Stop W(h)ining - my desert island delights

I have an evolving desert island hamper, products which feel at various times like they add rich and glorious icing to my existence cake. These have included; Thai holy basil, aged balsamic vinegar, arbequina olives (the Barcelona beach olive), Vacherin (French unpasteurised only, not the pasteurised swiss rubbish), Pantelleria capers, Roscoff onions (as sweet as shallots and perfect partner of parsley), Torta del Casar (the new better bitter Vacherin), rainbow carrots (yellow seem to be sweetest), Gaeta olives (they overwinter on the tree and the early white version is known as the ghost), Nuremberger sausages (perfect for a quick full €nglish as above, also contains italian pancetta); in essence a mix of exotic and mundane.  Products come and go at random, slipping off the bottom of the list for reasons of taste, availability and seasonality.

Every few months I take stock, review my list (and wonder if others do the same). currently I have;

Fresh fresh turmeric (i.e. not the half dried rubble) was a revelation and is available from the local organic supermarket for approximately the next month. The Dingi hate it (too spicy and earthy) so I’ve taken to grating it over my dinner only and so eating it warm and raw, thereby increasing its potency (in my mind its fought off the norovirus more than once).

Parsley (how I love flat leaf parsley) is without doubt my desert island herb; multifunctional, enlivening, uplifting, breath freshening (what else can take down raw onions? its the chlorophyll possibly) . Magically able to spruce up almost anything, can be used to finish dishes or as an ingredient (even a reasonable substitute for celery in making stock), foundation of salsa verde and gremolata. Current favourite parsley recipe is my mother’s stuffed tomato; parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs (or jumbo oat flakes) in equal amounts hand chopped finely to generously top halved ripe tomatoes simmered very, very slowly in plenty of EVO. Great with grilled meat or fish, better on their own or even with a ball of buffalo mozzarella.

I’ve been happily slurping Cafe Rebelde Zapatista from a cafetiere (or French press as the functional Americans would say) for nearly 10 years. In that time there has been an evolution in coffee machines with ever increasing functions and pressure followed by the antiseptic and disappointing pod, pouch and sachet machines which eliminate the ‘tyranny of choosing’ [a coffee that you like]. The kit ranges from reasonably priced to completely mental. Not interested; £5 coffee pot, job done.

The finds of 2012; Franks RedHot EXTRA Hot sauce (why do so many hot sauces have unnecessary gloop ingredients like guar gum and pointless preservatives?) which I’m so liberal with that it’s virtually become my drink of choice with bottles at home, work and one in the car just in case. 1994 Vina Salceda, is [lose] “our house red” until it runs out. Wandering aimlessly around Majestic one evening last summer I saw an opened bottle on the tasting counter and had a slurp imagining it to be frighteningly expensive. Checked the price, thought something must be amiss so bought one just to try and googled at home. Reviews were mixed because the cork breaks and they have been cellared upside down so you need to get your finmger in the neck and get the sediment out or if that fails to decant through a tea towel.


Went back the next day and bought 12. Then another 12. Once the 24 were nearly gone I rang them in desperation and they said they might be able to find a case so I dramatically declared I would “take it all”. 72 bottles duly arrived (oops) and were delivered by a large haired fresh faced young man. “Where do you want them ?” he cheerfully asked. I pointed towards a door and asked him to pop them in the cellar. He seemed rather surprised when the cellar turned out to be a cupboard above the downstairs loo. Post-Christmas having got my finances in order and realising I was on my last case I pestered Majestic head office until they agreed to ship some oop North and I’ve just taken a financially crippling delivery of the last 54 bottles after which I will give up red wine..or pester Majestic all over again.