I tentatively started writing this post a couple of hours ago. The predicted low weather front started to take effect on the Outer Hebrides about lunchtime. As it was also very wet and windy yesterday, for the first time in about 18 months, I thought it was safer not to take the dogs out. It seemed a bit better today, but once I got out, it deteriorated again and with pins of horizontal precipitation jabbing me uncomfortably in the face, I struggled to stay upright, slipping and sliding on the very wet blanket bog, struggling into the headwind to get back to the car. The dogs coped a bit better being four-paw drive and a bit nearer to the ground. Being smart beasts, they have devised a cunning and stealthy plan for horizontal rain and hail. They lie down flat in the heather and wait until I get a bit ahead of them, then slink at speed past me and lie down again, as if they are covering each other in a military advance. The best part for them was getting home for a towel dry and a biscuit. Me to.
The weather has deteriorated considerably since the dog walk, as predicted. Since the low is coinciding with a high tide, police are taking no chances and causeways along the island chain have been closed. Although I work from home now (thankfully) when I commuted from work on South Uist in very poor weather the office would be closed. We all left early to ensure we got back home (especially those crossing several causeways to North Uist) before causeways were closed by police.
Traversing causeways is like driving along behind a very long sea wall in a storm, although worse because vehicles move from the relative shelter of the island onto the causeway, open to the full force of the elements. Immediately a gust can hit the side of the car as sea spray and the occasional wave also lands on it, making it impossible to see. Windscreen wipers are useless and there is also a risk of aqua-planing. Great as my little puddle-jumper was for commuting, it did not take kindly to these occasional conditions any more than I did!
Exposing oneself: Eriskay causeway in better weather – closed for business this evening.
Wind speeds have reached about 70 mph, with gusts of +90 mph and the gusts are rocking the house, much as they have done periodically for the last 80 or so years of its existence, with no particularly detrimental effects. The wind is fairly persistently strong and then, as the clouds roll in from the Atlantic, even in the dark you just know when it’s going to get that bit worse. The preceding loud roar as the wind speed picks up heralds the arrival of another front of torrential rain, although unlike last night, no lightning accompanies the squall.
Regular Facebook updates from across the islands tell the familiar tale: ferries and buses cancelled, local amenities such as the sports centre closed – and beware, power outputs reported across parts of North Uist and Benbecula. I have got more common sense than to start baking when the weather is like this. With overhead powerline transmission serving the whole electricity network, power cuts are common – even without the explanation of the wind (swans or geese hitting a line somewhere is one such reason). So, it was just as we started to cook dinner the power went off following many threatening flickers. One never can tell how long it will stay off, so we try and keep the stove stoked, a pan of hot water on top, if required and NEVER open the freezer door – in case the outage is protracted.
Twenty minutes later, power back on, we quickly served dinner. The lights have more or less stayed on since until I started to write this and frustratingly, as anticipated, the power went off again but just for long enough to knock the computer off and all the digital devices in the house. It may be that I will have to resume this post tomorrow, we will see what happens….
Venison and Black Turtle Bean Ancho-Chipotle Chilli
Dinner needs to homely, preferably slow cooked and comforting in this weather – not to mention hot – chilli hot, that is. Using some of our venison that was butchered in the autumn – a piece of shoulder diced into big chunks, slow cooked and rich in gamey flavour stands up well to the heat and smokiness of the chillis. The chilli was served with Mexican green rice, a recipe I found in the Wahaca ‘Mexican food at home’ book, which I varied to accommodate the ingredients I had. This is basmati rice cooked in veg stock with a handful of coriander, parsley an onion and 2 garlic cloves whizzed in a food processor and mixed through the rice, finished in the oven for half an hour.
800g venison shoulder, diced into big chunks
150g dried black turtle beans
1 tblsp of flavourless oil e.g. groundnut
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
400ml tomato passata
500 ml game (or beef) stock
4 dried ancho chillies, re-hydrated
2 dried chipotle chillis, re-hydrated
1 tblsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
I tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tblsp lime juice
- Soak the beans for a few hours then boil for about 45 minutes until just tender, set aside.
- Re-hydrate the chillis in boiling water for about 20 minutes, then blend and strain through a sieve to remove skin and seeds, set aside to add later.
- Brown the cubes of venison shoulder steak in the oil and remove with a slotted spoon.
- Saute the onion, garlic and the rest of the veg gently for about 5 minutes.
- Put the venison back in the pan with the veg together with the passata, stock, herbs, spices, celery salt and rehydrated chilli paste.
- Allow to cook for an hour at a low heat, covered, on the stove top, then add the turtle beans and cook for about another 1 hour 15 minutes. Add the lime juice just before serving.
- Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with Mexican green rice – and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon – or some milk to suppress the heat.