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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Functional Boat Galley: Jaq Answers a Blog Follower From the USA

"Good morning Jaq, I so enjoy following your blog. Lots of prayers for continued recovery for Les and strength for you. I have a question. So many wonderful things come from your kitchen, I am wondering what kitchen things you have when you have such a small space. I look at all the things in my kitchen and wonder if I really need so many kitchen gadgets, pots,pans etc. Odd question.....I hope not. Take care, Karren" ~blog reader. Lebanon, Oregon, USA

   It's always a treat to hear from our readers. I decided to answer Karren's query with a post and include some pictures, while Les works on research for his next historical canal post.
   In my previous life back in the USA I used to have a private catering business. It was one way I made extra money while earning my university degree. I used to cater private dinners for 2-6 people. I also used my culinary skills to cater university child care scholarship fundraisers for 50+ people each quarter.  And once upon a time, long ago in Alaska I contracted with local families to cook their holiday pies as a way to earn extra money. I also worked as a pastry chef at a lodge.
   My kitchen at Cloudhouse in Pullman, Washington was a cook's dream with a large U shaped space, double wall ovens, a cook top, a huge refrigerator/freezer with another freezer in the utility room, double sinks, a dish washer and a large counter/breakfast bar. It had oodles of storage space and a healthy sized pantry.
   Whittling down all of my kitchen ware to what was essential on a boat with a galley about 1/10th the size of my kitchen was tough, but I had a really good guideline to follow, provided by Fine Cooking magazine. I had subscribed to this magazine for fifteen years and saved all my copies. I like it because FC is a comprehensive magazine for those who love cooking. It provides fabulous recipes with easy to follow instructions and lovely photographs to illustrate each step. FC also explains the chemistry involved in cooking, i.e. food science. I couldn't imagine throwing away my collection: all those recipes and all that knowledge! So in addition to paring down my kitchen gear I also had to figure out how to bring the best of those magazines with me.
   I decided to buy a large, high quality, hard cover "empty" book into which I added tabs for each section and pasted the best recipes from nearly two decades of my favorite periodical, interspersed with my tried and true family recipes. It took me about four hours every evening for three solid weeks to complete my recipe book. Les has nicknamed it "The bible!"
  One of the many indispensable pull out guides in FC magazine was "100 Tools for the Well-Eqiuipped Kitchen."There are seventeen items on the list I do not have as they are not applicable to my life aboard a narrow boat. Otherwise I actually have a very well equipped, fully functional kitchen, also due in large part to my Best Beloved.
Fridge below the counter...
and after the move!
When I moved aboard the boat Les had already moved the refrigerator from below the galley counter to above it. Had he not done so, I would have spent a lot of my time every day, on my knees or belly trying to see what was 
 stored on the bottom shelf in the back of the fridge. Moving the fridge up gave Les room to move the washing machine into the galley underneath the fridge and opened up room in the wardrobe for my clothes. Basically though the galley was unchanged in function. Les stored food, pots and pans and dishes in one large cupboard with two shelves, next to the stove. For a bachelor this worked just fine!
   After my 640 pounds of worldly goods arrived from the USA in October of 2011, Les set to work building a tall, narrow cupboards from IKEA bookcases to house our dishware and glassware. He built a similar smaller cupboard for condiments, and took out the shelf in the large bottom cupboard next to the stove, building in two large sliding drawers for my pots and pans. These changes increased the functionality of the galley for me. 
Outside of the smaller condiment cupboard...
and inside!
Glass & dishware cabinet.
Bottom of this cabinet with dishes and larger pots/serving bowls.


The slide out drawers Les built for me with a lid rack on the inside of the cupboard door.
   The secret to making these drawers work on a boat? Nesting everything! In the top drawer I have:  9x13 and 9x11 glass baking pans, 2 loaf pans, four strainers of different sizes, 2 funnels, a large square Corning Ware baking dish with lid, two 9" glass pie pans, a meal steamer, an ice cube tray, 6 nested Pyrex storage bowls with lids and a wire cooling rack for baked goods.

   In this bottom drawer I have medium and small Corning Ware baking pans with glass lids, two 9" round cake pans, a salad spinner, a small Corning Ware saute pan with lid, a 10" deep sided stainless steel frying pan with lid, an 8" saute pan, 3 quart stainless steel pan with a lid, 1 quart pan with a lid, three Pyrex liquid measuring cups, a set of nesting dry measuring cups, a large stainless steel mixing/serving bowl, 2 glass mixing bowls, a serving tray, and the chopping bowl and lid for the immersion blender.

   In place of shelves Les installed wire drawers form IKEA to serve as pantry storage for food dry goods, baking sheets and large platters. I love these because they hold loads of stuff, they are easy to see into and to clean.

