Cookery Chat (11) with David and Sandra Biddle 

We did live on our previous boat full time for around a year and during this time we ‘loaned’ our house to our daughter and her husband.  Even though we had been boating for 25 odd years and this had always been a dream of ours – we realised that it wasn’t fulfilling all of our needs.  We missed our friends, family and the luxuries of our cars and the space of the house and indeed the community (and pubs!) of our town.  When we decided to return back to house living our daughter (our only child) decided she liked our house so she didn’t want to leave it!!.  After a little negotiation and indeed coming to terms that with just the two of us we no longer needed a big house with all those bedrooms, office and bathrooms etc., it was decided we would look for a smaller detached house in the same town.  We are now settled in maybe our last home.  

So you may be asking, what this has got to do with boating and cooking!  Nothing really, we just wanted you to know just a few facts – Our water bill is £42, Electricity and gas £125 and rates around £300 per month and that isn’t including insurances, maintenance and so on!!  Compare this to boating and you realise why many house owners are opting for the boating life.  Our concern is that boating for us, albeit probably only 4 or 5 weeks a year now, was and is still, all about the life style, the countryside, the amazing people you meet along the way as you travel and of course the social gatherings in the various pubs and bars – it was never about a cost saving style of living.  It makes us wonder, after reading so many negative posts on social media about the poor behaviour of some boaters, many owner boaters, whether our wonderful waterways are changing – not for the good but for the worse as this new type of boater arrives, many (in our opinion) not interested in the love of the waterways but purely as a way to live cheaply, we can only hope they learn fast that kindness and the eagerness of helping one another is what it’s all about – like the old saying goes – on a boat you are never alone.  Fingers crossed we can keep hold of our chosen way of life.

Now, back to cooking!!  Outdoor cooking is now over as winter comes our way.  It’s all about keeping warm and cosy and sitting in front of the fire with a nice glass of something in your hand and a full 
stomach of hearty food.  Funny, during winter we drink less wine – and replace it with spirits, usually whisky.   Believe it or not, like our Gin, we find Aldi meets our requirements in this regard – no 
snobbery from us! Although I do like a single malt every now and then. One thing we did miss food wise when we lived on our boat was the ease of having a delivery of take-away Chinese or Indian food. That’s why, rather than stews, casseroles and pies we thought we might share our favourite recipe for a simple Chinese meal.  Something easy and very tasty for you to try.

Chinese Beef with Red and Green Peppers

red and green peppers2 Peppers – Red and Green
1lb of frying steak
2 Leeks or Onions
1 tsp of Chilli powder (or fresh chilli chopped finely)
2 tbsp dark Soy Sauce
Salt – if needed (remember Soy sauce is salty), pepper and oil
This will serve 4, unless you are hungry.
This dish is all about speed and to ensure this, prepare the meat and vegetables ready to put in the wok or large frying pan beforehand.  We find it best to thinly slice the meat and vegetables into strips
– Chinese restaurants usually dice theirs – but they have big woks and plenty of heat to speed up the cooking process.​ Heat the oil until hot – not smoking - add the beef and stir fry for around 5 minutes.  Now add the vegetables and stir fry for a further 3 minutes, add the seasoning and soy sauce and stir fry for another 3 minutes – the dish is now done, however, throwing in half a tin of chopped tomatoes and a squirt of tomato ketchup and a bit of Worcestershire Sauce can benefit this dish no end.

Fried Rice (egg fried rice)

chilliesHeat 3 tbsps of oil in a wok or frying pan, add 8oz of long grain rice and salt and stir fry for 5 minutes. Pour in 1 pint of boiling chicken stock (water with chicken stock cubes), cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. A whole range of things can be added to this rice once cooked – garlic slices, onion finely chopped, frozen peas or even cooked chicken – just add and cook for a further minute or two.

For Egg fried rice – take the rice out of the wok and wipe round the Wok.  Now add 1 tbsp of oil and add one or two beaten eggs and stir until half done – add the hot rice and stir well for a minute or so.      

Hope you enjoy this meal.  Being heat lovers we add three or four fresh chillies to the Beef dish – but be warned – you will need a few cans of beer close by.  See you next time.


David Biddle, Sandra BiddleDavid & 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.

Contact details:  Email



10: bbq sauces

In July we took our planned trip and moved the boat to our new CRT mooring at Foxton Locks. The trip would usually take two or maybe three days – but we decided to do it at a leisurely pace of seven days! Stocked up with provisions we headed off early Saturday and purposely boated by our favourite canalside pub in Braunston and through the locks hoping we wouldn’t get held up.

