Recipes: minestrone | grilled gunnard | roasted peaches

'A Sort of Minestrone' recipe from the book The Boat Cookbook by Fiona Sims
'A Sort of Minestrone' recipe from the book The Boat Cookbook by Fiona Sims
Share this article
Have your say

You can blame my dad for The Boat Cookbook. I’d had enough of his “beef curry” lunches on board – tinned mince with a spoonful of ancient curry powder stirred in, and he kept losing my scribbled down recipes.

You can blame my dad for The Boat Cookbook. I’d had enough of his “beef curry” lunches on board – tinned mince with a spoonful of ancient curry powder stirred in, and he kept losing my scribbled down recipes.

But it’s not just dad’s cooking that I’m hoping to improve – the book is aimed at any leisure sailor with a tiny galley who wants quick, delicious recipes made with the minimum of fuss and maximum flavour.

Most sailing types aren’t adventurous when it comes to cooking on board, and supermarkets offer such huge variety these days that if I can encourage them to delve a bit deeper, armed with a few of my recipes, their repertoire should improve significantly.

Indeed, these recipes will work just as well for landlubbers – particularly for the time-strapped cook with zero patience for washing up, and a yearning for big flavours. My food philosophy is the same on board as it is on the land – buy the best local produce you can afford and don’t mess around with it too much.

I’ve been sailing since I was eight years old. I grew up in south London and on weekends, from Easter through to the end ofthe summer, my parents would cram me, my younger sister and brother into the car and head down to Hythe on the Kent coast traiing a Mirror dinghy (and later a Laser), packed with a picnic and lifejackets hidden underneath the tarpaulin.

I only started cooking on board in my early twenties when dad owned his first proper sailing boat – a 23ft Virgo Voyager, with a postage stamp-sized galley, later progressing to cooking on dad’s current yacht, an aged 29ft Westerly Konsort, with a marginally larger galley, moored in Yarmouth harbour, Isle of Wight.

It’s abit of a dance, yes, and it means you have to be a tidy freak, but it forces you to be more organisd at home, washing up as you go along, and prepping ingredients ahead wherever possible, which is no bad thing.

• The Boat Cookbook by Fiona Sims is published by Adlard Coles Nautical, £16.99.


Packed with green vegetables and bolstered by a bit of pasta, this summery soup is a nod to the Italian classic and makes a perfect lunch on the water. You can add whatever green vegetables are available – I like asparagus when it is in season, cut into 2.5cm long pieces, and green beans also work well. But I particularly love this combination of courgettes, spinach and peas. Orzo, too, is a useful boat staple as it’s quick to cook, bolsters soups and makes a fine salad.

Serves 4

1 Heat the oil in a large pan and soften the shallots and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and sauté for another couple of minutes. Then add the courgette, fresh peas, pasta and stock. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

2 Tip the spinach into the pot, season, replace the lid and cook for another couple of minutes.

3 Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan, a few torn basil leaves, a drizzle of oil and some crusty bread.


I’m a big fan of gurnard. OK, so it looks a bit prehistoric, but it’s lean, firm, white-fleshed and sustainable. It can also take big flavours and you don’t get much bigger than tapenade. I’m not suggesting you make your own on board as there are plenty of good ones available to buy ready-made, but you could make up a batch ahead and it will happily keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Serves 4

1 Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes. Drain and keep warm. Place the spinach leaves and a couple of tablespoons of water in that same saucepan, cover and wilt for 2 minutes, then drain and keep warm.

2 Heat the grill to medium. Rub 1 tablespoon of oil on the fish and season. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through.

3 Divide the potatoes between 4 dishes and cut them into thick slices. Dress with the remaining oil and season.

4 Divide the drained spinach between each dish. Top with the cooked gurnard, spoon the tapenade over and serve with the lemon quarters.


The simplest desserts are often the most elegant, and you can’t argue with this classic combo. Nectarines also work well in this recipe. Makes a rather fine breakfast, too.

Serves 4

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 
Mark 6.

2 Place the peaches or nectarines cut side up on a baking tray, pour the orange juice over, put a knob of butter in the centre of each fruit, drizzle with the honey and scatter with the nuts. Roast for 10-15 minutes, depending on their ripeness.

3 Serve with the juices and some Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche.



1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil, plus some more to drizzle on top

2 shallots or 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

200g new potatoes, cut into small dice

1 courgette, halved and cut into dice

200g young, fresh garden peas

100g orzo pasta (or other soup pasta, such as ditalini)

600ml vegetable or chicken stock

250g ready-washed spinach leaves

salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated

handful of basil leaves

crusty bread


500g waxy potatoes, peeled

500g spinach leaves, ready-washed

2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

4 gurnard fillets (or other white fish fillets)

2 tbsp black olive tapenade

1 lemon, quartered

salt and pepper


4 peaches or nectarines (unpeeled), halved and stones removed

100ml orange juice

4 knobs butter

2 tbsp runny honey

50g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche