Desert Island Dishes: A Contest

Ilet Saint-Pierre

You’ve likely heard of Maldon sea salt, an English salt that comes in large, pyramid-shaped, flaky crystals, a format that makes them both very pretty, and easy to pinch and crush and sprinkle.

The Maldon Salt Company is a fourth-generation family business that’s celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, and they’ve invited me to participate in the Desert Island Dishes campaign* they’ve launched to mark the occasion.

The idea is to ask chefs and home cooks to play this little parlor game: “You wake up and find yourself on an empty beach; a castaway on a desert island**. Water is in good supply and there’s a handy cave for shelter just around the corner. Food is what you’re worrying about. Luckily, you’ve been given the miraculous option to create any dish in the world. The catch is: you’re stuck with it.” What would that dish be?

I love this sort of game, and in fact, we play a similar one on roadtrips with Maxence. (“If you could only watch a single movie for the rest of your life, would it be… Scarface or Blade Runner?” or “If you could only pick one vacation destination for the rest of your life, would you choose… Japan or Italy?” It’s as much fun to come up with the questions as it is to ponder one’s options.)

So I was happy to play along, and my answer — “Pasta with radish greens, briefly sautéed with garlic, topped with toasted almonds and a pinch of Maldon Sea Salt” — is printed on the side of Maldon Salt boxes now up on grocery store shelves across the UK, which is fun to think about.

{Read on for the contest details!}

Maldon Salt

And now I’d like to invite you to close your eyes, give it a think, and submit your own desert island dish in the comment section below, with the added challenge of trying to reduce the utensils you’d need to the most basic cooking kit you can. I’m hoping the list of your brilliant submissions will then read like a handy list of delicious-yet-minimalist dishes that we can all dip into for inspiration.

British food writer and restaurant consultant Thomas Blythe, who’s the resident tweeter for Maldon, and I will pick our three favorite entries, and these three participants will each receive a Maldon season box (containing a 125-gram box of Maldon sea salt, a 125-gram box of smoked Maldon sea salt, and a 40-gram box of black peppercorns) and a copy of the Desert Island Dishes cookbook, which contains desert island dish recipes from sixty great chefs.

You have until Wednesday, October 10 at midnight (Paris time or GMT+1) to participate, and the prizes can be sent to any shipping address in the world, so there are no geographical limitations. Do make sure you enter your email address correctly in the comment form, so we can get in touch with you if you win. I look forward to reading your entries!

Edit: The contest is now closed, thank you for your participation and your wonderful submissions! The winners will be announced next week.

* The campaign includes a weekly contest on the Maldon Twitter feed, and a series of videos in which guests discuss their desert island dishes.

** The photo above is of the Ilet Saint-Pierre, a magical islet off the island of Praslin in the Seychelles. Read more about our trip there in these two posts: Eating Our Way Through the Seychelles and The Victoria Food Market.

  • Equipment: 1 cast iron pan with lid, 1 cutting board, 1 sharp knife, wooden spoon, and a fork for eating
    Ingredients: Olive oil, sweet potato, red onion, red pepper, tomato, avocado, jalapeno chillies, egg, coriander, salt and a lime
    Sweet potato cubes, diced onion and diced red pepper sauteed until caramelized; egg cracked on top and steamed with lid on till just cooked, with runny yolk; chopped and tossed tomato, avocado, red onion, jalapeno and lime on top; all seasoned with salt.

  • William

    Love the idea!
    My suggestion:
    Tabbouleh with smoked mackerel.
    Crushed cherry tomatoes, torn mint & parsley, soaked bulghur wheat, lemon juice, black pepper and smoked Maldon sea-salt, served with smoked mackerel fillet. Fresh, delicious and all the food-groups!

  • Chef salad dressed in various dressings and served with pain de campagne. French for Monday, Thousand Island for Tuesday, Bleu Cheese for Wednesday, Russian for Thursday, Ranch for Friday, Wafu on Saturday, and last but not least, Tahini on Sunday.

    Need just a large bowl, fork, knife, and chopping board and a cupboard full of high quality bottled dressings.

