Reviews, recipes, ramblings and other gourmet bites. A food blog of indulgence...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Desert Island Foods

I am frequently to be found accosting people I have recently met, and demanding to know the 5 books/films/songs that could sustain them on a desert island, should they be stranded there. (I'm aware that this is probably quite annoying, especially if in a party situation where I will undoubtedly be accompanying said question with wild gesticulating with a gin and tonic ...)

Anyway ... I really do find the answers fascinating, as they can give you a small snapshot of the way that person views the world - even if it's only a somewhat grainy polaroid of how they view the world at the particular moment I'm talking to them.

So...I wonder if the same applies to food.
Assume - and you'll have to indulge me with the lunatic scenario here - that you are stranded on a desert island. You're not allowed to spear fish from the tropical waters, or go foraging for nuts, berries or brightly-coloured fruit. You can't hunt wild pigs, or shoot birds from the trees with rudimentary whittled arrows. You can't light fires for cooking, or try sucking the nutrients out of seaweed in desperation.

Instead, you must rely on 5 food items, and only 5, to keep you going. These can be snacks, treats or full-on hearty fare, but they should be finished dishes rather than ingredients. They will be provided on tap on this island, by some mysterious-and-as-yet-unspecified benefactor.

What do you choose?

The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, doing a fair impersonation of a tropical island.

Don't worry, your health will not suffer during your time on this island. Don't, therefore, approach this in a 'Well, goodness, I suppose I'd better choose representatives from different food groups to give me a balanced diet and help me to climb trees and swim in the sea and do other islandy things'. This is about favourites, about finding the five things that you honestly wouldn't mind eating every day for several months/years.

My five surprised me. I think it's something to do with having the fun and experimentation of cooking taken away. Needless to say, if you gave me a honking great kitchen full of gadgets, and enough ingredients to make any 5 dishes, the final selection would be very different.

Below are my (slightly embarrassing) desert island foods. Please do leave comments and add yours, I'd be really interested to see what you lot would chow down on, while gazing out across the shimmering turquoise waters and cursing me for stranding you there!

  1. Fish finger sandwiches - I'm not talking about posh fish goujons here, I want fish fingers from the packet, on white bread, which is buttered on one side, and has tomato ketchup on the other. Optimum number of fish fingers per sandwich = 3.
  2. Naan bread -  steaming hot. If I'm allowed the odd bit of spicy mango chutney, or mint and cucumber raita to dip hunks of it in, then so much the better.
  3. Nectarines - In one of my favourite books, the wonderful 26a by Diana Evans, nectarines are always eaten by the young twins while they make very important decisions. They sit on beanbags in their bright attic room, sharing nectarines and secrets and 'deciding'. Anyone else must knock before entering. I love the fact that nectarines are reserved for such a purpose, and since first reading 26a I can't eat one without a feeling of being in some whispery, secret club.
  4. Vanilla ice cream - If ice cream is on a dessert menu, it's 90% guaranteed that that's what I'll go for. While I love exciting new flavours (cardamom and salted caramel being two new and tasty discoveries) I'll always come back to a really rich, creamy vanilla, I just don't think you can beat it.
  5. Moroccan lamb pittas - Juicy lamb, cooked so it's nice and pink, liberally spiced with cumin, chilli and coriander and stuffed into hot pitta bread with peppery salad, a squeeze of lime and a dollop of sour cream. The kind of food you have to eat with your fingers, that gets you sticky and covered in juices and that wouldn't be out of place at a souk in Marrakesh.
Right, now I'm hungry. I may go for a combination of some of these five for dinner, desert island or no desert island!

Jen xx


  1. I thought I would share my top 5 with you as requested. I think I surprised myself as well. Worryingly I thought I was a lot healthier than I actually am. I do love fruit and veg but at the mention that this would in no way damage my health and this list would be based purely on the lusts of my food desires the list reads thus:

    1)GINGER CAKE – the name alone makes me love it but it is moist and syrupy and spicy and almost like a savoury thing…which means you can eat twice as much. It is the god of all cakes! As all ginger things are!
    2)SCRAMBLED EGGS – gloriously simple. Delicious when mixed with lots of butter and full fat milk. I don’t even need toast!
    3)HAWAIIAN PIZZA – fat base, extra mushrooms and extra cheese. Basic university fare that makes me feel about 18 every time I nom down on some.
    4)TOMATOES – cherry, beef, vine…whatever…slice, salt & enjoy!
    5)CHICKEN & TARRAGON – with a baked potato preferably. Evokes pleasant and warm fuzzy feelings of home and childhood and the first floods of glee when learning to cook. It’s sweet tasting and it’s chicken. Chicken is good!

  2. Ooh, interesting idea... Right. My 5 are...

    1. Teviotdale Pie. You cannot beat the warming joy that a mince-meat pie brings, especially one with the filling-stodgey-fluffy-wonder of a dumpling top. And who knows when it'll get really cold and snowy on the desert island - what with El Nino and all, you can never be too careful. It was this or a stew with dumplings, but the pie tipped it. The dumpling top goes all crispy and is just marvelous.

    2. Putanesca. Olives, anchovies and capers in one dish?? With chili, tomatoes, basil and pasta? Why would I not take this along?

    3. Cream Tea. I don't know if this is against the rules, but I could NOT live without tea, so one way or another I'm going to squeeze it in. And, if it comes with a scone, jam and clotted cream, then all the better!

    4. Poached egg on toast. With plenty of salt and pepper. I'd need a breakfast, there's no way I could manage a fry-up every day, and a poached egg is just so perfectly satisfying.

    5. The warm gingerbread with syrup that they sell in Aunties Tea Room in Cambridge. Warm, gooey, sticky, sweet, spicy, and any other delightful adjective you can think of makes this the perfect every-day desert!

  3. Hmmm! Not classy but tasty!
    1. Cocktail sausages glazed with plum sauce
    2. Fish and chips and plenty of TK
    3. Veal marsala and saute pots
    4. Liver stroganoff (calves liver - cos it was already dead to provide the veal!)
    5. My mum's chocolate castle puddings - not light bot ultimately satisfying! d xx

  4. 1.Poached goose livers in pernod with a Smirnoff Black reduction. Not to be missed! We experienced this under the stars in mid summer whilst cruising down the Neva on the MS Brezhnev,accompanied by iced chilli vodka shots. Heaven.

    2. Crunchy nut corn flakes and I can't Believe it's not Butter clusters a la Honey Monster. Forgive my retro 70s indulgence here! Try it - you won't look back.

    3. I do have an annoying passion for all things seasonal, so although one of my foodie passions is for fresh asparagus I find myself completely unable to sweep the off season Kenya variety from Waitrose into my groaning trolley. But . . . last Wednesday I weakened. Try me from Kenya - 10 minutes in the microwave with a goats cheese syrup (goats cheese, balsamic, pesto, chanterelle mushies nuked in the blender) - just the best after a hard days trading.

    4. Bananas flambed in Absinthe. Divine.

    5. Cucumber sandwiches. Soak the cucumber in creme de menthe overnight and lightly saute the bread in I can't Believe it's not Butter until crisp and golden. Teamed with a pot of freshly brewed Lady Grey you can kick off your mules at Friday tea time after a hard week's grouting and bask in the succulent anticipation of the forthcoming weekend's culinary delights.

    I think your brief was indulgence here - and so I have pushed the boat out in trawling the absolute highlights of my foodie experiences. Trouble is, I am a great breakfast officionado - any suggestions?

  5. OOh - fine idea - and surprisingly difficult. My five are sufficiently diverse to confirm that I am developing some kind of food-schizophrenia:

    1. Yes, yes - fish finger sandwiches are a must - on plastic bread with far too much TK. [Is this genetic?]

    2. Duck breast in port and bitter orange marmalade, with some jersey royals to mop up the sticky sauce

    3. Egg and chips with white sliced bread and butter to make butties, english mustard on the side and a large mug of tea to accompany

    4. Lobster swimming [not literally, you understand] in garlic, lemon and corriander butter. Plenty of tiger bread to mop up the juices.

    5. Figs straight off the tree with ripe brie & prosciutto, drizzled with balsamic glaze, followed by panna cotta, panna cotta and then some more panna cotta. Can I have some prosecco, too, please?