chicken and bean stew

A stew with chicken and beans. There’s nothing very original here but it worked well, so I thought I’d write it down:

Soften some finely-sliced onion (I used a banana shallot and a smallish red onion) with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic.

Just before it starts browning, a couple of chopped tomatoes cooked with it. Put the onions and toms into a casserole.

Get two chicken legs, divided into thighs and drumsticks. Season them and brown them in the same pan. Put the chicken into the casserole and deglaze the pan with white wine.

Add a tin of canellini beans, a pot of fresh chicken stock, a generous quantity of fresh thyme (don’t need to chop it), a bay leaf, and some parsley stalks. And some salt and half a teaspoon of West Indian chilli sauce.

Bring to a simmer and cook in the oven at 160C for 2h 30m. You don’t want it to be too wet but obviously make sure it doesn’t dry out and burn.

Serve with some chopped parsely for colour.

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Egypt

in Taba Heights.

Not having dived for 10 years, I had to do a full scuba review – a written test, and all those skills like the maskless swim, buddy breathing, etc etc. Which was probably a good idea but a bit tedious. But did four proper dives as well.

Highlights – Crocodile Fish (Carpet Flathead), quite a big squid, some attractive spotty morays, pyjama slug (a kind of nudibranch), partner gobies with their little shrimp friends, a good view of a stonefish, blue-spotted ray, juvenile Emperor Angelfish, some attractive versions of Lyretail Grouper (purple with little blue spots and a yellow trim). Lots of pretty fish generally. Christmas tree worms in lots of colours; attractive ferny-looking black crinoids. Lots of scorpionfish.

I get the sense that the diving at Taba Heights is a bit limited, really – all rather the same – but good enough for a short trip. And the snorkelling outside the hotel was excellent – when the water wasn’t too choppy.

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Egypt

List from Taba Heights (a dive resort in Egypt): House Sparrow, Blackstart, White-crowned Wheatear, Spectacled Bulbul, Laughing Dove, Collared Dove, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Rock/Crag Martin (not sure), Swift, Kestrel, Sooty Gull, European Bee-eater, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Little Green Bee-eater, Mangrove Heron.

The Bee-eaters are probably the pick of that list, though I didn’t see any of them very well. The distribution maps in the book were clearly unreliable for the area, and I never managed to decide whether they were Rock Martin or Crag Martin.

One day I spent some time trying to track down a bird I could hear making a loud ‘chk chk’ call – I thought possibly a warbler. Eventually I was looking directly into a bouganvillea, not more than 4-5 feet away, and I couldn’t understand how I couldn’t see the damn bird, and I realised that on the wall directly behind the bouganvillea was… a gecko.

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