canal cuisine

cookery chat with david and sandra biddle

Well how lucky are you who are living on your boats throughout the winter months? You will be enjoying a warm cosy boat and I bet some of you will even being opening the windows to let some of the heat out. Not only that, you will be enjoying the changing scenery of our lovely waterways as the winter sets in. Completely the opposite of us – holed up in our brick home trying to keep warm rooms that we don’t really use or indeed need. I opened the OVO energy app we have the other day to see how much our joint gas and electricity energy bill was for December - £163.00, just for one month which wasn’t particularly cold!! So, boating life has its advantages.

lesson learned

The other month we told you that we are not winterising our boat as we want to make use of it through the winter at weekends. We still turn off the water pump, drain the water out of the pipes and leave the taps open when we are not on board. We also left an oil radiator on thermostat – just in case. You can imagine my shock when we received our electric bill from the marina last month and it was £90.00, especially when you consider we hadn’t been on board for the whole of January. On further inspection of the bill it seems the marina owners penalise boaters who go over a certain amount of energy users by doubling the cost!!

We took a trip over to Hercule our boat and I realised that I had set the oil radiator to its full setting and that the thermostat was set at 12 degrees!! We immediately altered this to 6 degrees and reduced the heater to 400w output. No wonder the boat was warm when we got on board. You live and learn.

shopping around

Tomorrow we have decided to spend a week boating on the Oxford canal; already we are getting excited and packing essentials. I have also been instructed by Sandra that I need to do the shopping this afternoon so she can catch up on things at home. For years we always shopped at Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Waitrose we believed the marketing blurb regarding quality and so on. However, around 3 or 4 years ago we started to shop at Aldi and now this is our chosen place for our ‘big’ shops. We find the essentials are just the same wherever you go and that Aldi does stock some excellent products – including chocolate!! The quality is good and actually we prefer their own range of baked beans and so on. Their Gin is award winning and is very good indeed. With restricted choice we still have to go to Asda.

As you know Spices play a big part in our cooking (covered in earlier articles) – shopping can be difficult for these and expensive. We try to shop in authentic Indian stores for ours – whole spices where possible which we grind into little pots when needed using an electric coffee grinder. Remember, often it’s not the quantity of spice used, but the freshness that gives good taste in cooking.

eating out and eating in

We have decided this week whilst on the boat; we will eat out most nights. We don’t always do this, but we both feel as though we want to class this as a holiday. Nothing special – pub grub will do, and my diet this coming week will go on hold!!

One of the meals we will cook on board is a simple and is a great hearty tasty winter meal.

beef in beer sauce

4lb of Brisket (boned and rolled)
lb streaky bacon
1lb of onions
½ pint of stock
¼ pint of wine
½ pint of brown ale (essential you drink the rest whilst preparing the dish!)
tablespoon of treacle
Salt, pepper and bay leaf

In a casserole dish cover the bottom with the streaky bacon and place the beef on top in the middle of the dish putting the sliced onions either side of it. Mix the beer, stock, wine and treacle together and pour over the meat. Season and cook for 3 hours until the meat is tender. We will be using our pressure cooker and will adjust time accordingly. Slow cookers are great for this dish or use a cast iron pot on the wood burner. The smells are amazing. Thicken the sauce up if you like with a little corn flour and serve with crusty bread or roasties. YUM!!

We hope you enjoy this tasty dish.


David & Sandra Biddle have been boating for around 25 years. They have both made their careers out of cooking, and enjoy sharing their passion for food and good wine. Their tastes are wide ranging - from spicy, to Italian to good old English.

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