Our SY Pitufa came with an old-fashioned kerosene-stove. We never got the oven to work properly, adjusting the temperature remained a mystery and it heated up the boat unbearably. The stove theoretically features three cooktops, but when we tried to run two simultaneously the pressure in the kerosene line dropped to a spluttering, orange flame. We toyed with the idea of throwing the soot-spitting monster over board more than once, but in the end we learned to live with our “Bertschie“ and made a virtue out of necessity: nowadays I cook multi-course meals on just one burner—efficient and without using much energy. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t advise anybody to install a kerosene stove, but the tricks that I’ve acquired over the years also work with regular gas stoves or electric systems.
Steaming instead of boiling
I don’t have a special steamer, I simply put a metal sieve on the bottom of the pot, so I only need to fill in half an inch of water. Veg is placed on top of the grid and gently steamed (thus keeping the vitamins alive) instead of boiled to death. With this method the stove only needs the energy to get a cup of water to the boiling point instead of heating several liters.
Sure, some dishes have to be fried crispy and then the pan has to stay open. In all other cases putting a lid on keeps whatever’s cooking hot and the boat cool. You can use a smaller flame with the lid on and the cooking time is reduced considerably.
Put aside to steep
A single-hander changed my relationship with rice forever with a simple tip: it’s enough to boil rice for a short time, then it can be set aside. Simply sweat the rice with some butter (in our case one cup for two people), add water according to instructions on the packet (usually 1:2, sometimes 1:1.75 or 1:1.5), bring to boil (with the lid on) and let boil for about one minute, then set the pot aside and cover it well with a towel. After about 10 minutes all water is absorbed and the rice done. This method means for me that I can prepare a wok or curry or two on my one functioning burner, while the rice quietly finishes preparing itself. When I’m done with the main meal, the rice is ready to be served as well!
At some point I discovered that pasta can be cooked similarly: for spaghetti, tagliatelle and their colleagues I bring water to boil, add the pasta, but I only cook it for about half the time that is suggested on the package and put the pot aside. While the pasta sauce is simmering, I occasionally try a noodle and when they have reached the desired stage of “al dente“ I strain them.
Baking on the stove
Even though I haven’t used our oven in 10 years, I still bake bread every other day and we frequently have classic oven-dishes like lasagna, pies, pizza or cakes. I simply use a sturdy, non-stick pan on the stove top to “bake“ in. Dishes au gratin are gently simmered with a lid on, bread and cakes have to be flipped after half the baking-time is done—that involves some action and adrenaline, but usually works out well (and if not I hide the broken cake-pieces underneath a layer of frosting, chocolate and cream)!
SUPER-SIMPLE PAN BREAD Recipe
2 cups of wheat flour
1 cup of rye flour
1.5 cups warm water
1 teaspoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
bread spices (typical Austrian: ground coriander, ground caraway, fennel)
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, add water, stir well with a spoon (no kneading necessary).
Pour the dough into an oiled pan (with a lid). Let it rise for 1 hour then put the pan on the stove on a small flame and ‘bake’ the bread for 20 minutes with the lid closed. Flip it and bake another 15 minutes with a small gap in the lid.
PAN PIE Recipe
As I usually don’t find all ingredients for recipes in the minimarkets in the middle of nowhere, I tend to substitute and simplify. Here’s a very flexible recipe for a delicious desert (or starter):
For the filling:
Peel and slice 2 mangos or half a papaya, or collect/buy a cup of raspberries or other berries or drain a can of fruit
1 cup of kefir, or yoghurt or cream cheese
3 tbsp corn flour or corn starch
4 tbsp sugar
For the case:
½ cup of almond flour or oats or breadcrumbs
Grease a non-stick pan generously with butter and sprinkle in the crumbly base. Pour the filling on top and add the fruit. Put a lid on the pan and “bake“ the tarte on a very small flame for 10 minutes while shifting the pan every two minutes slightly (it burns easily).
Turn off the stove and leave the pie with the lid on for another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the pieces warm with some icing sugar sprinkled on!
Tip: if you don’t add sugar to the filling and replace the fruit with veg (e.g. pre-steamed broccholi and blue cheese or heart of palm pieces and parmesan you can turn the recipe into a gratin!
Birgit and Christian set out from the Med on their SY Pitufa in 2011 and have gourmandised their way around half the globe by now. Check out their blog www.pitufa.at for more info, or find their book “Sailing towards the Horizon“ on Amazon!