Meals On A Boat: What’s Cooking In Our Galley?

One of the questions we get asked the most from aspiring cruisers and land-based friends is: what do you eat on the boat? Provisioning is also a very popular topic on all sorts of online sailing groups and forums. So I (Elena) thought I’d invite you into our galley today. Come in! Get comfy. Sorry it’s a little cramped in here, but we can cook all sorts of meals, no problem.

popcorn out of pan

Rather than bore you with lots of recipes (you can most definitely find better ones than mine out there on Google), I’ll focus on sharing the kind of meals I cook on the boat and the key ingredients I use. This will make it easier and faster for you to understand what it is that we eat and how easy it is to get hold of it.

Oh and before I forget to mention it, we cruise in Europe and we don’t really eat meat, but I’m sure you can adapt these meals to include it. One last spoiler: I mainly use a non-stick frying pan and a sauce pan for my cooking.

Let’s get started.

Our staple meals 

Omelette with a side of veggies
We rely on eggs a lot – they’re available everywhere and super nutritious. I often cook up a courgette, onion, and cheese omelette. I serve it with a side of boiled vegetables (whatever’s available where we are). Here’s a good recipe, if you’re looking for one.

Freshly-caught fish with vegetables

I love this meal more than anything else. When we catch a mackerel, tuna, or pollock, I cook it in olive oil and garlic, sprinkle it with some herbs, and serve it with veggies or potatoes. When wintering, we buy fish at least once a week in town, so we can get two healthy meals out of it.

fish and potatoes

If we’re feeling like having some comfort food after a tough sail, I make fish & chips accompanied by cooked canned peas. I dip the fish in egg, cover it in bread crumbs, and fry it in sunflower seed oil. If we’re not in a chips kind of mood, I make garlic and rosemary mash potato.

Quick cook soup
When it’s rainy or cold, we enjoy a hot soup. I buy those quick cook mix bags which cook in ten minutes in boiling broth. I often add diced carrots and potatoes or rice to make it more interesting and just cook it all in one pot.

Salad
We’re crazy for salad, especially in the summer when it’s really hot. I try to make salad at least once a day, for lunch. It’s is easy to make and often produces minimal washing up (a big win for me). Below are some of the salad recipes I make up, often on the spot:

  • Lettuce, canned mackerel, black olives, cherry tomatoes, grated carrots and mixed seeds
  • Mixed green & red leaf salad, white beans, hummus, carrot sticks, feta cheese, and mixed seeds
  • Mixed green & red leaf salad, sprouted green lentils, apple, green olives, mozzarella (or Manchego), canned mackerel, and mixed seeds
  • Green salad, canned mushrooms, white beans, cherry tomatoes, grated carrots, and couscous
  • Quick cook boiled barley (or couscous), tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, black olives, and mozzarella (or Parmesan).

salad

How do we keep salad on board? We buy a big bag of leafy salad to keep in the fridge and keep a lettuce or two out of the fridge, at room temperature. These keep perfectly for more than a week.

Minestra
On those stormy days when we feel nauseous at anchor, we go for an even simpler meal. Minestra is an Italian soup dish made of broth and small pasta, such as orzo. We just stick it in a bowl, add some grated cheese, and enjoy the warmth of the meal.

“Tortizza” (tortilla pizza)
We never use the oven. It’s not well insulated and uses up too much gas. Anyway, it’s too hot in the summer to even think of using it. So I came up with my own way to make pizza, which Ryan named “tortizza”. I buy tortillas, wraps, or plain naan bread, and make “pizza” on the hob. I preheat a pan, place a wrap in it, decorate it with tomato sauce, mushroom, and finely grated mozzarella, put the lid on the pan, and serve the “pizza” once the mozzarella has melted. It certainly doesn’t taste anything like a Neapolitan pizza, but it does the trick.

Tortizza

Risotto
I’m Italian, so of course I love making a risotto. The great thing about it is that it’s super versatile – you can chuck pretty much anything into a risotto and it’ll almost always taste good. All you need to keep on board is a bag of arborio rice and some stock cubes.

Here are some of my favourite risottos, which I make on board:

  • mussel risotto (we forage the mussels on shore and have them fresh on the same day),
  • saffron risotto,
  • parsley and garlic risotto,
  • blue cheese risotto,
  • mushroom risotto (I use dried mushrooms),
  • spinach risotto,
  • veggie risotto,
  • prawn and courgette risotto.

The only problematic ingredient here is prawns. We buy frozen ones (they’re cheaper), let them defrost naturally throughout the day, and have them for dinner. It’s a shopping-day treat.

mussel risotto

Simple fajitas
Every now and then we need our Mexican fix. I simplified the standard fajita recipe, so we can have Mexican food almost anywhere. I cook up peppers, onions, and courgettes in either a fajita spice mix, or any relevant spices I have on board, such as paprika, cumin, and garlic. That’s the content of the fajitas.
Now, for the sauces. If I can get hold of an avocado, I’ll make guacamole, or just crush it into an “avocado mash.” If I planned for the fajitas beforehand, I will have picked up a small tube of mayonnaise, which I spice up with lime juice and crushed garlic.

“Parmigiana” and brown rice
This is simply fried aubergines in tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and a hard cheese. I cook it all in one pan and serve it with plain brown rice. If you have the time and patience, plus a good oven, here’s the original recipe.

Fried veggies with couscous
It’s as simple as that. I cook up the vegetables we have on board in some oil, chuck them into cooked couscous and serve.

Ceviche
When we catch fish, I often turn it into ceviche, especially if we fish on a hot morning. Having ceviche for lunch is very refreshing and the ingredients you need for a basic ceviche (limes, tomatoes, and onion) are easy to find.  If you want to have a look at a basic recipe, check this one out.

ceviche

Stir-fried rice or noodles
Whenever we can find soy sauce, I make stir-fry. My two favourite stir-fries:

  • Bamboo shoots, ginger, mushrooms, and garlic noodles with soy sauce
  • Pepper, carrot, courgette, onion, and egg fried rice with soy sauce.

I sometimes improvise a peanut satay sauce using crunchy peanut butter, soy sauce, vegetable oil, salt, garlic, and ginger.

Choppy Passage favourites

Pasta with pasta sauce
This is the easiest meal in the world, which is why we only really have it on passage. Just boil your favourite pasta, add a sauce, mix, and wolf down. We’ve never had trouble finding pasta and pasta sauces in European grocery stores.

Egg fried rice
Ryan’s often in charge of passage cooking, as he isn’t as affected from seasickness as I am. In the evening, he makes a super tasty egg fried rice with egg, tinned peas and mushroom, onion, and soy sauce. If I have time, I make things easier for him and cook a lot of rice the day before we leave and stick it in the fridge.

Melted cheese toasty / wrap
If it’s too choppy to cook a proper meal but we fancy something warm, we make a cheese toasty or wrap in the pan. We just cut the cheese very thin and warm up the bread or wrap in a non-stick pan with the lid on. When we don’t have bread or wraps, we have cheese and crackers.

If the passage is smooth, we just eat our usual meals – often it’s freshly-caught fish with vegetables, ceviche, salad, or omelette.

salad

Treats for when there is good shopping

Curry
I go through phases of cooking curry most nights, or not cooking it for months. It really depends on the ingredients available where we cruise. I mostly make it from scratch and serve it with boiled basmati rice. To make the sauce, I use tomato sauce, cooking cream, chopped onions, curry powder, ginger, and garlic. You’ll be surprised as to how difficult it can be to find these ingredients in some places. Here are a couple of curry dishes we eat:

  • courgette, aubergine, and chickpea curry,
  • pepper and courgette curry,
  • broccoli and green bean curry,
  • prawn, green bean, and chickpea curry.

Hummus with raw veggies
It’s rare we can buy hummus, so when we can find it, or tahini to make our own, we go crazy and have it constantly. We add it to salads or have it as a starter with carrot and pepper sticks. If I have plenty of water and patience, I make raw hummus, which is normal hummus with sprouted chickpeas and herbs (rosemary is best).

Fried halloumi, corn and vegetables
Halloumi was very tough to find this year, but we finally found it in south Portugal. We use it in salads or fry it up together with some corn and veggies. It’s addictive.

Buffalo mozzarella, avocado and tomato caprese
Another rare find, but delicious. When we’re lucky enough to find buffalo mozzarella, I make a caprese out of it. Here’s a good recipe for it.

Breakfast

breakfast

We often change our breakfast, based on how easy it is to find grocery stores, how long we plan to spend on the boat without going to shore, space in the fridge, etc. Here are some of the breakfasts we’ve had on board so far:

  • fruit salad
  • yoghurt and cereal
  • granola and banana in milk
  • scrambled eggs with a side of fruit (a post-workout favourite)
  • plain biscuits dipped in tea (great for those super early passages when waking up at 3 or 4am makes us feel nauseous)
  • cheese omelette (often an end of long passage treat)
  • porridge (never again – it’s a right pain to wash up and it often clogs the sink plumbing).

Snacks

We try to keep some snacks on board at all times, as Ryan loves a nibble. Here our our favourites:

  • fruit
  • cheese or cheese spread on crackers
  • peanut butter on sliced apple
  • nuts
  • dried fruit
  • dark chocolate
  • homemade popcorn cooked in sunflower seed oil, or coconut oil
  • jam on oatcakes (a rare treat).

If we’re in an anchorage with lots of boats, we try to go buy “guest snacks”, such as crisps and biscuits, before we invite anyone over.

popcorn

Drinks

We only drink non-alcoholic drinks during the day and we have a strict no-alcohol rule during passages. Towards the end of last season we fell into the trap of having an alcoholic drink almost every calm night at anchor. We weren’t happy with that, so we’ve changed our lifestyle: we now have 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per week, just like we used to on land. We’ll have to try to keep the habit up once we get to crowded anchorages where we socialise every night.

That said, here’s the drinks we keep on board:

  • Tea (English breakfast, green tea, lemon & ginger and all sorts of infusions)
  • UTH milk (to go in Ryan’s tea and cereal)
  • Coffee (I make it Italian-style in a moca)
  • Lime or lemon water for hot sunny days (made on the spot)
  • Soft drinks (only when it’s really hot and we can’t stand the warm water from the tank)
  • Beer
  • Rum
  • Amaretto (a cheap Lidl version of the real thing)
  • Cream liqueur (another cheap Lidl version)
  • White wine (we only buy it when we invite someone over for dinner or if it’s a special occasion).

A typical week’s meal plan

pans

Wondering what a typical week meal plan looks like?

Monday
Breakfast: yoghurt and cereal
Lunch: salad
Dinner: fish and vegetables
Tuesday
Breakfast: yoghurt and cereal
Lunch: salad
Dinner: fish and vegetables
Wednesday
Breakfast: scrambled eggs and fruit
Lunch: salad
Dinner: “Parmigiana” and brown rice
Thursday
Breakfast: yoghurt and cereal
Lunch: pasta
Dinner: omelette and veggies
Friday
Breakfast: fruit salad
Lunch: salad
Dinner: risotto
Saturday
Breakfast: yoghurt and cereal
Lunch: salad
Dinner: tortizza (accompanied by a cold beer)
Sunday
Breakfast: fruit salad
Lunch: salad
Dinner: fried veggies with couscous

All in all I think we eat a good variety of foods on Kittiwake. As we keep 90% of our vegetables out of the fridge (the exceptions are leaf salad and carrots), we always have a wide variety of fresh produce on board. This means we can incorporate fruit or vegetables in every single meal. No scurvy risk for the coastal cruiser!

BONUS TIP: at first, when you move on board and start travelling on your boat, it’s easy to forget you’re not on a permanent holiday. You feel like eating out or cooking unhealthy food all the time, just because of that “summer holiday” feeling. Enjoy it and celebrate your new life. After a while though, remember that this is now your normal, day-to-day life. Try to eat just like you would at home, bearing in mind what’s available in your cruising grounds.

Oh and refusing alcohol when eating or drinking on another boat (or bringing your own mocktail) is perfectly OK – just do it kindly. We learned our lesson by accepting too many drinks (fearing we’d be rude) a couple of times.

 

What’s cooking in your galley? We’d love to hear about the food you eat on board, so we can add some recipes to our own routine. Leave us a comment below.

Pizza cooking


11 COMMENTS
  • Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
    Reply

    Fun post! I always enjoy reading what other people eat on their boats 🙂 It can be tricky at times to remind yourself that it isn’t a holiday, it’s your life.

    1. Sailing Kittiwake
      Reply

      Thanks a lot Ellen. Yes, it’s hard at times, especially when you’re constantly on the move.

  • david brachman
    Reply

    excellent, I loved reading how you just make up your dishes!

    1. Sailing Kittiwake
      Reply

      Thanks David! Glad you enjoyed it. Elena

  • kerstinandshadow
    Reply

    Hi Elena,

    love this article. It is inspiring. I like your creative ideas for vegetarian recipes, especially the “tortizza”. You can find some pictures of the meals at my blog:

    https://kerstinundsyshadow.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/kochen-an-bord/

    The boat didn’t have a fridge. My favorite dish was pasta, turned in sesame “marmelade” called tahin once it was cooked. I used tahin instead of Parmesan cheese (no fridge). As Sauce I made a Chutney of fried aubergine, onion, red pepper and simply added a half can of sieved tomates.

    And I love pancakes with blueberries or apples and cinnamon as main dish.

    Kind Regards,
    Kerstin

    1. Sailing Kittiwake
      Reply

      Some excellent recipes in there Kerstin! Thanks for sharing. We never thought of pancakes as a main meal. Sounds delicious for a treat 🙂 Fair winds, Elena

  • Lucy
    Reply

    You are eating very well onboard! We’ve recently started making our own tortillas, which is really fun. We love huevos rancheros and of course, homemade tortilla chips. Yum!

    1. Sailing Kittiwake
      Reply

      Yes, our monthly budget is mainly spent on food. Hehe. Great ideas! You know I never made huevos rancheros? I shall look it up and try it. Thanks!

  • Julia
    Reply

    Really good, detailed post – it’s always nice to get meal ideas! I was surprised to see that peanut butter on apple slices is one of your snacks. I thought that was just one of the many things us Americans did that Brits thought was crazy. 😉 Popcorn is also a go to snack for us on Snowflake. We don’t eat much meat either – mostly fish and beans. Totally get what you’re saying about how easy it is to feel like you’re on holiday at first – eating out and drinking more than you would as a land lubber. It took us a while to get adjusted too and we find that whenever we are in an area that has a big cruising community with lots of social activities we find it more difficult, but we are doing much better than we used to. We do still have one drink at night – typically a small glass of red wine. But that’s good for your heart, right? 😉

    1. Sailing Kittiwake
      Reply

      Hi Julia. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. We probably inherited the apple & pb from you Americans. Hehe. I like to believe it’s healthy-ish.
      Yes, sometimes it’s hard to say no to drinks, especially when you’re having a great time with new friends. But hey, it’s OK to say no 🙂 It’s our health after all. One hangover put everything into perspective for us. We just don’t do hangovers.

      1. Julia
        Reply

        Oh no, we don’t do hangovers either. I don’t know that we ever really drank quite that much to get hangovers… I think it’s just more of a money saving thing and definitely (as you referenced) a health conscious decision for us to not drink as often. Alcohol is expensive, especially when going out and drinking. And we just generally feel healthier when we don’t drink as much – our waistlines thank us as well! haha! 🙂 But I think I will stick with my one glass of red wine at night, as long as I enjoy it. Boxed wine doesn’t break the budget and lasts forever. 🙂

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