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Monday, August 25, 2014

Norton Junction

Having come up the lock flight from Braunston and gone through the tunnel we decided to have a few days at Norton Junction where the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union starts. Our mooring was just before the last bridge on the main line before the junction. This gave me access to Long Buckby station(35 minutes walk) and a train to my Urology appointment.

As I said before all was well but just the last few days has seen an appointment turn up for this coming Wednesday for a pre-op check up. Strange as I am due to see the surgeon this coming Friday to tell me the results of my Water soluble contrast enema.
If you remember when Mr. C was cut out the damage was sewn up and this test was to see if anything leaked before the sewage pipe was put back as it was. Anyway the Urology surgeon told me all was good.

Today being a holiday I have no way to check/alter appointments but can only assume the Colorectal surgeon has asked for the pre-op so he can on Friday tell me the results of the leak test and add me to the list for the Stoma reversal surgery.
The plan was to hire a car for the Friday appointment and see family at the same time. Now I might jump on a train for the Wednesday pre-op as I no way want to delay my getting on the waiting list for the surgery. Tuesday and a couple of phone calls will decide my best plan.
A view from the mooring.
Norton Junction. Braunston and our mooring are to the left. Leicester arm straight across and to the right the Buckby flight and downhill all the way to London. Coming from Braunston turning up the arm the view is limited by all the overhanging trees. To the right the maintenance depot has gained some extra boats.
Fourteen vessels taking some mooring space from boaters and reducing the canal to single lane in one place. If your counting the Blue ones are motorised and there are a lot like the one in the foreground, towpath side, hidden amongst the Blue tops.
Looking up the arm
and down. Plenty of width to get through but no clear view of anything coming from the right.
Daft place to put a water point
Time to walk around while the water tank fills. This is a genuine Shepherds hut, well the chassis is. It was rebuilt on an original chassis and is just a bit wider than the original. The lady of the house told me it was used for extra sleeping accommodation. The huts were used by Shepherds during lambing season and were towed into the fields by horse or tractor. Link HERE.
The footbridge replaced a swing bridge and all thats left to see is the guide rail.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Drifting along through the counties of England


The carved wooden village sign

One of the village streets
Another day back on the boat heading for another village mooring.
Upper Weedon and Lower Weedon known as Weedon Bec. Bec is a place in Normandy and following the Norman Conquest the manor of Weedon was given to the abbey in Bec hence Weedon Bec. Later Eton College became lords of the manor. More HERE.



Just a few spots of rain but just about the time she hopefully said "I do" the heavens opened for an hour  so not sure about the wedding photos following the service. Perhaps they used the umbrellas. Weedons hidden canal.
 
A nice bit of thatch on the roof and signs of the 1696 window tax on the upper floor to the left of the door. Perhaps our government might try to re - introduce it after the bedroom tax failed.  I can hear U.S. readers asking so here`s a link.
 



William dates back to 1931 and is now a camping boat. Twelve bunk beds on board and at a cost of  £200 ($324) per day including skipper seems a cheap camping experience with a difference. Cost that to hire a canal boat that comes without a skipper and his canal knowledge.      

Here comes the Admiral, must tell her to keep away from the top gate.





Now that is what you call leaking gates.

 What it looks like when the gates are holding back the water. This flight of seven locks at Buckby raise the canal by 63 feet and when you get to the top and perhaps are sitting in the new Inn with a pint just be grateful they didn`t build the intended 10 locks back in 1790.

All Saints` church Braunston.

All saints` has stood above Braunston for a thousand years in one form or another this one was built in the mid 1800`s.

The red dome of the windmill is a 20thC addition. The original mill was 80 feet high and had a castellated top. It was built in the early 1800`s to compensate a miller whose mill at the top of Braunston locks was unworkable as the canal came through and took it`s water. The Anchor was a pub attached to the mill at the top of the locks and with the six other pubs in the village it`s easy to see why the boat people loved Braunston.  There was of course a lot more to the village for the working boat people than just the pubs.

Just love this but know nothing about it. Only guess is it is the old timber frame of an old cottage once adjoining this building. Braunston History link
Some neighbours at a mooring along the way.
Goodnight.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Three Sisters Basque Chicken Casserole

"My friends are my estate." ~Emily Dickinson
   
   This is a food post--a really, really yummy, make-your-eyes-light-up-and -your-tummy-happy recipe. You will love this dish so much you won't want to talk--just eat! A bowl of this casserole prompted our nine year old grandson Kiernan to exclaim, "Nanny Jaq you are the world's best cook!"
  Why is the recipe called "Three sisters," and who you may ask, are these women? All three are boaters. Two of the women are North Americans and one is a Brummie.
   Back in 2012 Les and I enjoyed a delicious meal of Chicken Marbella cooked by Canadian Rita Talbot, (NB Maple Knot). If you ever get an invitation to dinner on her boat you are in for a treat! Rita is a skilled cook and like me, she also enjoys tweaking recipes to suit her tastes and those of her husband Scooby who is notorious for his love of hot-Hot-HOT food.
   In 2013 we we enjoyed several delicious dinners fixed by Brummie Jacquie Leek (NB Like Ducks 2 Water). She made a smoked cheese stuffed chicken breast that was to die for and a Basque Chicken Casserole which we really loved. Jacquie is another woman who knows how to tempt one's taste buds. Oooh sister-friends!!
   As you now have surely guessed, I am the third sister. I offer grateful thanks to Rita and Jacquie for introducing me to food flavors I'd never considered before. Rita opened my eyes to the use of Cream Cheese in savory cooking and both women introduced me to the holy duo of Chicken and Chorizo. Hallelujah and blessed be!
   There was something innately nourishing and filling in both recipes. As I very often do, while cooking, I think "What special things can I do make this recipe my own?" I came up with the idea of combining Rita's Chicken Marbella and Jacquie's version of Basque Chicken casserole with some techniques I've picked up over forty five years in various kitchens from my mother's (she was a restaurateur and school cafeteria manager. I once spent an entire summer as her sous chef when she took a job as cook and kitchen manager for the local Girls Scout summer camp for 75 very hungry girls), through various jobs such as kitchen worker for Northwest Airlines Flight kitchens, a pastry chef at a fishing lodge, and eventually running my own catering concern, providing everything from intimate dinners for two, four, or eight diners, to luncheons for 55. So here we go!!

Three Sisters Basque Chicken Casserole (serves four)
INGREDIENTS:
Here are the basic ingredients.
150 grams (1/3 of a pound or four small links) of Spanish Chorizo, with cases removed, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 and 1/2 boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut into 1 & 1/2 inch chunks
2 Tablespoon of good olive oil
2 Tablespoons of tomato puree or tomato paste
1 large red pepper, cleaned and sliced into 1 & 1/2 chunks
1 large green pepper, cleaned and sliced into 1 & 1/2 inch chunks
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
190 grams (1 cup) of Uncle Ben's Long Grain Rice (cooks in 10 minutes)
500 grams (16 oz.) of Tomato Passata (or diced canned tomatoes run through the blender if you don't like the chunks)
60 ml. (1/4 cup) of Santa Maria yellow peppers, diced (sub JalapeƱos if you want this fiery hot)
250 ml. (1 cup) of water
2 ounces of Marsala wine
150 grams (1/3 of a pound or 5.3 oz.) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
You will need the following powdered spices in varying amounts as the recipe unfolds so get out the spice jars and measuring spoons and follow the recipe closely as we build flavor in layers:
sweet paprika (not hot)
garlic
Ancho chile powder (not hot)
Smoked chipotle chili flakes
cumin
salt
pepper 


INSTRUCTIONS:
 1. Cut the chicken breasts up and sprinkle with 2 tsp. paprika, 1 & 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. Ancho chile powder, 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste. Toss to coat the chicken chunks and set it aside in a bowl.