Everything was fine and we partnered up with a great couple. The tunnel was another matter, we encountered TWELVE boats coming the other way!! We moored up soon after and opened a much needed bottle of wine.

You know we are no wine snobs – in fact we like a range of wines and go for flavour rather than label and price! Our favourite wines are red full-bodied and we get most of our wine in bulk from Naked Wines and Majestic Wines who are now the owners of Naked. Just before our trip we were invited to our monthly wine tasting session at the local Majestic wine shop in Market Harborough and during this pleasant and free flowing alcoholic evening we tried an amazing wine. We promptly ordered three cases to be delivered and also purchased twelve bottles to take home with us – ready for the boat trip. This wine has an awful name and a rubbish label – but tastes delicious – it is called ‘The Guvnor’. The only problem being is that it is so tasty you just have to finish the bottle and more!!

The trip up the Watford Locks the next day was a bit of a blur due to too much wine, but afterwards we started our 23 miles or so of ‘lockless’ water. This stretch of canal is one of our favourite waterways. Stopping off and mooring up at many places, including a night at Welford was pure heaven and the weather was also quite good.

We decided not to set up the BBQ, but to cook onboard and dine out whenever possible. Our meal at the Wharf Inn at Welford was really good and not badly priced. Unfortunately the real Ales got the better of me and I had a bit of a wobbly walk back!

On route to Foxton Sandra and I discussed how many people BBQ in the summer months, we laughed at the times things had gone disastrously wrong – over cooking and undercooking the meat and the long drawn out process of trying to serve everyone at least some food throughout the evening. You might guess that this form of cooking isn’t our favourite – however, boring charcoaled food can be turned into something with taste and style by introducing good marinate ‘rubs’, as the Americans call them and sauces. So, we thought we would share with you a few of our favourites which are sure to delight your palates.

‘Rubs’ are basically dry ingredients you rub over your meats and then leave for the flavours to infuse. Best to do this in the morning ready for the evening BBQ.

Marinates are the same – but these are liquid forms and again, you leave these to allow the meat to take the flavours.

BBQ sauces are used to coat the meats and vegetables whilst they are cooking. They help to impart more flavour, but more importantly they keep the meats juicy.

BBQ sauce with a twist

  • 3 cups of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder (optional) or use finely diced fresh onion
  • 1 tablespoon of red chilli flakes or powder
  • ​1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup of tomato ketchup

This makes enough for a number of BBQ’s – but you can always reduce the quantities.

Tow path scrounger BBQ sauce

  • 4 cups fresh blackberries or you could use other berries
  • 2 cups chicken stock (can sub vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chilli powder


  1. Add blackberries and chicken stock to a medium pot over high heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until blackberries start to break down, about 6-7 minutes
  2. Mash blackberries well in the pan. Then let the blackberry mixture cool. I f you have a blender on board blend well.
  3. Press blackberries through a mesh strainer to remove seeds. Add sauce back to pot and bring back to a simmer over medium heat.
  4. Add other ingredients to the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
  5. Taste and season BBQ sauce with salt as needed.
  6. Allow sauce to cool.
  7. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

makes 3 to 4 BBQ portions of sauce


BBQ ‘Rub’ mixture

  • 3 tsp Paprika
  • 3 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of mustard powder
  • ½ tsp of black pepper
  • ½ tsp of coriander powder
  • ½ tsp of oregano

If you have a large BBQ with lots of meats – increase proportionately the above. You can always keep this in an air tight container and use as required through the summer months.


cookery chat with david and sandra biddle 9

healthy onion bhajis

This month we decided to have a trip from our moorings near Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford canal to Foxton Locks and back. It was a leisurely trip of two weeks, stopping for the odd meal and drink along the way – like you do!!
Our surprise find was at Crick, we walked the 20 minutes into the village and found a pub called The Royal Oak – poshed up with bright colours and trendy furniture which is not our personal taste for a village pub, however, part of the pub is converted into the ‘Spice Lounge’ which was an authentic Indian restaurant. We had our usual delights and a couple of beers and were quite impressed giving it a rating of 8/10. The only negatives being the portion sizes. We like to be fed and fattened and although there was sufficient food at £50 for the two of us we were hoping to be able to take away the left-over’s!
We had trouble with our heating system and at Foxton we had the Webasto unit taken off and diagnosed for faults, so we just had to moor there for a few days longer than we anticipated enjoying the delights of Bridge 61 and the boating fraternity that frequent this ‘real’ boaters watering hole!!
Living a couple of miles outside of Market Harborough we nipped home and whilst there re-stocked with food and also had time to make a really quick, boat kitchen friendly snack which is ideal to eat after a few beers or while boating along our lovely waterways. Spicy Onion Bhaji’s – you must have a go at this and if you don’t like spices – leave it out or add your favourite flavourings – we have even tried it with added mango chutney. Unlike other recipes for this old favourite, there is no need to use specialist flours such as Chaat etc.