  • My “island dish” would have to be a recipe I just found this summer on Farmgirl Fare. A no-cook pasta sauce (over whole wheat pasta) that is my favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes EVER, not hot so perfect for a topical island, would be lovely sprinkled with those special salt crystals . . . I add garbanzo beans to mine. Yum!

  • Jamie

    Jambalaya! I’d need a big enameled pot, tongs, measuring cups and spoons, and a good knife and cutting board. Also, I’m not sure if I really want to make it without elbow length cotton gloves to keep from getting burns when searing the chicken…

  • aubrey

    Maybe I’m just feeling chilly right now, but I’d go for warm comfort. Brown lentil and quinoa stew with mushrooms, potatoes and greens.

    A knife and a board, a pot and a spoon, and I’m set.

  • Greg Somers

    Pasta with Kale Pesto
    equipment: pasta pot, mortar & pestle (or 2 nice rocks), grater.
    ingredients: dino kale, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, Maldon sea salt, chili flake, rigatoni.
    Tear (or cut if you brought a knife)kale into small pieces. Parboil kale & garlic. Combine all ingredients in mortar to make a coarse pesto. Add cooked pasta to pesto with some cooking water. Eat.

  • Just give me a lidded frying-pan and a wooden spoon, and I’ll serve you up a feast fit for a king!

    olive oil in the pan, then add your choice of chopped or diced vegetables; the ones that take longest to cook first, then the things like tomatoes and mushrooms that don’t take so long. Cook on a very low heat, covered, stirring occasionally. When cooked, stir a spoonful of hummus, or tahini dressing, or even cream cheese, through it and season with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and fresh or dried herbs.

    Infinitely variable, so even if it had to be the same each day, it wouldn’t taste exactly the same!

  • Jessica

    Stir fry: because all you’d need is a chopping board, knife, and wok in terms of equipment, and the combinations are infinitely variable with the seasons. You could cook it on an open fire too, and because it cooks quickly it wouldn’t take too much firewood.
    You could use fish, seafood, or any meat found on the island, forage for greens, mushrooms etc, and add any spices or herbs for flavouring. Oh – and Maldon sea salt too, of course!

  • George Lovely

    Perhaps a bit prosaic, but I’d have to go with a good crusty Baguette.

  • christiana

    Mmmmm…a desert island.
    Mine would be my summer pasta salad.
    Ingredients: penne or spiral pasta cooked in Maldon sea salted water, cherry tomato quickly stir fried to char the skin but still keep them whole with 2 cloves of crushed garlic, fresh torn basil leaves,feta cheese,toasted pine nuts, drizzled extra virgin olive oil, cracked pepper and of course…a pinch of Maldon sea salt sprinkled on top.Toss and serve.Yum

  • I love cooking, but in essence I have very simple eating habits. I eat lots of beets in any combination possible. I won’t describe any sophisticated dishes here. So, in a minimalist setting, I would be happy just to have some roasted beets, some nuts, mayo, garlic = all mixed together, piece of good bread, lemon in my tea – and I’ll be very happy!

  • kerry

    Chopping board, knife, pan, serving bowl
    I’d go for an Israeli chopped salad served with a feta and herb omelette.
    Ingredients: parsley, mint, tomatoes, watercress, cucumber, red onion, red capsicum, olive oil, lemon, sea salt, ground pepper, feta and eggs.
    Of course I’d love to add fresh baked pita, french fries and hummus to the mix but…it is a desert island

  • Margaret

    Well, if I’m on a desert island anyway and being truly minimalist, I’ll use what’s there – go fishing, then find a big stick to knock down a coconut or two from a palm tree.

    The only ingredients I’ll need are a lime and some salt (if Maldon isn’t available, I’ll just have to allow some sea water to evaporate..) Equipment is a knife and any kind of pot.

    So I’ll prepare and marinade the fish in sea water and lime, build a fire and cook it for five minutes max in the marinade and add ground coconut (will find a stone to grind it), and enjoy drinking the coconut water.

    Now, if I could have spices, rice and another pot, there would be a Goan fish curry, but that’s not quite so minimalist!

  • SusaninLondon

    Boiled Egg with soldiers!