2. Clean and slice the green and red bell peppers and onion, setting them aside in one large bowl. 

3. Measure out one cup of long grain rice and set it aside.

4. Remove the Chorizo links from their cases and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. 

5. Preheat the oven to 350F (Gas Mark 4). 

6. In a large saute pan add 1T. of good olive oil and the sliced Chorizo. Cook on medium, allowing the Chorizo to brown lightly on both sides and render most of the grease into the pan. Keep the grease which will add flavor to this dish without--I promise you--making it taste heavy or greasy.

Keep the grease--it's loaded with taste
7. Remove the Chorizo from the saute pan quickly with a slotted spoon and add the seasoned chicken chunks to the rendered Chorizo grease, cooking on medium until the chicken is lightly browned all over. It does not have to be completely cooked through as it will continue cooking in the oven. Quickly remove the chicken from the saute pan with a slotted spoon and set aside with the Chorizo. 

8. Toss the cleaned, sliced bell peppers and onion into the saute pan, adding a drizzle of olive oil if necessary to keep them from sticking and burning. Season with 2 tsp. of paprika, 1 & 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. of Ancho chile powder, a 1/2 tsp. of ground Cumin, and 1/4 tsp. of salt and black pepper to taste. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently until the onions have softened and separated into layers and the peppers have browned slightly.
 

9. Turn the heat down to medium low and move the vegetables over to one side of the saute pan. Squeeze 2 Tablespoons of tomato puree or add 2 T. of Tomato paste to the cleared area of the pan and stir it for one minute. This will begin to brown the tomato puree or paste and remove the raw taste, giving it depth and flavor. After a minute or two, stir the vegetable into the puree and mix well, coating the vegetables.
Add the tomato puree and brown it for 1 minute.

Throughout this recipe we are working on building flavor layers so don't worry about how much spice we use and don't dump it all in somewhere at once! It will not taste the same. The spices are layered into the dish to cook with specific ingredients which will eventually all marry their flavors together in the end. The other flavor builder is browning the tomato puree or paste. Tomato paste is VERY acidic. Browning the
puree or paste adds depth and will provide a smoky flavor to the dish.
 
9. Add the chicken and Chorizo back into the pan with any juices and grease. Stir to mix with the vegetables and add one cup of long grain rice, stirring to mix well. Cook for about three minutes. 

10. Add in 1 ounce of Marsala, setting the remaining ounce of the wine aside to use later. Stir well to bring the fond off the bottom of the pan (the browned bits of meat and veg).

What it looks like before it goes into the oven...
11. Add in the carton of Tomato Passata (or can of sieved tomatoes), stirring well to distribute the liquid and the solids throughout the pan. Fill the Passata carton halfway (125 grams) with water and rinse the remainder of the tomato and water into the assembled meat, veg and rice.

and what it looks like after 45 minutes.
12. To the saute pan now add 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. Ancho chili powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste. Now is the time to add the red chili flakes, if you want this to be spicy and fiery hot. Add the 1/4 cup of diced yellow peppers or jalapeƱos. Mix well and spoon everything into an oven proof covered casserole dish. 

13. Bake for 45 minutes and remove from the oven. Remove the lid and pour in the remaining ounce of Marsala wine. Mix well. Spoon in 150 grams of Cream cheese and mix very well until the cream cheese is completely incorporated into the tomato sauce. Cover and allow to sit for five minutes. Serve with warm crusty, buttered rolls or garlic crostini. and a chilled glass of wine. Salud!
The final product. Mmmm-let's eat!!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

A bit of cooking, electrical, medical and a boat

I think Jaq did mention how thrilled she was with her proper sized cooker. I know it still makes her smile every time she uses it and she always has her head in her personal recipe book.
 As I write this I can smell a Chocolate Cinnamon Espresso cake that just emerged and soon the smell will change to home made bread; a new recipe that Jaq says she will blog. I will say I prefer this softer texture to the Artisan bread.

If you have already glanced at the pictures you probably haven`t got the connection between electrical bits and cooking.

The cooker has a cooling fan that removes excess heat from within the casing of the cooker. it usually only comes on after the grill (broiler) or oven has been on for a long time. This fan is not to be confused with a fan oven which is a different beast altogether.

This cooling fan and the electronic ignition both run on 230v (120v in U.S.) and  this presents no problems on the boat in fact our 3000watt inverter that converts the boats 12volts to 230volts is much to big for this small load.

Following some inquiries on the Internet canal forum a member stated he had the same cooker and the load was about 25watts and a small 150w inverter had run his perfectly. 
Our 3000watt inverter is situated under the stern stairs and is only used when the washing machine or my power tools are in use. My idea was two fold in that running a small inverter would save power and if Jaq had it installed in the kitchen life would be easier for her.
Some time ago I installed  new power cables to feed our two laptops and I allowed in the thickness for any future power needs, glad I did.
So I needed to break into the cables and feed the 150w inverter for the cooker.  Now my usual way would have been Scotchlok like the Blue and Yellow ones in the picture. Push it over the main cable insert your power cable to whatever you are supplying, squeeze the metal pin down and with one on the live and neutral you have power.
 Of course my feed went through a switch and fuse before the 150w inverter.

Now what all this is about is the fact my stock of Scotchlok connectors had over the years dwindled.
Just recently I got a train back to Watford for an appointment with the Urology surgeon who signed me off as being A1, just wish it had been the Stoma reversal surgeon but that, IF they don`t cancel again is on the 29th.

Anyway this all gave me a chance to get the connectors which turned out to be harder than I thought. One place introduced me to the Wago connectors and as my train wouldn`t wait I bought them.

 Up to five cables can be connected in bigger units, just lift the locking lever push in the cable and lock down. I will say though they are not as quick as the Scotchlok that has no need to cut your main cable or cut back the insulation on your extra feed.

I must admit the advances in cable connectors has passed me by with my old stocks being sufficient during my years afloat.




Das Boot, German for the Boat. People name their boat for all sorts of reasons but the problem with this one is it has U238 on the bow. Might be the odd old sailor still around who would not like to be reminded about German submarines. My dad, WW2 navy, would be none to happy if he was still alive. Maybe it`s all for innocent reasons, the naming, but perhaps some thought would have been nice.
I can think of examples of bad boat naming but would rather not stir bad memories so they will stay in my head.

We have the cheese boat, the book boat, the fudge boat etc. etc. I now give you the CD boat although I don`t recommend buying any.













Friday, August 15, 2014

Stoke Breurne and Blisworth Tunnel



Stoke Breurne has changed it`s visitor moorings. As we came up through the lock flight we noticed that even the very bottom past the water point was 2 days, WHY. This is far from the busy tourist/gongoozlers area around the museum and pubs above the top lock.
We moored two locks below the museum area in a 7 day section, was 14 days originally, intending to stay for one night. Three hours later we both decided it just didn`t feel right with signs everywhere that seemed to be saying;  "ok so your here and don`t think about staying to long, also forget any ideas about staying too long in the area in the next month." You got the feeling all these signs had cameras watching you.

Mooring in the zones is free for the published time.  An extended stay charge of £25 (including VAT) per day applies if …
  • you do not move on after the maximum stay time within any one of the zones between Blisworth Tunnel and the welcome sign below the towpath footbridge (bridge 54b).
  • you stay longer than 7 consecutive days between Blisworth Tunnel and the welcome sign below the towpath footbridge (bridge 54b) , or
  • you spend more than 14 days between Blisworth Tunnel and the welcome sign below the towpath footbridge (bridge 54b) during any calendar month
The area is visited daily by visitor mooring rangers, volunteering on behalf of the Canal & River Trust, who record your boat number.  Extended stay charges will be invoiced monthly and recorded on your boat licence account.

 Not being great lovers of busy moorings Jaq took the tiller and we climbed the last two locks and Jaq steered into her first tunnel. Four boats came through towards us and Jaq passed each one perfectly, no scrapes or bangs.
Just a very short piece of video as I had to get back on the stern in case Jaq needed help, turned out I could have sat inside and read the paper. 



Exiting the tunnel on the Blisworth side it was good to see the old Tunnel Hut had been restored. When you click the link above take a look at the links within the site. Scroll to
section on the interior Murals and make sure you read the instructions before clicking the `VIEW` link. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Steam on the cut

We had just arrived at the pub to eat out when before I had a chance to get the camera set to video President and Kildare came into Braunston.
The histories of both can be found HERE, just click about in the top menu bar.



The following morning they pulled out of Braunston Marina heading for Crick.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fellow bloggers Converge at Braunston

"What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open." ~ Jose Manuel Barroso, Portuguese politician and 11th President of the European Commission
    Les' Urology post-op was originally scheduled for August 5th (over two months since the surgery occurred and rather pointless overall but there 'ya' go), then canceled and rescheduled to August 12th. Since we were heading for the Leicester Arm anyway we decided to nip down to Napton first and visit with our friends Andy and Tina (NB Ytene). As always we thoroughly enjoyed their company and a delicious dinner at the Kings Head pub. Thanks you two, for a great day out.
   We spent three days total on our favorite part of the old North Oxford canal before it became part of the Grand Union canal. The views across the fields are stunning, with total peace and quiet at night. No noise or light pollution to disturb one's sleep. The stars and planets are easy to see on a clear evening, but mercy me was it busy and looking back, we had no idea the ins and outs of boating we would encounter along the way!
David and Lisa's boat. Sorry we missed you!
   I brought our boat through Braunston where we spotted NB What a Lark moored up but no one was home. If you haven't read their blog you are missing some really fine writing and spectacular pictures. 
   On through the narrow water lane of boats and through one of the double white arched bridges I steered, onto the old North Oxford heading south.
   Les took over shortly after. We took our time as it the wind was brisk, this canal is full of winding S curves which one cannot see around, and we were not in any hurry--per our usual modus operandi. 
   Earlier as we were traveling down the Braunston flight, Les had put our airer (clothes rack, for Americans) out on the bow and pinned the freshly washed laundry to it. The large flannel bed sheet, large terrycloth bath towel, and other items would dry in the sun and wind in no time. 
   Just after we passed the winding hole beyond Bridge 99 I looked to my right and spotted a corner of my light blue bath towel sinking quickly out of site in the cut. I warned Les and tore down the stairs and up the boat to the bow to secure the laundry to find everything had vanished!!
   After doing a mental accounting of the laundry items which had disappeared which assured me I could replace them easily from Ikea, I decided not to have a melt down. I walked back to Les and told him, "Our airer is gone--it's all gone into the cut!"
    He didn't believe me at first, then he started to reverse back and look for it all but I knew our large pale blue flannel bed sheet, large blue bath towel, assorted tea towels, etc. were still pinned to the airer which was laying on the bottom of the canal. We spent the following ten minutes vacillating between hysterical laughter, embarrassment (yes there were boaters on permanent moorings watching us) and shame, knowing there is a high likelihood in the future some poor sod will end up with our laundry wrapped around their prop. Now we know how those duvets and sleeping bags end up in the cut!
   As we sat moored up last Monday Les counted twenty two boats passing in one hour. We watched a hire boater in the early evening sun take the S curves of this canal at full boar and, having caught up with a meandering hire boater who had been about fifteen minutes in front of him, Ramjet the Rookie decided to overtake the plodder only to discover he was not on the A5 carriageway and a boat was bearing down on him from the opposite direction. You cannot pay for such entertainment.
Me with Amy and James next to MB Willow