Spicy Onion Bhaji

This is a real healthy snack, and if like me, you are trying to lose a bit of weight – these are really good.
4 - Small onions
1 – Tin of Chickpeas (33p from Aldi)
2 – Cloves of Garlic
1 – Egg
1 – tablespoon of curry powder
½ - teaspoon of turmeric
Salt as required
  • Slice thinly the onions and put to the side.
  • Now drain the chickpeas and add the rest of the ingredients, mash this mixture up – use a hand blender or potato masher – but make sure it is well blended until a smooth paste exists. It will have the constituency a bit like mashed potatoes.

onion bhajis chick peas, turmeric & curry powderonion bhaji mix

  • Now stir in the sliced onions, we use a spoon for this, but using one of your hands is just as good. Make sure it is well mixed.
  • Make into small balls and put onto a grease proofed dish

onion bhajis on baking tray uncooked

  • Cook in the over for 20 minutes on a low light until the last 5 minutes then heat on full to brown the edges. You can shallow fry these if you are not conscious of calories.
  • Serve these with yoghurt mixed with mint leaves and half a teaspoon of mango chutney (mixed together of course) or apricot jam and salad. This snack can be served hot from the oven or enjoyed cold.

onion bhajis out of ovenonion bhajis ready to serve

Next time Sandra and I are going to be sharing BBQ ideas. Subject to the weather remaining fine!!

8: beef in beer sauce 

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.


7: chicken and pineapple (cold weather)

Last year when we owned Captain Hastings a 58ft Dutch Barge style narrow boat we winterised her for four months over the winter period. This was the worse decision we have ever made – firstly we missed nipping on to the boat for the odd weekends during winter and secondly when we un-winterised her it took ages for her to warm up. We also had a broken fridge and microwave - whether this had anything to do with this process we have no idea – but funny that both would not turn on after this period! 

This year on our 41ft Sea Otter (Hercule) we are not doing this. We have purchased an electric oil radiator and intend to turn off the water and leave taps open and we are told this will be ok – especially as we will be visiting regularly. 

Someone informed us that he was ‘cling filming’ his windows to help condensation – we did that last year and getting the tape off the windows afterward was an awful job – we even purchased special fluid – but it still took us hours. 

I have made round wooden disks with a thermal lining for the portholes which pop in and out easily when required and similar for the larger windows at the bow of the boat – albeit these are made of foam for easy cutting. They don’t look great from the outside – but inside we have no condensation issues and they are a little more protection for when the bad weather comes our way. 

We also have a very good dehumidifier which we put on when hooked up to a landline and this allows us to cook without producing too much humidity.

Taking the above into account we have avoided cooking for long periods – or producing food that produces a large amount of steam, so our pressure cooker is out of action. We have been drawn to the WOK for its ability to cook fast and although we are Indian curry freaks – we cannot say no to a good Chinese now and then. Mostly when we fancy one of these – we opt for a takeaway, but in this weather who wants to leave a warm and cosy boat. Our typical evening is pyjamas on, wine in and a glass of something good in our hand!! So, its good to know that Sandra can cook an authentic Chinese when the fancy takes us.

This is one of our favourites and it’s really easy to do. We serve it with egg fried rice – or just good old fashioned boiled rice.

Chicken and Pineapple

2 tbsp sesame oil
1 celery stick sliced to your liking
1 onion chopped
2 chicken breasts sliced into strips
2 tbsp plain flour
½ pint good chicken stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 can of water chestnuts (or a good handful of peanuts crushed)
1 can of pineapple chunks in natural juice – drained


Heat oil in Wok and stir fry the celery and onion for 3 minutes. Then add the chicken and cook for a further 2 minutes, stir in flour and pour in the stock. Bring to boil, stirring at all times then add the soy sauce and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in water and chestnuts and pineapple, then simmer for a further 5 minutes. At this stage you could add cooked noodles and/or bamboo shoots. Serve with rice. We sometimes add a bit of chilli sauce at this stage – to spice it up a little!

Hope you all have a healthy prosperous New Year – cheers!!!


6: chilli chicken (it's all happening on hercule)

The months just fly by when you are having fun, and that’s just what we have been doing as we have been getting used to our new boat.

Moving to a smaller 41ft boat I thought it would have been an easy challenge, but how wrong could I be. Our old beast of a boat was a 58ft heavy and solid Dutch Barge style narrow boat and you basically pointed her in the direction she wanted to go and she went – rain or shine, windy or calm. This new boat ‘Hercule’ is another matter altogether, being built of aluminium she is much lighter and with a good breeze she does move around a bit to say the least. A matchbox (if you can remember these) in a bathtub being blown comes to mind. Last weekend was fine until I was reversing (not the easiest thing to do on a narrow boat anyway) into our mooring. Goodness me would she get in there. Finally on the fifth attempt and with maximum use of the bow thrusters she slipped into place. Paddy a fellow moorer couldn’t wait to pop over and have a laugh about it!!

david biddle nb herculeOther than this problem, she is perfectly formed and already we are getting used to the smaller boat. Someone once said that on a well designed boat you don’t need lots of room and I must admit they were right. Everything is to hand and now that we have had installed a new inverter, solar panels and a new battery bank of three 130ah batteries she is ready for some cruising. 

Unlike last year we have decided not to winterise ‘Hercule’ and make maximum use of her (most weekends at least) through the winter. Of course we will leave a heating source on board and drain the pipes of water when the frosty times come – but I’m sure we will be very cosy.

david biddle nb herculeA smaller boat has come at a price regarding food storage and we have both had to scale down what we can carry on board. So far we have the basics but over the next few weeks we are seriously going to look at the boats larder of food stocks necessary to allow us to cook quality food. Fortunately the main chef (as she is a fully qualified chef and x teacher of food I feel it necessary to give her the title) is already building up a short list of essentials and is preparing for a ‘big shop’ this coming Saturday. However, there will be some changes not having the luxury of a full size freezer or the bags of storage cupboard and drawer space we used to enjoy. Watch this space to see how successful we are in managing this process.

david biddle narrowboat herculeAnother major influence to our future eating habits on board is me! 

Three years ago our only child Emily got married to Elliott, in preparation to this I finally decided to tackle my weight issue (issue to everyone else I might add – never been one to me!). I went on a strict diet and lost three stones in weight (as we are leaving the EU I feel less guilty not using metric!!). As with all diets they don’t work 90%+ of people who attempt them revert back to bad habits and put more weight on! Although I didn’t put a lot of weight back on, it did start to creep back. 

In January, I decided to join a Slimming Club with a healthy eating and therapeutic ethos. This has been ground breaking for me, I have realised that I am an emotional eater and now I know that I can reflect on before early retirement having one of the most stressful jobs (running a group of schools for children with Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties –SEBD) that eating was the way I coped with this. I am now learning to live without using food as my stress beater. No easy thing to do, especially as I have done this for most of my adult life. 

I am now half way through my journey and moving toward the 4th stone weight loss. I feel a lot better – but the main advantage has been learning to enjoy healthier cooking by changing ingredients to alternatives that have less calorie values. 

Our wine stocks are still there – but are not being replenished as quickly as they used to. Our tipple is now gin or vodka with no sugar mixers. 

Fingers crossed I carry on being successful – slowly does it, as its a life change not a quick fix I’m looking for.

This month’s menu has been developed to take into account the healthy choice we have made by not using a lot of oils and fats – but still being really tasty. I have this with an additional tin of diced tomatoes to make the gravy go further served with a bowl of basmati rice. If I feel naughty – half a Naan bread as well!! Hope you enjoy the slimmers delight.

Chilli chicken

  • Chicken(pieces) - 250 grams.
  • Lemon juice - 1 tea spoon.
  •  4 - 6 sprays of Frylight or 2 tsp oil
  •  Red chillies - 5-6 numbers.
  •  Onions(chopped) - 1 cup.
  •  Crystal salt - to taste.
  •  Red chilly powder - 1 tablespoon.
  •  Coriander powder - 1/2 tablespoon.
  •  Coriander leaves(optional) - 1 tablespoon.
  •  Curry leaves - 1 spring.
  •  Lime juice or lemon juice - 1 tea spoon.
  • Brine chicken with little lemon juice, salt, water overnight.
  • Take a pan and spray oil over red chillies and cook it, later add onions, little crystal salt, curry leaves, and sauté it. Add little water if too dry
  • To it, add red chilli powder, coriander powder and sauté it.
  • Add chicken and mix nicely, cook it for 15 -20 minutes on slow flame with lid on it, frequently sauté it for every 3-4 minutes.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, add coriander leaves, squeeze lime juice and mix nicely.