No matter where I cook I also follow three rules: 
   1. Never cook in a messy kitchen. I always run a sink full of nearly boiling hot water with some dish soap and bleach in it. I wipe everything down before I start cooking and put away everything that is not germane to my task at hand.
   2. Lay out all the ingredients necessary for a recipe. Measure it all out, slice it, dice it, and have everything ready. professional chefs call it the mise en place or "in its place." This saves time and keeps one focused on the recipe.
   3. Clean up as you go. As I move through a recipe, I stop for a minute, turn to my hot dish water, ring out the sponge and clean up. I put away all ingredients I have finished with and wipe my work area down, drying it with a clean dish cloth. Then I move on to the next step. If I am preparing an entire meal, I take 2 minutes here and there to wash up the utensils and dishes I've dirtied, rinse, dry and put them away. It is the only way to maintain order in a small galley kitchen. 
Ceramic butter keeper
Nesting doll dry measure cups
   The items I find indispensable are: a good quality chef's knife, three 4 inch paring knives, serrated bread knife, a knife sharpener, mortar and pestle, heavy duty Dutch oven, baking sheets, 9" spring form pan, immersion blender/beater/chopper, 2, 4, & 8 cup Pyrex liquid measuring cups/ nesting Matryoshka style dry measuring cups, hand held wire whips, spice rack, IKEA stainless steel bowl, kitchen timer, kitchen scale, salad spinner, strainers, 12 quart stock pot, stainless steel covered saute pan, and ceramic butter keeper. The butter is in the lid and the bottom holds water which insulates the butter keeping it at an even temperature--important on a boat where the temperatures inside can vary by ten degrees or more from early morning to early evening. 
   I also extend my cold storage space in late fall and throughout the winter by setting large pots of soups, stews and other items in covered storage bowls on the bow locker. I also store fresh greens, herbs, root vegetables, bread, and other items in the bow locker itself. This only works in cold weather though. 
   The things I find difficult: mainly the itty bitty boat oven! It is poorly designed and does not hold heat well at all. In addition if I want to put a covered casserole dish or pan in the oven I can only put small and mediums sized covered pans on the middle rack and large ones on the small rack--otherwise the pans won't fit in the oven. All the heat goes up to the top so this means it takes longer for things to cook and cooking temperatures have to be readjusted.
   For example, in my ovens at Cloudhouse it took 30-40 minutes to bake to 9 inch round cakes. In the boat oven it take two hours and I have to turn the pans every fifteen minutes due to hot spots; I also have to switch them from the top rack to the bottom rack every 30 minutes. I have baked a 9x13 pan of escalloped potatoes for two and half hours at 350F (gas mark 4), to find the potatoes in the middle were raw and hard. The same recipe cooked in the very same pan at 350F in my home oven at Cloudhouse would take no more than 45 minutes.
   I've also had to learn to live without a toaster. In the States the oven has a heating element on the bottom for baking and another element on the top for "broiling" as we call it. One would turn the oven knob to broil and the top element gets broiling hot! Hot enough to grill a pizza or sear a nice steak on the top rack of the oven.
   Over here cookers come with a separate section called the grill. Toast is made on this grill and bacon is browned on it. I've found it good for little else. One certainly cannot grill a tender pork chop or a steak on it--it doesn't get hot enough. It is a grand place to warm the plates though! 
   I love our galley aboard NB Valerie. If we were designing a boat I would change a thing or two, but overall I am quite happy with what we've got. As far as boats go, the galley design (two counters with cupboards and utilities on each side that run for a certain length with a walkway down the middle) provides the maximum space usage as compared to other designs such as a U shaped galley. I love that I can cook while visiting with folks because it is an open plan. I also appreciate being able to stand in the middle of the galley and basically reach nearly everything by merely turning around in a circle. Our galley is five feet, nine inches wide and 8 feet, four inches long. 
The condiment cabinet is to my right as I look down the galley. The grill/oven is underneath the cook top. The fridge and washing machine are to my left. The slim dish and glassware cabinet is just past the sink on the left, with the immersion blender unit mounted on the side.
Four IKEA spice racks mounted side by side near the stove top. The condiment cabinet is at the end of the counter.

   I hope that answered your question Karren. Thanks for following along on our blog. Feel free to email with questions, etc. any time. If anyone wants the list of 100 essentials for a well equipped kitchen, just email me and I will send it along.


Neil Corbett said...

Wow! You are so organised. Sounds like you need a gas oven on the boat though, the one on our boat sounds more efficient than yours, although the grill is also rubbish. Not all British electric cookers are as restricted as yours though, mine at home does have a grill in the oven as well as a separate grill above. And I've had it for well over 20 years.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Kath,

Thanks. Yep I am pretty organized otherwise I couldn't function no matter what size my kitchen is! LOL!!

We do have a gas cooker--a Primo and it is so poorly designed we do better at heating the boat with it than trying to bake something. I've really never looked at the stoves in houses over here, except for AGA's. We don't have THOSE in the States. Brilliant technology...

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! I am humbled and speechless! Catching up on a brilliant read and mightily impressed but then I have tasted the lovely treats from that cosy kitchen! If I ever own a catering establishment, floating or otherwise, I shall call it Cloudhouse out of respect...! Apart from that - I like the name! I follow the same principles in the kitchen but cannot say I am that fact the word chaos comes to mind albeit efficient chaos - is there such a thing? Will pop out from a bush somewhere along the towpath sometime soon.....keep well, keep writing...xxA

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs