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Thu Jun 15, 2017 at 11:34am

Entertaining In A Small Space

You may be limited for space on a narrowboat, but that won't limit what you are able to create in your kitchen. You can still be the hostess with the mostest! 

Whether it's serving meals for one, or feeding a crew of people, cooking aboard doesn't have to be a problem. The good news is that today's boats are well equipped to deal with modern day to day life. With long leisurely days and very little else to do you will have plenty of time on your hands to plan, create and serve delicious meals for you and your crew. 

One consideration you may need to bear in mind is where everyone is going to sit! If your boat doesn't have a dinette then meals will undoubtedly be served on trays, or in the summer eaten outside.

If you have a wood burning stove it is a good idea to put a stew on before going out for the day as it will slow cook whilst you are out and about.

You can plug into the 240 volt system and the world’s your oyster, all your appliances will work. When not connected to the mains, the use of your appliances are limited to what power source you are using.

Planning ahead is usually a good idea.

If you suddenly realise that you don't have a key ingredient for your meal and you are in the middle of nowhere, supermarket deliveries are not going to be able to deliver and help you out. Make a list of the meals you plan to serve for the upcoming five days or so and a sub list of all the ingredients you will need. You can always make alterations to your plans slipping in a new idea if you want too. Once you have your list then shop for the planned meals. Unlike when you usually do the weekly shopping at home, it's best not to buy in bulk as storage in cupboards and the fridge/freezer is limited, but try instead to buy just what you need and in smaller sizes. 

What to Pack

As space is at a premium within a narrow boat, you you may find you're not able to have all the gadgets that you normally use at home on board. However this doesn't mean you will be limited to eating sandwiches and beans on toast every day. Quite the opposite, cooking on a boat can be much more complex and interesting than grabbing snacks or ready made meals. 

Most boats will have an oven with a hob with four gas rings and a grill. Smaller boats tend to have just two rings with a small oven. You may be surprised to know that solid fuel range cookers are even sometimes fitted in narrowboats,and they can supply the hot water and heating too! 

Other appliances needed on board that will help you to prepare, cook and serve meals are a fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster, kettle and smaller equipment such as the items listed below; 


  • Various utensils any thing from tea spoons to wooden spoons. (Too many really to list but basically what you have at home)
  • Three saucepans in various sizes
  • Large cooking pot
  • Chopping boards meat/veggies
  • Cheese grater
  • Frying pan
  • Cake tin/Cooling rack (there's plenty of time to bake!)
  • Food bags/Tin Foil (useful for left overs & they take up less space than tuber ware)
  • Dining set
  • Cutlery
  • Glasses various
  • Mugs
  • Teapot (if you like a proper cup of tea!)

It’s important to bring food supplies with you, but don’t go overboard! Having the basics stashed on board is always a good idea, but you never know what you are going to find on your travels, so leave room for some surprises along the way. 


Here are some basics you may wish to have onboard at the start of your journey:

In the larder stock;

Tinned tomatoes 
Beans/ravioli etc
Soft drinks
Long Life Milk
Fresh produce;

Herbs (grow your own in pots on the stern or on the roof)

With the above ingredients you will always be able to make a simple sandwich, salad or pasta meal if you get caught out or don't come across any shops for stocking up. 


Where to Shop

Take advantage of local suppliers and farm shops. Use seasonal foods including fruits and veggies to inspire your meal plans. The joy of boating means you just never know what to expect round the next bend and what delights will be available for you to purchase.

Look out for floating shops too like the cheese company and other floating foodie businesses 

What to Cook

Well obviously things you like, but also try out new recipes that feature seasonal ingredients. Keep it simple and quick, I'm sure you would prefer to spend your time above deck enjoying the views and sipping a cool drink with the crew rather than spending a lot of time on your own slaving over the cooker and working through a complicated recipe! 

Free Foods

When possible take advantage of the free foods along the towpath there are all kinds of different berries – blackberries, sloe berries, crabapples to name but a few. Greens like dandelion, wild garlic, rosemary, sage, chickweed and nettles, even sticky weed, can be put to good use

On the Hertford Union Canal as it passes through Hackney Wick in London, look out for the twenty-metre long ‘edible wall’ that’s been created on the towpath. There you will find strawberries, lettuces, herbs and other edibles for passers-by to pick. The hope is to work with schools and community groups in other areas to create similar resources, so your luck could be in on other waterways too.

Take A Break

And for the days when you just want a break from the kitchen (and we all deserve some time off) hang up your apron and explore the pubs and restaurants along the canal side. Be selective in your choice there's plenty of eateries around so make sure you choose the very best from the fine British dining on offer.

If you have any recipes or ideas using food which grows wild on the canals, please let us know.

Happy cruising. 

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