the luncheon of the boating party


Luncheon: such a delicious, exotic sounding word. So much more evocative than a boring old lunch. I’m sure no one ever has a luncheon alone, scoffing something microwaved at their desk between emails. No, for a luncheon there must be company, and an abundance of food, an ourdoorsy setting, plenty of booze and of course the whole afternoon to make the most of it all.

The first time I became aware of the very concept of a luncheon was when I was a young country girl attending the local primary school. Things were pretty light-on when it came to art but there was one picture hanging in our library that I absolutely loved. The piece in question was a replication of Renoir’s famous work, ‘The Luncheon of the Boating Party’. I spent many an hour wishing that I could swap places with one of the beautiful ladies in the picture, just so I could find out exactly what a boating party’s luncheon would involve.

So whenever I am invited to join my boat-owning-friends for a leisurely summers’ day lolling around Sydney harbour, I jump at the chance. While our modern boating attire tends to be more bikini & sarong than the bustle & parasol of Renoir’s ladies, I’m always thrilled at the chance to be experiencing the joys of a boating party luncheon.

When it comes to boats, I must admit that I’m a little hazy when it comes to telling the difference between the port and the starboard or which ropes need to be pulled and when. But point me in the direction of the galley and I come into my own. So whenever I’m invited aboard, I tend to volunteer to stick to what I know best….feeding the sailors.

While most modern boats are pretty well equipped in the kitchen department, I find that it’s better to plan ahead and treat it more like a picnic excursion. This way I don’t miss out on any of the action and also it minimises the cleaning required after the luncheon has concluded.

A couple of easy to handle nibbles are a great way to start. Then some seafood on the BBQ is pretty much mandatory, especially when you can take the boat around to the Sydney Fish Markets to pick up fresh-as-fresh supplies. All that is needed then is a couple of prepare-ahead salads and something sweet for afternoon tea to enjoy with a coffee from the very entrepreneurial ‘espresso boat’….all good things…

a summery boating BBQ luncheon
fennel & anchovy grissini with marinated olives
BBQ squid & chorizo kebabs
chickpea salad with tomato & smoky paprika
wild & tame rocket salad
little pistachio cakes

fennel & anchovy grissini with marinated olives
Makes 40
Adapted from a recipe published in the Jan 07 Gourmet Traveller by Adelaide Loucas.

These little bread sticks are the perfect thing to nibble on while relaxing out the back of the boat, taking in the sun, with your feet dangling in the harbour.  Speaking from experience they go equally as well with a glass of Campari as a crispy well chilled Riesling.

There’s something about playing with yeast that is very therapeutic. If you’ve never tried bread making this is a good starting point as it isn’t so critical if your dough doesn’t rise that well. Just keep in mind that yeast tend to be a little like Goldilocks – a bit sensitive temperature. So make sure your water isn’t too hot or too cold but just right and your yeast will reward you.

250g bread making flour**
8g dried yeast
1t sea salt
150mL tepid water
olive oil
40g anchovies
2t fennel seeds, roasted
2 cloves garlic
1T extra virgin olive oil
zest 1 lemon
marinated olives, to serve

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and stir in 1T olive oil and your tepid (body temperature approx 37C) water. Stir with a fork to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for approx 5mins. You want the dough to be just past sticky. So if too sticky, sprinkle your hands with flour and if too dry wet your hands slightly to knead.

Lightly oil your bowl and place dough inside. Cover with clingfilm and place in a cosy warm spot. Allow to rise for approx 1hr or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile for the anchovy filling, combine anchovies, fennel seeds, garlic and lemon zest and pound until you have a smooth paste. Stir through olive oil and season with pepper.

Divide dough into 4 balls and working with one at a time, roll out on a lightly oiled surface to a rectangle approx 16cm x 25cm. Cut into approx 10 smaller rectangles roughly 8cm x 5cm. Smear 1/4 of the anchovy paste over the rectangles then roll each into a long cigarette shape and place on a lightly oiled oven tray. Repeat with remaining dough and paste.

Bush the tops with water and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Bake at 200C for 15-25mins or until golden & crispy. Serve with olives passed separately. Or allow to cool and then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

**note. bread making flour has a higher protein content than regular flour which helps give the gorgeous fluffy texture of a good loaf. I buy mine from the supermarket but unfortunately it only comes in 5kg packs so I try to use it at every opportunity. For this recipe you will still get a good result if you substitute regular plain flour.

BBQ squid & chorizo kebabs
serves 8
Adapted from a recipe by Karen Martini, in Sunday Life.

Squid and chorizo are the surf and turf equivalent of a perfect match.

Boat BBQs tend to be electric and pretty uneven in their heat distribution so it’s best to avoid things that are likely to stick or require thorough cooking, like chicken.

1.2kg small squid
2T olive oil
2T lemon juice
2T dukkah**, optional
4 chorizo, thinly sliced
lemon halves, to serve
chickpea salad with tomato & smoky paprika, to serve (recipe below)

Place 16 bamboo skewers in water to soak for at least an hour before you’re ready to use.

To clean squid cut off tentacles. Pull head to separate from the body and discard head and guts. Remove the ‘quill’ from the side of the body and peel outside skin. Slice down one side to open up then cut into thirds. Rinse and pat dry. Combine oil, juice and dukkah if using and season. Toss through squid and allow to marinate for 10mins or so.

Thread chorizo slices and squid onto the skewers alternating approx 2 pieces squid for every chorizo slice. BBQ on a hot preheated plate until well browned on all sides. Serve on a platter with lemon wedges on the side and salad passed separately.

**note. For a description of dukkah and a recipe for making your own click HERE.

chickpea salad with tomato & smoky paprika
serves 8
Adapted from Karen Martini in Sunday Life.

Soaking and cooking chickpeas takes time but the results are a bit like the difference between canned beetroot and cooking your own. If you are short of time use approx 3 x 400g cans best quality chickpeas. Drain thoroughly before use and if possible rinse with boiling water to minimise the tinned flavour.

This salad will keep well in the fridge and make a great weekday work lunch either on its own or with a little feta crumbled over. It also transports well so is great for boating and picnics.

2C dried chickpeas, approx 400g
2 bay leaves
2T olive oil
4C garlic, thinly sliced
1 red onion, peeled halved and thinly sliced
300g tomatoes, chopped
125mL tomato puree
2 pinches saffron
2t sweet smoky paprika
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2T dry sherry
1T sherry vinegar
large handful flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

Soak chickpeas overnight. Drain and place in a very large saucepan with the bay leaves. Cover with plenty of clean water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approx 60-90mins or until well cooked. Drain.

Meanwhile heat olive oil in another large saucepan and cook onion and garlic over a medium low heat for approx 10mins or until starting to soften. Stir in tomatoes, puree, saffron, paprika and lemon zest and simmer for approx 15mins or until slightly reduced and thickened. Stir through reserved chickpeas (or tinned if using), lemon juice, sherry and vinegar. Warm through and season well.

Either serve warm or at room temperature with parsley stirred through at the last moment.

wild & tame rocket salad
serves 8
Dressing adapted from former MG Garage chef, Janny Kristysis’, great book Wild Weed Pie.

I’m a massive fan of bitter leaves in general and rocket (arugula) in particular. I started out with the larger leaf ‘tame’ or domesticated variety but have since come to favour the smaller leafed wild variety.

At a recent dinner cooked by my lovely friend Mands, I was really impressed with her delicious salad based on large tame rocket leaves and decided to  reintroduce them to my salad repertoire. The result was this this ‘wild and tame’ combo.

large bunch rocket, stems trimmed
4 large handfuls wild rocket
for the dressing:
1T white wine vinegar
1T dijon mustard
100mL extra virgin olive oil

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and season well. Shake to combine. When ready to serve place your leaves in a large salad bowl or platter and drizzle with a little of the dressing. Toss until the leaves are lightly coated adding more dressing as required.

Keep remaining dressing in the jar in the fridge until ready to reuse.

little pistachio cakes
makes 12
Adapted from Breakfast Lunch Tea Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini.

These little cakes are deliciously moist and more-ish. They also make a great thankyou gift in the case that you require the services of the marina staff to assist in parking your boat under high wind conditions.

You could make one large cake (25cm diameter tin) if you prefer. If you don’t have access to a plentiful suppily of shelled pistachios, you could substitute other nuts such as pecans, walnuts or even more almonds.

250g unsalted butter, softened
200g sugar
1t vanilla extract
4 eggs
150g shelled pistachios
100g blanched almonds
50g plain flour
1t baking powder
pinch salt
for the syrup:
juice 1 lemon
50g sugar
50g pistachios

Line the base and sides of a 12 hole 1/2C capacity muffin tin with squares of baking paper or muffin papers. Preheat oven to 180C. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy then add eggs one at a time beating well between each addition.  Combine pistachio, almonds, flour and baking powder and then fold through the butter mixture until just combined.

Divide between prepared muffin holes and bake for 20-30mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Combine syrup ingredients and stir over a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour over hot muffins then allow to cool in the tin.


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