   We upped sticks Thursday morning to make a feeble attempt at heading back up the Braunston flight, stopping at Midland Chandlers for some boat bits and bobs, then cruised off to the water point where a short time later a large blue and white boat with a wooden hull slipped smoothly in front of us and Amy and James on WB Willow appeared on the towpath!
    We had sandwiches on our boat and tea on theirs while the water tanks filled.
   Les and I had an initial tour of MB Willow just over a year ago when we visited Cambridge for a day with John and Jackie on WB Pippin. Amy and James being neighbors and friends, took us on a tour of Cambridge that included punting on the backs. They had just recently taken possession of Willow and she was basically a remodeling construction site in progress. Still, with strong, solid bones and a grand past it was well worth their time fitting her out to live in. We've followed their blog with fascination for the past year as Amy and James have taken every remodeling and construction task to heart with determination.     Now MB Willow is a lovely, wood filled floating home filled with energy and love. There are wonderful touches in every section as James and Amy have restored it livingly while making Willow their own. If you love old working boats then you really must check out their blog. We parted as Amy and James continued on toward Birmingham and we moored up just before the Braunston Marina bridge.
   Amy had mentioned NB Yarwood was still moored up at Braunston and of course we knew this somewhere in the dim recesses of our aging minds but as we came down the flight on the way to Napton we totally forgot to look out for them, so we decided to walk up to the bottom lock and say hello to Joe and Lesley. We had a tour of Yarwood, which was full of firsts for me: first tug style bow, Beta tug engine in its own engine room (not under the floor), and first time I ever entered a boat by a side hatch (lovely wide steps with a reasonable rise for short legs). It was all fascinating and teh new changes that Joe took us through will only add to the lovely atmosphere aboard their floating home. Tea and donuts in the late sunshine and a good natter with the Yarwoods and we wandered back to NB Valerie. 
   I was too knackered to cook so we decided to eat out and Les chose the the Boat pub for old time's sake. We arrived just in time for him to take video of the steam boat President and its butty Kildare which he will include in another post. 
   We sat outside in the balmy evening air with menus. Les ordered scampi, chips and peas; I ordered rump steak, king Prawns on skewers over a red pepper salad with the house dressing. Dinner arrived: Les' was exactly what he asked for, while mine was not. No King Prawns in sight anywhere. Instead a clutch of wet, pink baby shrimp had been haphazardly scattered across my salad. I called the waitress to the table and explained my concern. For nearly £15 I was not going to accept canned shrimp in place of King Prawns--no way. 
   She apologized and went back to the kitchen to check with the chef, returning to say they were out of King Prawns so a substitution had been made. She asked if I wanted something else from the menu instead so I ordered Beef and ale pie with steamed potatoes instead of chips. It arrived ten minutes later and was an equal disappointment. The potatoes may have been steamed but they had no butter, parsley or anything on them--just dumped on the plate gray and naked, accompanied by a small gravy boat.
   The substance in the boat resembled gravy only in its coloring. It was awful--with absolutely no recognizable taste of anything at all. The Pie was dry and overcooked so I ate what I could and covered it all with a napkin. Needless to say we will not be returning to the the Boat pub in Braunston and we do not recommend it to anyone else.
Boots and Bones coming down the lock flight
   The next morning we set off about 9:30--after The steam boat President and its butty went ahead of us up the Braunston lock flight at 8:30 promptly followed by no less than six boats in quick succession. Lesley had offered to help us up the flight so I gave her a ring and we met her at the bottom of the locks. About half way up we spotted none other than NB Bones coming down the flight with Boots on the roof.  Lovely to see you both again!

    It took us about forty five minutes to move up through the flight with the help of other boaters too. Lesley and I had a lovely natter. Thanks again for your help and company! Sadly though Les took pictures of Lesley and I with his new ee Kestral phone, the pics it takes on zoom are too blurry for anyone to tell who may be in them. 
   Shortly after we entered Braunston tunnel and I counted eleven boats including us in the tunnel at one time: eight passing us, headed for Braunston and two following behind us. We fetched up on a soft bank one bridge before the turn up the Leicester arm and decided to stay here for a few days.