  • Su Su

    “One Wok Seafood Rice”
    Equipment – a wok and a knife and a wooden spoon
    Ingredients: rice, seafood, salt or ever just seawater, veggies (a mixture of root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, mantioc, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, leafy greens like spinach, kale, kailan, bok choy)
    Method: Soak the rice in water for at least 2 hours. Place rice in the wok and choice of root veggie of the day into the wok, include aromatics such as garlic, onions, ginger. Bring to boil covered. When boiling, place seafood(mixture of sliced fish, clams, prawns, scallops, crabs (cleaned and cut into pieces), on the rice. Season with salt/salt water. Place choice of seafood on top and cover. Cook over slow heat for 5 minutes. Place choice of leafy greens on top of seafood. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Douse the cooking fire and let sit covered for 3-5 minutes. Uncover and let cool enough to eat. Enjoy. Variety can be achieved by the choice of different vegetables and seafood each day.

  • I’m simple and easy – all I need on my island is an unlimited supply of d.o.c. quality Margherita Pizza (fresh tomato sauce and Buffalo Mozzarella, please).

  • Hilary

    oh, I’d choose pasta with courgettes, feta and mint – while the pasta is cooking, thinly slice courgettes, toss in hot olive oil until golden, turn down the heat, add some crushed garlic and cook briefly, take off heat, add grated lemon rind, chopped mint, chilli flakes, and some cubes of feta, toss to combine, serve on pasta with a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt and a dusting of parmesan. To make this I’d need my trusty cast iron pan, a saucepan and lid, a chopping board, a wooden spoon, my favourite french carbon steel paring knife, and a flat, handheld grater.

  • Desert island suggests the sea and the sun and a salad to go with it. I’d need a bowl, knife and a fork. Sliced tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onions mixed together and seasoned with salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil. My mom’s simple and delicious recipe that’s always a hit.

  • Christine

    Desert islands sends me off into tropical food land, however if I have to pick the one dish I could be stuck with and be happy for a time. It would be sheppards pie, as easy as it comes to prepare and comforting with it’s potatoes, meat and vegetables.

  • Herbed yeast bread similar to the bread served at Macaroni Grill. Fresh out of the oven spread a little butter over the loaf and sprinkle on a few flakes of Maldon sea salt. While bread is still warm, tear apart and dip into olive oil.

  • For me a desert island is calling for a dish with fish, catch on that sea. For that I will need something to catch the fish. And charcoal to grill the fish or wood from same trees around to start a barbecue. I would put salt on the fish and grille it and after that just drizzle it with some good quality olive oil, and a piece of bread.

  • Hannah

    pasta with a puttanesca-esque sauce: olive oil, anchovies, garlic, red chili flakes, tomatoes dried under the island sun, simmered with seawater, finished with Maldon sea salt.

  • Claire

    Tomato and mozzarella in slices with basil and a pinch of salt. All I’d need would be a Swiss army knife and a leaf to spread it out on, and I’d be in heaven. So delicous and fresh, the flavours just scream summer and refreshment to me! Storing the tomatoes and the mozzarella would be another story, but if we pretend the tomatoes and basil are already growing on the island, then it is just a case of building a freezer in some caves…!

  • Amanda

    Fish tacos! I wouldnt need much. A fry fan, bowel, knife and fork. I love to use swai fish but I could use any type of fish. Use a cajun rub and cook it in the fry pan with a little olive oil. After the fish is cooked, warm a corn tortilla in the pan. Then Id make a banana salsa with tomatillos and lime. Id make an easy guacamole with lime and a little salt. All that would be left is to make your taco.. Cilantro is great on top as well.

  • Whenever I make pizza dough, my basic recipe yields enough dough for 4 pizzas, each pizza serving 2 to 4 people, depending on how hungry they are. I divide up the dough and store it refrigerated and make pizza each night until it’s used up.

    I always begin the cycle believing that I’ll grow tired of my pizza, but each time I take that first bite, my husband beats me to the punch and says, “You can make this for dinner every night and I’d be a happy man”.

    The equipment needed is basic for life on a desert island: A bowl to make the dough in, a wood-fire, with smooth rocks laid over the hot coals on which the pizza can cook, and a pizza peel (to assemble the ingredients on top of the dough and move it to the hot rocks to cook).

    The ingredients for my pizza (in addition to a mix of 00, semolina and all-purpose flours, yeast, olive oil, salt and a touch of honey for the dough) include a basic tomato sauce (made with San Marzano tomatoes, basil, garlic and salt) smeared over the dough, torn fresh basil sprinkled on top of the sauce, freshly shredded mozzarella cheese, grated provolone, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, thin slices of prosciutto placed across the top, and a fresh raw egg cracked and opened on the center of the pizza once the pizza has been placed on the hot rocks. Take care not to break the yolk!

    When the white of the egg is set (the yolk will still be runny), the cheese will have melted, dough crusty, the pizza is ready to eat.

    I can eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, anytime and any day, everyday – It is that good.

  • Amanda

    Equipment: can opener, one decent knife and a flat cutting surface, and one skillet. Cast-iron would be nice, but not necessary. And some of the ingredients are refrigerated, but I’m assuming I could just bury the lot in the sea or something…okay, maybe that needs more work.

    Chorizo empanadas with kidney beans, garlic, and scallions are pretty much a universal hit, and they’re quite easy. After all, we need to leave time to explore the rest of the island, and one-handed food is easy to take along. :)

  • I’ll need a cast iron wok with something large enough to cover it if needed, a large stock pot, a fantastic knife, wooden spoons, a big stainless steel bowl, and a whisk.

    As for what I’d eat…rice noodles. I’ll forage and fish for everything else I need. I can use coconuts to make flour and boil water to make it fresh.

    I’m a survivor and I’m ready for a deserted island…or the zombie apocalypse. :)

  • I’m going to assume this is a desert island with seasons so for me it would be risotto with whatever vegetables happen to be in season. All I’d need in terms of equipment would be a large pot (preferably my cocotte but I could do without), a good knife, a chopping board and a wooden spoon. A grater for the cheese would be nice but not absolutely necessary.

    Okay, maybe I’d need one more piece of equipment – a skillet so I could make arancini with the leftovers!

  • Mo

    equipment: large cast iron skillet, knife.
    ingredients: one dozen sea scallops, one good-sized bunch haricots verts, one large tomato, one lemon, several cloves of garlic, olive oil, sea salt
    technique: Start with a nice slick of olive oil to cover the whole bottom of the cast iron skillet, which should be placed over very low heat (perhaps the coals of a burnt-down fire?). Arrange sea scallops so that they are evenly spaced and not touching. Add as many green beans as can fit in a single layer around and between the scallops. Chop the tomato and sprinkle over the scallops and haricots. Slice the lemon and peel the garlic, and arrange these evenly over top, leaving the garlic cloves whole. Cover and let sit *without stirring* until scallops are seared on the bottom and beans are wilted, about 20-30 minutes. Once everything is done and you are ready to eat, stir everything together gently and season with sea salt. If you are patient and don’t stir until the very end, you will have an amazing dish of seared scallops and wilted green beans in a silky tomato-lemon jam. I could eat that every night for quite some time.

  • Amy

    Dumplings. Not only will dumplings keep my belly full, I can pack it with veggies for vitamins and flavor. Dumplings also serve as medicine for the heart, keeping me connected to home and reminding me that I have a family that loves me. Recipe is ground chicken dumplings with chives, carrots, and celery with a good lug of sesame oil. The tools I’ll need are a slender rolling pin for making dumpling skins, a wood cutting board for chopping the vegetables, a meat cleaver for making ground chicken by hand, a pot for boiling the dumplings, and a strainer for lifting them out. Oh, and if possible, a pair of wooden chopsticks would be my treasure on the island.

  • I didn’t even have to think about this one! Seafood risotto. When I lived in the south of France, the chef I worked with made this for me on Saturdays after going to the market for shrimp and mussels. He made it in a huge pan and then served it in a tian baking dish. Trop bon! So, I guess I would just take my risotto along with me and a pot!
    Bon appétit!