5: brinjal potato curry (Hercule)

The last few months have been quite stressful for us two. For a long while we have been contemplating selling our loved Captain Hasting Dutch barge style narrowboat. The main reasons being that it was built to be a live-aboard boat and with us now spending more time at our house, we felt it was being wasted. We also calculated that we had spent less than four weeks on board in the last two years. So when the opportunity came along to sell it to two lovely like minded people – we sold it. 

Having been boaters for 25+ years owning a range of boats from small Springers to traditional boats – we couldn’t just stop boating. We looked at the possibility of share boats – but our style of boating is week-ending and having short one or two week trips as and when we want. Being a little restricted of when and where we could go boating meant that this option was not on the table for us.

Around 15 years ago we became besotted with Sea Otters and almost purchased a 55ft boat from Sawley Marina – but at the last moment we came to our senses that £85k was too much. (this was a lot of money for a 4 year old boat 15 years ago – it is now!!). So, in the back of our minds we both fancied revisiting the Sea Otter range of boats.

We did quite a bit of research and joined the Sea Otter Owners Club, and most of the negatives highlighted by non-owners were unfounded on further investigation. We made a decision that our next boat was going to be a Sea Otter. 

We viewed a few 30ft models – but being very sought after boats, there were not many for sale, we also realised that although these were perfectly formed – they were a bit too small for us and we would miss having a separate bedroom.

Finally we drove down to London to look at a 41ft boat – unused for the last two years and purchased from new by the owner selling it. It was exactly what we wanted – definitely in need of some love and attention, new battery banks, inverter, solar panels and new DC fridge. We agreed a price and spent the next month or so trying to arrange delivery to Debdale Wharf and sorting out the work required.  

Last week we became the proud owners of an immaculate 41ft perfectly formed in terms of design boat – as with all of our boats we always name them from Agatha Christie novel characters (in the past we have had – Miss Marple, Miss Lemon etc) this boat was named Hercule. When we met David Suchet recently we told him this and he said he thought the name was an excellent choice. 

You may be asking what this has to do with the food editorial we contribute to on a regular basis. Quite simply it has a massive impact. Unlike our previous boat which had an AGA style cooking range this one has a traditional 4 burner gas stove. This has meant we have had to look closely at how we cook and prepare meals – we have also opted not to have a microwave onboard – so our main cooking is on the stove, use of a slow cooker, pressure cooker and course our COBB for the sunny days we have left this year (if any!!)

With us being so busy and learning how the new cooker cooks – if that makes sense, this month's recipe is something simple to try. We hope you enjoy as it is something for the cool nights ahead of us.

Brinjal Potato Curry


Mustard seeds - 1/4 tea spoon
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tea spoon
Cumin powder - 1 tea spoon
Coriander powder - 1 tablespoons
Chilli powder - 1 tablespoon
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tea spoon
Salt - to taste
Oil - 3 tablespoons
Tomatoes - 100 grams
Onions - 100 grams
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tea spoon
Eggplant (aubergine) 150 grams
Potatoes - 150 grams
Coriander chopped - 1 tablespoon
Mint leaves(chopped) - 1 tablespoon


1. Boil potatoes
2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker add onions, salt, saute it and add ginger garlic paste, tomatoes, turmeric, chilly powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, mix this and put the lid on. Let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes in a low light (4 to 5 whistles). Use this gravy in many veg and non veg curries
3. Heat oil in a pan & add mustard seeds. When mustard seeds splutter, add cumin seeds, eggplant pieces, salt, mix it well and put the lid on. Let it cook for 3 minutes.Then add water and again put the lid on and let it cook till eggplant is tender
4. Then add onion gravy. Cook this for few minutes, then add potatoes (boiled) cook for 5 minutes then switch off the flame, & add coriander chopped


4: beef stew (pressure cooking)

June and July have been incredibly warm this year, in fact it has been roasting and almost unbearable to sleep on the boat, never mind cook! 

Earlier we chatted about BBQ’s and the love of our Cobb. But, to be honest salads and BBQ’s after a while can become very boring and tiresome in our opinion. Sandra also finds cleaning up after a BBQ harder than instructing me to wash a few pots on board!  

The answer to this dilemma is to cook a meal that uses the least amount of rings on your stove. In our case it’s about not turning on our Heritage Uno (AGA equivalent) but to use the slow cooker or our pressure cooker – sitting on our small spirit stove. Our little spirit stove is safer than a gas ring and it’s great for cooking things slowly. We got it from Germany; they use these sorts of stoves quite a lot for camping holidays. 

pressure cookerSo what is pressure cooking? It is basically a process which allows water to go above boiling temperature (100 degree C or 212 degree F) under pressure. It means water can go to 250 degree F and with it being under pressure steam is forced through the food cooking it faster. It is also incredibly good for tenderising cheaper meats.

Until you have had experience of cooking with a pressure cooker, it can be a little scary, the pot hisses and spurts and some people can feel anxious about it exploding – which modern pressure cookers can never do as they have safety valves built in to release the pressure if it becomes too high. 

The thing to remember is to bring it to boil and then let it simmer. It’s also really important you reduce cooking time accordingly or you will open it up and have a disaster awaiting you!! 

The other things to consider are making sure you add sufficient water to allow the steam process to take place and cook the food. Basically the rule is a quarter of a pint of water for every 15 minutes of pressure cooking – simple!

When the food has been cooked and it’s time to turn it off – it will not allow you to open the lid until the pressure has dropped. You can leave this to cool down and release the pressure slowly until the lid can be released – or you can, with a tea towel, hold down the valve and let the pressure out faster - whatever you feel most comfortable doing.

pressure cooker david biddleThe costs of the pressure cookers vary quite a lot; it’s mainly down to who has manufactured it (Prestige etc) and whether it is stainless steel and so on. Being thrifty, as we are, we wanted a small cooker ideal for two and one that wasn’t too costly. We sourced ours off ebay and paid around £10.00! Brand new.

Cooking preferences: -

If you like meat or indeed vegetables to have browning then before cooking without the lid on brown off the meat and or vegetables with a little oil or butter. (keep the juices!!)

Some thickening additives like gravy or soup can stick to the bottom – so thicken up at the end or add sufficient water to stop this.

Remember if you are adding vegetables at the same time as the meat then don’t expect them to be al dente.

Are you ready to try a recipe now???



1½ pound (680g) diced beef or beef of a joint of brisket diced (cheapest cut as the meat will tenderise lovely)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil or butter
2 small onions , finely chopped
3 garlic cloves , crushed and chopped
2 celery stalks , chopped
2 carrots , chopped
sherry wine (optional) could add a bit of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon (8g) flour
Bay leaves
Dried thyme
3 potatoes diced large (large)
Chicken Stock Mixture
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock – those new chicken stock ‘pots’ are great for this
1 tablespoon tomato sauce or brown sauce – you decide!
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tin of tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste


1. Prepare the Pressure Cooker: Heat up your pressure cooker over medium-high heat.

2. Brown Beef: Trim off excess fat on the beef brisket. Then, generously season the beef brisket with salt and pepper. Add oil in the pot. Ensure to coat the oil over the whole bottom of the pot. Remove beef

3. Make Chicken Stock Mixture: While the brisket is browning in the pressure cooker, combine chicken stock and sauces - soy sauce etc.

4. Vegetables: Now add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, then add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are tender and brown, then add garlic and add chopped celery, carrot, then cook for 2 minutes.

5. Deglaze: Add a dash of sherry wine and completely deglaze the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Then, allow the wine to reduce. Add the Chicken Stock Mixture to the pot.

6. Beef : Add the beef – it should be deiced into 1 – 1.5 inches cube chunks, then toss with flour.

7. Pressure Cook Beef Stew: make sure the beef chunks are spread out, so each piece can soak the stock mixture. Don’t stir the beef as you don’t want too much flour to get into the stock mixture. Then, add bay leaves and rub dried thymes against your fingers and sprinkle them in the pot. Add the potatoes on top. Pressure Cook at High Pressure for

8. -Stovetop Pressure Cooker: 35 - 45 minutes, then Natural Release


Hope you try the above – adding a little curry powder gives it a great twist!



3: barbecue cooking

We had a bit of a quandary last week when we were out on our boat. Basking in the sun as we boated down the Oxford to Napton junction it was decided that it was too hot to heat up the boat cooking. Unlike most boats we don’t have any gas and all of our cooking is done on a Heritage Uno cooker, basically an AGA equivalent, it also supplies all of our heat, central heating and hot water as well. These are great for our country's climate where we have only a few weeks a year of scorching hot weather. However when it’s very hot it can heat the boat up too much and of course it takes an hour or so for the whole cooker to stop throwing out heat. The odd weeks in a year when this happens we revert to healthy salads or the BBQ.

Sandra and I to be honest have never been salad people and the only time we have enjoyed them have been on holidays to America where they serve them dripping in high fat dressings – our favourite being blue cheese dressing. So we mainly stick to the BBQ, however, neither of us actually like to BBQ. In fact when invited to friends for the annual obligatory BBQ we visit with a sense of intrepidation, as nearly all of the time the meats are charcoaled, over cooked or worse undercooked and at least one of the hosts has to be sweating over the BBQ for most of the time. Meat feasts are not our delight but we still enjoy well cooked marinated meats BBQ style. 

A few years ago during summer time we spent ages trying to find a good BBQ for the boat. It was with luck, that whilst on the cut one evening our friends Colin and Heather asked us to join them for the evening. 

david biddle cobb barbecueSitting on a pop up table there was a smallish silver half globe with very little smoke coming from it but with an amazing aroma of cooking meats with a hint of herbs and spices. We soon learned that this contraption was a COBB – a smoker style BBQ. 

On further investigation I realised, other than the lid, that the bottom and sides were cold to the touch. Colin informed us that sometimes, so long as the smoke is blowing away from the boat, that he sits it on top of his boat and cooks from there. What intrigued us about the COBB was that neither Heather nor Colin attended the unit. We just sat there drinking and enjoying the conversation.

After about an hour, they took the lid off and started to serve us, smoked chicken fillets, tandoori chicken, baked onions and green peppers and the most amazing garlic potatoes. Heather nipped onto the boat and came back with a bowl of green salad and a couple of baguettes. The food was delicious, all simple stuff, tasty and not a bit of carbonised meat – all tender and extremely succulent. Of course it was washed down by a glass or two of wine!

inside cobb barbecueThe following week we ordered a COBB – not cheap, around £130.00. We also purchased the obligatory cook book to accompany it. Since then we have enjoyed many COBB evenings. Basically you load tin foiled vegetables around the coals in the centre, you then put the meats on a raised mesh, put the lid on and leave it for approximated hour. Lift the lid – all cooked. We find it definitely our sort of cooking. The only down side is that they are a pain to clean – so whilst at the Crick boat show last year we treated ourselves to some disposable foil liners for the COBB which you can throw away after each cooking session without the need for any cleaning. Result!

Over the next few months we will be looking at recipes for the BBQ, this will give you time to buy one of these. (Don’t worry I’m not an sales agent – I just like to celebrate good bits of boating kit!).

COBB official Website Link 


 2: baked beano, corned beef & potato (boat larder)

david biddle herb gardenIt amazes us how wonderful some boats look with the addition of home grown pots of flowers. Many also have small herb pots. This is a great way to add flavour to your food at very little cost if growing from seed. We think the following herbs are essential and if you can this year or next try to start cultivating these.

Basil, coriander, mint, chive and coriander – you can even buy kits in cute little boxes, albeit a little expensive.

With these herbs you can add them to meals straight from the plant. You can even pick and then dry them, especially sage and thyme and then store them in air sealed containers. (We treated ourselves to small Kinder jars from IKEA for this purpose). We would also suggest growing your own garlic – dead easy to do.

Last month we also talked about spicy food. We grind most of our own spices as we need them for our various recipes. We find powder spices lose their pungency over time. 

The essential spices you should try and keep on board are the following: 

Black pepper, bay leaves, cardomons, cinnamon, curry leaves, fennel seeds, Mustard seeds, coriander seeds and leaves, Turmeric powder, chilli, Cumin, Fenugreek seeds and leaves, ginger (fresh if possible) garlic (fresh if possible).

Curry powder and Garam Masala can be made from the above to your own tastes if you have a grinder. We will be covering the blends for this at a later date.

Other items that should be in your larder or fridge are - basmati rice, lentils, tins of tomatoes, yoghurt and salt.

Over the next few months we will be using most of the items in the boat larder, so it will be worth getting the above on board. We always find it so frustrating that you get half way through a recipe and then find an ingredient missing. Being on a boat you can’t always just ‘nip’ down to the shops.

Recipes of the Month

This month, rather than tying you to the cooker with a complicated dish we have gone simple with these two, one a great lunchtime snack and the other an evening meal.


Savoury Snack - Baked Beano


Tin of Beans
2 slices of Bread
Tin of Corned Beef
Cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

What to do

Toast both slices of bread, then butter lightly, top with slices of corned beef making sure you cover right to the edges. Heat beans up and then drain beans slightly using a slotted spoon and layer onto the corned beef toast. Top then with grated cheese and sprinkle lightly with Worcestershire sauce.

Now place under a grill until the cheese is bubbling and then serve on a plate pouring over the remaining bean juice. Beautiful, tasty and simple.


Savoury Corned Beef and Potato 


Tin of Corned Beef
Beef stock – 2 OXO cubes in a half cup of hot water

What to do

Butter an oven proof dish then with crushed garlic go round the dish. Slice potatoes thinly and layer on the base, then layer with thinly sliced onion and top with sliced corned beef. Do this again until a quarter of an inch from the top of your dish. Pour over the beef stock. Cook at a medium heat in the oven for 30 minutes – take out and cover with grated cheese and sliced tomatoes. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables – we usually serve it with baked beans!


1: chicken balti (introduction)

We are David and Sandra Biddle, we have been boating now for around 25 years and currently own Captain Hastings a brightly coloured yellow Dutch barge style narrow boat. We retired when I reached 56 a couple of years ago and the first thing we did was to move on board of our boat and travel. In fact we did over a 1000 miles and 700+ locks in the first year. Nowadays we spend time both at the boat and our brick home in Northamptonshire.


Sandra and I were married in the early 1980’s and she soon took up her role in the business as a cook, however, unlike me she is a qualified chef and is very precise in the way she cooks and serves food. At home 80% of the cooking is done by her, she says it frustrates her watching me ‘throwing’ things together – even though they nearly always turn out good!

When out on ‘drinking nights’ you will often find us drinking pints – good ales for me and believe it or not, pints of Guinness with a tiny splash of blackcurrant – Sandra believes this balances the bitterness of the drink.

DAVID BIDDLE NB HASTINGS ARGABack to cooking now, On board Captain Hastings we have a full size under counter Freezer and a Fridge, we also make maximum use of the drawers in the kitchen to keep a good stock of essentials including spices and dried herbs. We cook on an AGA style range (Heritage Uno) which has a large hot plate and oven. We also have a small mentholated spirits counter top hob, which we use if we are not firing up the range (we call it Big Bertha!), a microwave, slow cooker and infrared red oven – the latter items being used when we are hooked up to electric or on the go, so as not to drain the batteries. In summer times we also make maximum use of our Cobb smoker BBQ which is a brilliant bit of kit for use outside.

We intend over the next few months to discuss an essentials pantry for the boat. How many times do you get a recipe – only to find you are missing an ingredient? 

We will also be passing onto you a range of tips and tasty dishes that you will be easily able to cook on the boat or indeed on the cut if you have a BBQ. 

Alongside this, we will share with you our thoughts on the different alcoholic drinks available, our favourites – which will of course be value for money. Gone are the days of my wine snobbery.

For your information we go through phases of what types of foods we like, for the last decade or so, after spending quite a bit of time holidaying around India, we seem to be very biased towards spicy foods, however, previously it was Italian and early on it was good old English food with a smattering of French! So, our menus will hopefully embrace a range of palates! 

We hope, from next month when we start publishing our recipes and more - that you will enjoy our banter, the food and the drink suggestions. 

We are also happy for you to ‘friend us’ on our personal Facebook and on the Narrowboat Nosh and Canal Cooking Facebook forum or indeed if you wish contact us with ideas and suggestions (moans and groans as well) by email

Our Chefs' Recipe of the Month...

This was shared on the Narrowboat Nosh and Canal Cooking Facebook Forum (11/4/2018)

Chicken Balti

This is a great authentic chicken Balti you have to try. It has been adapted to suit our tastes, but we believe it is as good as that served up in Indian Restaurants.


1 tomato, peeled and chopped (or can of chopped tomatoes)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and grated (or ginger paste – you buy this from Supermarkets)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped and crushed with the back of your knife (or garlic paste – you again can buy this from Supermarkets)
2 chicken thighs, skin and bone removed, chopped into 1 inch chunks (thighs are cheaper and tastier)


1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (methi) – leave these out if you can’t find this
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala (you can buy this already blended – but later we will show you how to make your own) 
pinch of salt
2 small chopped green chillies (seeds taken out if you want reduces heat)
a handful of torn fresh chopped coriander


Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and fry, stirring occasionally until translucent and soft 5-7 minutes).

Add the chopped tomato and stir through. Then add the ginger, and the garlic.

Stir well for a minute or so and then add the turmeric, paprika and chopped chillies.

After a minute add the chicken. When it is completely white / browning add the cumin, garam masala and the dried fenugreek leaves. Stir through and add a glass of chicken stock (approx a wine glass / 200ml). Bring to the boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Top up with hot water from the kettle if you need to but bear in mind that the dish is meant to be quite dry.

Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary. Stir through the fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Eaten traditionally with naan bread but we also have white fluffy rice.

Note – you can vary this recipe by doing away with the chillies and adding 4 heaped tablespoons of coconut yoghurt (Muller Light is ideal). It produces a more Southern Indian flavoured curry – a bit like a Korma curry.