated to the future of becoming a humble steak sandwich.
The loaf was a success, with a chewy crust and a fluffy centre. With the steak sliced on a platter I served caramelised onions, a barbecue sauce, spinach & goats cheese salad and a spicy tomato couscous. In the fridge went two Quiche Lorraines (bacon and Gruyere), a meat & cheese laden lasagne, turmeric roasted salmon, with assorted salads. A banana & walnut loaf was left on the side. No one was to go hungry over the course of this weekend.
My day off was spent exploring the town of Antibes, kicking off with a 4 mile run along the coast. The beauty of docking at these harbours is that they’re generally rather runner friendly. To keep the coast on your left was the advice given to me, as the other side is a bit grim. It’s a great way for me to attempt exercise, without the fear of getting lost.
With Michael back the following Monday, my sights were set a little higher. An ambitious suggestion from the girls of Tom Yum Kung (a sweet and sour Thai soup with prawns) had me raring to go. But first, what keeps me occupied from 8am-9am each morning is the job of clearing the crew fridge of leftovers from the night before. Emptying numerous tupperware into the bin and putting them through the dishwasher is a necessary task, which I’ll be a dab hand at soon enough. The crew have a smoothie or juice each morning at 10am. So my first trip down to the walk-in fridge was to stock up a tray with about 20 carrots, 5 beetroots, a couple of fennel bulbs, 10 oranges and a knob of ginger. These get pushed through the juicer to fill up a jug, and the crew help themselves to a revitalising booster throughout the morning. Here is where Madeleine Shaw’s book, Get The Glow comes in. Michael is so used to creating the juices that he knows what goes with what. But these recipes will see me through the first few months, as I don’t want to get in a rut and end up making juices that taste, by and large, the same every day. The fact that they have catchy names is also a bonus, as I can write that up on the whiteboard for everyone to know what exactly it is they’re drinking.
My next daily task is to chop fruit into a large bowl, to go with the lunch spread. This is a given every day, so it’s good practice to get it done, cling-filmed and put in the fridge. Michael has shown me a magical way of prepping a mango. Like most (I presume), my technique is to roughly guess where the stone is, cut through and hope for the best to get roughly half the flesh in a piece, with the skin still on. Once it’s scored into squares, you turn it inside out and slice off the cubes. But this is so inefficient, sloppy, and half my squares end up as tiny triangles hacked to bits.
Michael’s method is utterly genius! You top and tail the mango, as if it were a lemon you want to slice into wedges, so that you have a flat base and top. Slice the skin off the mango, so that it’s peeled. Then you can see the stone, and cut down either side of it, leaving you with perfectly rectangular pieces of mango that you can cube to your liking! My apologies if that explanation was entirely boring, useless, or downright obvious to you readers, but it blew my mind and has saved me so much time, and heartache, while fruit chopping.
To make the Tom Yum, firstly the Thai red curry paste had to be made. My book called The Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America came in handy for this. Our wifi is temporarily down, and this tome lives in my iBooks, so it was nice and easy to search through. At this juncture, Michael softly suggested that trying to please the girls with overly complicated recipes could well put me ‘in the s***’ by 10.30am. But this was totally do-able! And I was making this soup for me, as much as them. As it turned out, it wasn’t too much of a labour of love and it tasted bloody marvellous, with the men helping themselves to a hefty portion, too. Usually, I would eat with everyone else at 12pm, then go back to finish prepping dinner at 1pm. But we were all doing a half day, so Michael wanted us to clean down and close the galley in more of a hurry than usual. Utterly disastrously, when I went out to help myself to the spread, there was a sad little puddle of Tom Yum at the bottom of the pot, with one hidden lonely prawn amongst the dregs.
Tom Yum Kung, before the crew came down upon it, with the obligatory fresh fruit salad behind.
Chicken satay, with coriander and crushed peanuts. This wasn’t the satay sauce recipe that I usually use, and it lacked the same punchy flavour. Definitely one I will bookmark to make again, but with my usual recipe when the wifi is back in action. A simple rocket, fennel, and radish salad at the back.
Asian butterbean salad from Rachel Phipps’ wonderful blog. This salad is totally incredible – I urge anyone to make it for any type of lunch spread, Asian or not. A salmon, dill & lettuce combo is behind, made using the leftover salmon from the weekend.
Michael standing proudly over the lunch spread. Next time, I’ll ask him to take a photo of me instead!
He had his apron made specially for him somewhere in France, as he was fed up with plain black ones. I’ve been lucky enough to have been offered his second one to wear, so we can match in the galley. The girls say it’s a big honour, as the aprons mean a lot to him. I feel a little bit like a butcher with it on, but wear it with pride, nonetheless.