  • Jill

    Tofu rancheros! After all… You can’t eat eggs EVERYDAY ! All I need is a skillet and utensils …and salt! Oh and a big orange juice.

  • Bernie

    My recipe would be hash! Some cooked potatos, cubed, with onion and ham or corned beef cooked over high heat in a cast iron skillet with butter until deliciously browned and crispy, topped with an egg or two and a generous grind of pepper and a pinch of sea salt. If I got sick of the saltiness I’d just omit the meat…but I can’t think of anything I like more than yolky eggs over hot crispy potatoes.

  • A French Tomato Tart — with ripe, summer garden tomatoes and Nicoise olives!

  • Pam

    Using only a spoon, knife and a medium sized saucepan with a lid, I would make a polenta with sauteed vegetables (usually eggplant and zucchini, though mushrooms are also excellent), pesto, poached egg, parmesan and truffle salt. I probably eat this at least once a week during the summer. Easy enough to mix up with different veggies, or mozzarella instead of an egg, or magic sauce instead of pesto… it’s awesome.

  • Cassandra Fiore

    I use this salt all the time at work for Blondies! Baking + Desert Island however would be anything but simple so…

    Grilled Pineapple with Dark Chocolate (70% or higher)and a little sprinkling of Maldon; all you need is a knife, a metal skewer and something to start a fire.

    In the absence of fire, Italian plums macerated with honey, sprinkled with Maldon also works beautifully.

    Can’t resist turning the desert island into a dessert island:)

  • I would make a thai beef or fish dish served with rice. Savory beef or an island catch cooked in coconut milk and thai red chili paste. Throw in sauteed snow peas and mushrooms, then garnish with a squeeze of lime, lime zest, and garlic chili sauce. For utensils a good knife, a pocket rocket and a GSI camp cook set. Who says camping cant be gourmet!

  • Charlotte

    Watermelon salad: chopped watermelon (most melons work well here0, crumbled feta, and torn fresh mint, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.

  • lynh

    beef bone with some meat on it, a couple of potatoes, a pot and some water and parsley. Cook the beef bone over the heat, until the marrow oozes. then, boil the water with the potato. spread the marrow on the potato, with SALT, and then salt the beef and each bite of potato + beef, lots of delicious salt.

    Nutritionally complete, delicious and requires only one pot. You could get rid of the pot but with the potato water, and the finished bone, keep boiling them while you eat and you end up with a good broth to keep you warm.

  • joe

    Wow, some fancy stuff. I’d just to a simple steak filet, baked potato with butter and a drizzle of salt over all. To make it fancy, add fresh asparagus with hollandais (optional)

  • Fleur

    Desert Island Dish

    Fish any kind straight out of the sea sprinkle of maldon sea salt

    Side dish of roasted tomatoes, courgette “zucchini” diced and dressed in olive oil, provence herbs maldon salt, black pepper, and balsamic. Topped with chunks of feta cheese, baked until golden.

  • Gabie

    I am too greedy to chose one dish. But after half year in Asia I was craving for raw vegetables, so I would go for a “salsa”: Zucchinis, apples, tomatoes, figs, red onions, all cut in small cubs, with a batch of coriander, chive and mint.
    For the seasoning, I would add for lime juice, a bit of chili from time to time, Maldon salt and black pepper (crushed with a stone) and a bit of oil.

    The seasoning would be done directly on the salsa, mix slightly by hand, to have bites with different aroma (more or less salt/pepper/oil..)

    I would, of course, use the shell of coconut as a bowl, so at the end I just need a knife (or sharp stone ;) Furthermore, it will go perfectly with all the grilled fish and sea-food found on the island (yes, it is the perfect desert island).
    OK, now I am hungry!

  • Hmmm. I am not a picky eater and enjoy pretty much anything. But with the seaside so close it has to be fish. I mean not eating fish when it is so close just seams wrong. And to limit utensils, I’d go for a ceviche type dish. Maybe garnished with a miso paste and flakes of roasted seaweed. Some sesame flavoured rice with that. Hmm!

  • The contest is now closed, and we won’t be able to consider comments beyond this one.

    Thank you for your participation and your wonderful submissions! The winners will be announced next week.

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