In 2011 I joined the Sea Shepherd ship M/V Brigitte Bardot in Belgium as the cook and my journey into discovering vegan cooking began. The Sea Shepherd ships are all strictly vegan and so was I when I joined. I soon learned though that cooking for yourself in your own home compared with the reality of cooking on a moving ship, providing 3 meals a day for a hungry group of sailors was a whole different and extremely challenging thing! This was also my first time on this type of ship (a trimaran which jerks in every direction possible with seemingly no pattern, extremely fun when trying to drain a huge pan of pasta).
I felt for a while I might be out of my depth, I was sea sick, I wasn’t that good a cook, I couldn’t sleep but at the same time I was so excited o be on board and luckily had a very supportive crew to help me. After a while I started to enjoy myself… we got past the Bay of Biscay and through the Gibraltar Strait on our way to Australia and all of the sudden the ship I thought I would die on through sea sickness turned into a luxury cruise. The seas calmed as we entered the Mediterranean Sea and for the next week it was like we were sailing on glass. This gave me my chance… to get over my sea sickness for good, to have the chance to think about what I was doing, read some of my cookbooks and start to enjoy cooking.
I was hungry to know everything about vegan cooking, and it felt like a whole world opening up to me. I had always loved food, eating it especially, but I had never once considered becoming a cook. When the position opened up of the M/V Brigitte Bardot I went for it because I knew I could do the basics and was a fast learner but I never imagined I would be here 3 ½ years later. Over the years I have sailed on a few different Sea Shepherd ships, my absolute favourite being a M/Y Bob Barker where I got to work alongside experienced vegan cooks who taught me so so much (like basic bread making I didn’t even know before) and eventually had the opportunity to run the galley myself for a year, feeding a crew of between 10-35 people 3 meals a day.
I think this kind of environment forced me to become a much better cook. With so many people to please, all with different tastes, allergies and dislikes you have to become creative. And being based in Australia for a huge chunk of this time getting amazing donations from vegan food companies gave me an opportunity to work with awesome vegan ingredients, and I am so thankful for that.
It was during this time I made my first ever batch of vegan ice cream. When I was a kid my absolute favourite ice cream flavor was mint choc chip and matter what I would always get that flavor, I guess knowing once you have found the best there’s no point in trying any others. So this had to be the flavor I tried to make first on the ship. This recipe has changed somewhat over the years from the first time I made it, tweaking parts to make it just perfect, and I swear I could eat the whole lot myself in one sitting no problems.
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 1 cup non dairy milk (soy, almond, oat, rice)
- 1 ½ cups fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 ½ Tbsp cornstarch (cornflour)
- ½ tsp spirulina
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- Place the milks and the mint leaves in a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Heat until almost boiling but do not boil, turn off, cover and leave the milk to steep for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes put the mixture through a sieve to strain out the mint leaves. Press out any excess moisture from the mint leaves then discard them.
- In a small bowl mix together the sugar, cornstarch and spirulina and whisk into the infused milk, place on a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring as it heats. Once the mixture has started to boil turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface and leave to cool to room temperature. Once cooled place in a metal bowl, cover and place in the freezer. (Or at this point put mixture inside your ice cream maker if you have one and follow machine directions skipping stage 5.)
- After 1 hour remove from the freezer and using a stick blender or even a fork to churn up the mixture, breaking up any ice crystals and smoothing it out. Repeat this 3 more times every hour to hour and a half. It will get more and more solid each time you do this, but this makes sure your ice cream will be smooth and creamy. After the last churn stir in the chocolate chips, place tin foil directly over the surface and freeze until solid.
- Run an ice cream scoop until hot water before scooping and enjoy!
Makes approx. 600ml