The following is a guest post by Heather Francis of YachtKate.
My partner Steve and I have been living and sailing full-time on our Newport 41’ sloop, Kate, for almost a decade. Living on a voyaging sailboat is definitely living off the grid. We produce our own power via solar panels and a wind generator, we make our water with a small on-board reverse osmosis plant and our only source of hot water on board is heated via the sun. We also try to eliminate plastics from our daily lives, to choose environmentally conscious products and to eat local.
We practice sustainable living not because it is trendy but because every day we see firsthand how humans are impacting the Earth; beaches littered with trash, plastic floating in the ocean miles away from shore, declining fish populations and damaged coral reefs. You can’t see these things first hand and not take action, at least we can’t.
So, when I was given the opportunity to try the Go Sun Stove I jumped at it. Not only could we decrease our dependence on fossil fuels by reducing the amount of propane we use for cooking meals on board, but it would help eliminate one of our more difficult tasks; getting our propane tanks filled in various countries around the world.
But, I have to admit, I was skeptical. Could solar cooking really replace traditional cooking methods? Could I make the kinds of food we are used to eating with the Go Sun? Would it stand up to the rigors of being at sea, an environment that is constantly in motion and surrounded by corrosive salt water? Time, and many cooking experiments would tell.
I started with the basics; baking bread. To my surprise, on the first try, the loaves came out perfectly crisp and golden. I was definitely not expecting to get a nice crust when baking in a solar oven that produces a lot of moisture. Then I tried roasting veggies in it, another success story. Now that I was getting used to solar cooking, the variable cooking times depending on the weather, it was time to give the Go Sun a bit of a challenge. I made a chicken frittata for lunch one day while underway and instead of using leftover potatoes and veg from the fridge I layered and cooked all the ingredients in the stove. The result was a fluffy, delicious lunch that didn’t add any heat to the already steamy cabin. Next, it was time to test it portability; we planned a picnic on the beach. While we cooled ourselves in warm tropical waters our chicken adobo lunch cooked on the sand with hardly any attention from us. It was a delightful afternoon!
It had been two months since we filled our 9 kg propane tank and it was about time for it to run dry. Yet every morning for the next month the burner lit when I needed to make coffee and the oven roared for our Friday night pizza dates. We definitely noticed how much of an impact the solar oven was having on board already.
The Go Sun proved itself capable of cooking anything I put in it and quickly became a regular part of the galley (the boat word for kitchen). However, I was looking to make a special dish. Not something difficult but something that had a little “TA DA” when it hit the plate. I knew exactly what kind of cooking challenge I was up for; squid.
Squid are a type of cephalopod that are found, and eaten, all over the world. They are masters of disguise, their skin changing colours in the blink of an eye, and they are incredibly smart. Believed to live only a year they reproduce prolifically in that short time. Because of this they are considered a sustainable food source, which is important to us.
We often catch our own squid, they are attracted to shiny objects and congregate around our anchor chain, but it can get a bit messy. One of their main defense tactics is to fire a jet-blast of ink at their predators. When we buy squid at the market I look for clear eyes and very little ‘fishy’ smell. Cooked properly, squid is delicate and delicious, with none of that rubbery texture that many people associate it with. Often served deep-fried as calamari, a much healthier way to prepare squid is to bake them in the oven. The secret to baking squid is to cook it low and slow, which is why I thought the Go Sun would be perfect for this recipe. And I was right.
We ate our late lunch in the cockpit as we watched the afternoon rain clouds building on the horizon. The ingredients were simple - rice and squid and a few vegetables - but the meal was delicious. Bathed in a bright tomato sauce the squid were perfectly tender and the delicate but exotic flavour of saffron in the rice stuffing lent a decadence to the dish. It was a meal that not only fed our hunger but also our souls. We made the conscious decision to cut down on fossil fuels, if only for one meal. It might be small, but it is changing, and that’s heading in the right direction.
Squid Stuffed with Saffron Rice in a Silky Tomato Sauce
From the giant Humboldt squid in Mexico to the reef squid in Vanuatu to the Japanese flying squid that we encountered in the Philippines, squid have been on the menu wherever we have sailed. Many people are hesitant to cook squid at home but you need not be. Cleaning them is definitely a hands on job, but it’s not difficult. You can find step-by-step instructions here. It is not necessary to remove the skin but it does give them a slightly stronger flavour if left on. And don’t be afraid of the tentacles, they are actually the most tender pieces!
This is a three part recipe; the sauce, the saffron rice and, when it all comes together, the squid stuffed with the rice and bathed in the tomato sauce. If you are short on sun, or just want to spread the work load, the rice and sauce can easily be made a day or two in advance.