Cheers to a Founder

A love of sailing, people, good food, and good wine inspired the column that remains one of Cruising World's all-time favorites. A special "People and Food" from our October 2009 issue

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Courtesy Of Kate Davis

Thirty-five years ago, People & Food made its debut in Cruising World's first issue. The column was the brainchild of the magazine's late co-founder, Barbara Davis, and its mantras were twofold-"Who's where and what's cooking?" and "'Tis the appetite makes eating a delight." Herself an accomplished cruising cook, Barbara, born in England, believed that food on a boat took on special significance, and she insisted that the recipes submitted by readers cruising on lakes, rivers, and oceans around the world should receive special treatment in every issue. That philosophy continues to live on today.

In 1983, Barbara spearheaded the publication of a collection of recipes from eight years of the column, called The Best of People & Food Cookbook (now out of print). As the staffer who inherited the editorship of the column from Barbara in the early 1980s, I had the pleasure of co-editing that book with her. The recipes that follow are Barbara's. They were her favorites, and she selected them for use in that book. I think she'd approve of their inclusion in this special 35th-anniversary issue. Barbara loved good food, good wine, and good company. She had a wit as sharp as a razor clam, and she always had a twinkle in her eye. If she could see her recipes reprinted here, she'd no doubt raise her glass with a resounding "Cheers, and bon appetit!"

Lamb Dishes By Barbara Davis:

Murray and I are lamb eaters. Admittedly, some of the lamb should be classified as mutton, but if cooked properly, it's delicious. The secret to cooking lamb is to use a high temperature. This gets rid of most of the fat and leaves a brown, crispy surface.

Roast Lamb should be seasoned with salt and white pepper and cooked at 425 F to 450 F for at least 45 minutes, then reduced to no lower than 375 F for the remaining cooking time. (I reckon on 20 minutes per pound for small pieces and 15 minutes for large ones). If cooked at a low temperature, the juices leach out, and the meat is dry and tasteless. Baste several times during cooking, draining off excess fat. For the last hour of cooking, I put peeled potatoes around the meat, baste several times, and by the time the meat is cooked, the potatoes are crisp and brown and cooked through.

Swede Bash is our favorite vegetable with roast lamb; in England, big yellow turnips are called "Swedes" and are best for this dish. Equal quantities of turnips and squash are chopped small and cooked in salted water until tender, not mushy. Drain, then mash and drain again, thoroughly. (Reserve liquid). Mix in lots of white pepper and a pat of butter, and serve.

Good gravy is an essential with roast meat. I've never been able to master the roux method for gravies and sauces, ending up with a nasty, lumpy mess each time. Out of desperation, I made up my own method: After removing the meat and spuds from the baking pan, put them back in the oven to keep them hot. Drain off all except about 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Pour in the reserved vegetable liquid, adding extra water if necessary, and simmer over low heat, scraping up all the little brown bits that remain in the pan. Mix together 2 to 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour in a cup or more of cold water. When thoroughly mixed-no lumps-gradually pour into baking pan and stir constantly over low heat. As the flour cooks, the gravy thickens. Color and flavor with Kitchen Bouquet, Maggi seasoning, bouillon powder, and salt and white pepper. Just before serving, drain into the gravy any juices that have leached from the meat.

Mint Sauce is a must with roast lamb, and for me it must be more mint than sauce and never cooked! In a small jug or tumbler put lots of washed and coarsely chopped fresh mint, sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar, then pour a few teaspoons of boiling water over it to dissolve the sugar. Add malt vinegar to cover.

Lamb Stew is one of the side benefits of roast lamb, as cold roast lamb isn't particularly appetizing, and if recooked, it's revolting. I always buy a bigger piece for roasting than we can eat, leaving enough for lamb stew. Once you've finished dinner and before the remaining meat has congealed, chop it up into bite-size pieces, place in a foil pan, cover with gravy, and add a few sprigs of mint. Enclose in plastic wrap, then cover tightly with aluminum foil and freeze. The lamb retains its freshly roasted flavor and is delicious served with rice or noodles and peas. (Remember to make enough gravy to do this).

Stuffed Rolled Lamb is made from an inexpensive cut-the flank or breast of lamb. Bone it, then spread thinly with stuffing. I use fresh white-bread crumbs, onions, sage or thyme, salt and pepper, and an egg. Roll up like a jelly roll and tie with string. Cook for at least 1.5 hours at 425 F, basting and draining fat.

Lancashire Hotpot also uses inexpensive cuts-neck chops or packages of meat labeled "stew meat." Bake the pieces at high heat until brown and most of the fat has cooked out. Put the drained meat in a casserole or deep ovenproof dish. Make enough gravy to barely cover the meat. Chop up some onions and carrots and layer over meat. Slice peeled potatoes a quarter of an inch thick and layer carefully on top in overlapping slices, salting lightly. There should be four or five layers. The potatoes act like a piecrust or lid, sealing in the flavors. Bake uncovered at 300 F to 350 F for 1.5 hours. The top layer of potatoes will brown. (This can also be done in a skillet on top of the stove on low heat, but must be covered. The top layer of potatoes won't brown, but a few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce will improve the appearance.)

If you haven't thought of cooking lamb before-try it, you might like it! It's available in lots of cruising areas where other meats are often unobtainable.

Salt Cod Supreme is one of our favorite recipes. Wrapped salt cod from Canada is available inside little wooden boxes that make it ideal for stowing aboard a boat. The salt cod has to be "freshened" by soaking in freshwater for 24 hours, so it isn't a meal that you throw together in rough weather.

Cover 1 pound salt cod with freshwater and soak for 24 hours, changing the water once or twice. Drain, cut into 1-inch chunks, cover with cold freshwater, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Don't add salt!

Melt 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add 1 cup milk and heat almost to boiling. Mix 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour with 1 cup milk until smooth. Remove saucepan from flame and stir in flour/milk mixture. Return to low flame and stir continuously to avoid lumps while the sauce thickens. More milk can be added if it's too thick. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and throw in lots of chopped fresh parsley or dried flakes.

Heat a 1-pound can of chick peas in their juice. Drain and put into a dish with the drained cod. Pour the sauce over them. Serve with plain boiled potatoes and a strong, young white wine.

Lynda Morris Childress is a CW contributing editor and the editor of the People & Food column.