Picture the scene: a heron is flapping, an engine purring, and the sun setting over Regent’s Canal, glinting off of smoke trails that roll up from boat decks. It can only mean one thing: it’s barbecue season, and the boat folk are grilling.
I joined the boating community two years ago and found out pretty quickly that boaters are obliged to move every two weeks, and are also forced to make do with very limited gas, water, electricity, and appliances. Few boaters will run a fridge, even fewer a freezer. As a consequence, we are tasked with the often-demoralising ordeal of eating our leftovers or throwing them away. Like our primordial ancestors – we boat folk don’t have the means to preserve food. We must be wasteful or innovative; eat, chuck, or think of an unconventional solution to SOS (“save our scraps”).
Now that the summer has arrived (in a loose sense), a ceremony of sorts is established among the boating community. Barbecues are brushed off, decks swept down, and – like everyone else – boaters will grill meat and vegetables over a naked flame; enjoying the simplicity of a smoked pepper, the waft of a chargrilled Cumberland. More than this, however, barbecues provide an invaluable opportunity to reduce end-of-the-week waste and an opportunity to save leftovers and refashion them into new dishes. While a single piece of halloumi, a slightly-manky-looking lump of tofu, and a couple of forsaken prawns may appear too feeble to constitute meals of their own, these can be put to an alternative use.
Barbecues are lit, prawns impaled, and after an enjoyable session of grilling – you are looking at one of my favourite boating waste-reducing meals: ‘Bits and Babs’ (otherwise known as – “leftovers on a skewer.”)
Okay… I hear you thinking: “that’s cool – I guess but, er, what does it have to do with me?” Well, fortunately, these leftovers-turned-kebabs are not reserved for the domain of a few appliance-starved boaters.
Do you often find yourself throwing away bits of unused food? Offcuts that cling to the last few hours of their expiry date? Morsels from a 4pc of chicken bought from the supermarket? Half-hacked-at butternut squash, aubergine, or pepper? That quarter of a red onion you flung in the fridge with the purest of intentions? Well, if the answer is yes – pause – and before lobbing the shreds of last weeks’ groceries in the bin – consider refurbishing them. Pop them on a skewer, drizzle with lime juice and olive oil, sprinkle some coriander and salt, whack them on a barbecue (or an indoor grill if the weather is God-awful), and voilà : your seemingly unusable snippets have become a delicious meal.
There isn’t really a set recipe for these ‘Bits and Babs’ – because the whole point is that you’re throwing together your particular leftovers. However, to give you a flavour of the type of exciting ensembles you can chuck together in no time at all, here are a couple of ideas. Just serve a side salad and cold beer with these skewers and – bab’s your uncle – you’ll have two scrumptious, summer dishes on your hands: