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Diary
19th June 2019
Some Day This Rain's Gonna End
Arisaig

I came in to pick up a mooring in Loch Nan Ceall off Arisaig over a week ago to be safe during some predicted southerly gales.
As often happens the predicted high winds failed to materialise but heavy rain did. (Amazing isn't it, that a meteorological service unable to predict regional weather 48 hours ahead is convinced of its unerring capacity to predict the climate of the entire planet for the next 48 years?) So I moved off the mooring buoy (saving £12 a night) and anchored off to wait it out. I'm on holiday dammit - I don't need to sail in no rain.
And here I am still waiting.
Meantime I bought a very-reduced-price pack of celery from the local Spa, and had to think of things to do with it. Here they are.

Chicken and Celery Stew
nautical fowl main
A surprisingly bland stew, though handy as a one-pot boat dish. I thought it might be tastier than it was.

Serves 6

Ingredients
Method
Joint the chicken, debone and cut the chicken flesh into large pieces (I left the skin on). Season the chicken generously with ground black pepper and brown in oil in a large pan, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
Peel the onion, slice lengthwise into eighths. Brown in the pot with a sprinkling of dried oregano. Add to the chicken.
Peel or scrape the potatoes and cut into large chunks (unless small). Fry to brown a little. Add to the chicken.
Chop the celery into fat chunks. Grate the lemon zest. Fry together briefly in the pan to coat in the remaining fat, then add a little wine or water to clean the pan and add to the chicken.
Make a simple stock from the chicken bones and carcass - fry briefly to brown in a large pot, just cover with water, add whole peppercorns and bay leaves, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock into the reserved chicken.
Add epazote to the chicken mix, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until everything is tender. Season.
Mix the juice of the lemon with about the same volume of olive oil and pour over the stew, or offer as a dressing on the side.
Serve with white rice (the best option), mash or couscous.
Not very interesting unfortunately, though I would have added beans or chickpeas if I'd had any.
I tried serving it with a sprinkling of tarragon vinegar - no improvement. I could try it with a little sour cream?
Or perhaps it would have been better spiced up with chorizo and smoked paprika?

Slow Braised Celery and Tomato
Sedano e Pomodori Brasati
side meat
This caught my eye linked from an interesting article by Lesley Porcelli praising soft (read long)-cooked vegetables and decrying how we no longer cook through the bitter, sulphurous stage of stewing green vegetables out to the delightfully unctuous collapsing uplands. Too much bright green crispness preserved in blanching and ice.

I didn't want to use only part of a tin of tomatoes to make this, so I substituted a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and tomato juice instead, frying the purée in the fried onion, then adding the celery and juice.

I also substituted chorizo for the pancetta, frying slightly less weight of chorizo matchsticks (the flavour is more intense than pancetta) into the fried onion but then leaving it to cook in the sauce with the celery rather than removing to add back later.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
Method
Put pancetta in a 6-qt. saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat renders, about 12 minutes. (If the pancetta begins to brown too fast, reduce the heat to medium-low.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain, and set aside.
If using chorizo, just fry it up after frying the onion and then leave it in the pan.
Add the olive oil to the pan, and return to medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and light brown, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, tomatoes, and ¼ cup water, and season with salt and pepper.
Fry the tomato purée a little after the onion if using before adding the tomato juice.
Cover pan with lid, and cook, stirring occasionally adding additional water if necessary, until celery is very tender, about 1½ hours.

Divide the celery with its juices between serving bowls, and sprinkle with the reserved pancetta. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Rather tasty: it is amazing how soft and silky the celery becomes, but be sure to cook it for long enough to dissolve the stringy parts. Taste a few different pieces to be certain - they tend to have varying degrees of stringyness.

Makes an excellent foil for a strata.

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