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Food is where the heart is!

I was sat on the sofa one night scrolling through YouTube, aimlessly looking for something that may catch my eye and, low and behold, I found an intriguing topic, ‘Tom Hanks eats his last meal’ posted by the YouTube channel Mythical Kitchen. The concept of the video is that the Hollywood star would choose the last meals he would have if he was on death row, and he was granted the choice of anything and everything his heart desired. I was also reminded of the hilarious video from a man called Rory Jennings who is on a football podcast show called The Club, responding to the same question comically by saying his last meal would be either cornflakes or granola with yoghurt (you must watch this clip, it’s dead funny!). And so, I thought to myself, what would I choose for my last meal? What would my selection be in the same concept of the three-course meal and a dessert as shown in the Mythical Kitchen series which also features John Boyega and Post-Malone? I hope I can impress you, the reader, better than Rory Jennings did. Perhaps this question makes you think more about what your last meals would be or what food gives you that warm, even in many cases homely, feel.  

Before diving into my taste palette, I wanted to do some research on what the most popular cuisines are, generally speaking, and discuss the wider appreciation of these different regional and local foods. According to a study from JustEat, the most popular types of cuisines in order are as follows; Italian, Indian, fast food, Japanese and Mexican. YouGov backed up the Italian dominance in their research although; Chinese food came in at second, British in at third, Indian at fourth and Mexican again at fifth. While Italian is number one in both these surveys, we can see the general data gathering for this is more difficult than meets the eye, as the results for the order as a whole aren’t conclusive and probably dependent on the sample size and demographic in the UK. It is the openness of this debate that makes it so intriguing. 

I think what makes talking about different cuisines so enjoyable is that there is a tribalism to it for a lot of people. For example, If you go to the Middle East, Turkey or Greece, they will all claim that they were the first to invent Dolma and will die on that hill no matter what evidence you bring to them. Ghanaians and Nigerians will endlessly debate who makes the better Jolof rice and why each of them has perfected the recipe over many years. In Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore Nasi or Mee Goreng is a staple dish that is a huge part of culture over there and you shouldn’t even dream of insulting this dish of perfection. To India, we must appreciate their contribution to world society through the spice trade which enhanced the flavours of many (if not all) cultures.

Desserts are in endless craving; Gelato and Cannoli being the beaker of Italian society, the excellence of Pastel De Nata matches the pride of Portugal and of course, the infamous Croissant has become an iconic symbol of French pastry-making.

 All these examples are indicators of how much food means to us, I haven’t mentioned all foods there and I know there are some missing, it’s truly impossible to name them all. Someone reading this has already started shouting at the screen ‘HOW DID YOU FORGET ….’. This is what makes food so special that you want your culture or your favourite cuisine to receive the attention you believe it deserves. As I said this is tribal, In many ways it’s like supporting a football club, either you are born into it or there is something that lures you to pick your team, and no matter what you’re loyal to it till the end. 

So, without further ado let’s get into my selection; 

Starters: hummus with olive oil (ideally squeezed from Palestine) and Pita. A plate of fresh calamari, tomatoes, mushrooms, and halloumi. Cuts of tuna steak and beef wagyu steak.

The idea behind going with hummus and olive oil is pretty self-explanatory, there’s something about it that makes your health increase tenfold when you have it. Although I guess health isn’t the concern in this conversation here, regardless it’s wonderful. The plate of calamari and more takes me back to when I was in Greece last year (see plate below) the fresh tomatoes there are to die for. Tuna steak always seems to get people’s heads scratching but honestly cooked in the right ingredients like soy sauce and lemon juice it is just incredible. I have had amazing steak before such as Andalusian steak (see below also) but Wagyu intrigues me so much, it is supposed to be the best type of steak there is so I have to experience it once in my lifetime.

Plate of fresh calamari, mushrooms, halloumi and tomato in Greece

fresh calamari in Cyprus

Andalusian steak in Spain was served with green peppers as well as chips

MEAL 1: Maqlubah, with a side of yoghurt cucumber mint dip and Baba Ghanoush. Sicilian lemonade to drink and of course water which I’ll take for all three meals.

For my first meal, I went with a plate of Maqlubah which is a dish extremely popular in; Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. Some dishes vary but the basic make-up of this dish is rice mixed with potatoes, aubergine, sliced onions, and other vegetables that can include tomatoes and peppers. Some people like to add nuts to it as well and the base can be cooked with lamb but more commonly with chicken. The chicken is cooked first in ingredients such as garlic, chilli flakes, a cinnamon stick, dried lemon etc. then along with the vegetables put at the bottom of a pot where it’s covered in rice which is also flavoured in more delectable spices like turmeric and paprika (with a few more in there) and left to cook for longer. The fun then comes when the pot is tipped over onto a big dish, ready to serve. I’ll also take the plate exactly as pictured with a bit of salad, some Baba Ghanoush, yoghurt, and cucumber mint dip.

Homemade Maqlublah

MEAL 2: Joojeh and Kofte Kebab with flatbread, plus a side of salad. For the drink, I’ll take a 7UP.

Joojeh which is chicken kebab is a big love for me I wanted to start making kebabs at home and saw a recipe to try on Joojeh which is Iranian influenced. I fell in love immediately with the combination of crushed saffron and garlic cloves, coupled with other ingredients like; yoghurt, lime juice (or lemon juice if you prefer), turmeric etc. which gives the chicken it’s amazing flavour and colouring. I am also a big fan of lamb Kofte which is a generic Middle Eastern-style kebab, this style especially barbecued is unreal. I do like my Kebab with a dip as well, some salad and skewered tomato or onion. I’ve also concluded, that if the kebab is made well, the juices from the meat alone give it the flavour to grab with the bread and eat it equally if you can’t be bothered with the fuss of making a salad. As you can see from the pictures I took, I was too busy enjoying the kebabs to remember to take pictures so took them when there was only one strip left each time. I guess this could be a depiction of me having one skewer of each Joojeh and Kofte.

My attempts at making Jooblah at home, would love to have it in Iran one day!

Lamb kofte from a place that I ate at in Istanbul

Meal 3: Nasi Goreng along with mango Lassi.

I had to have Nasi Goreng; I’m a big fan of the dish and I just think the combination of the fried rice mixture with chicken and egg complement each other so well and I absolutely love it. I’ve tried whipping the dish up myself,. although I’m not sure I qualified to make the chicken the traditional way as I opted for (if memory serves correctly) a seasoning of; garlic, chilli, paprika, oregano and cumin with cornflour to add crispiness. For the chicken, I’d like it to be the buttermilk version, I’ve never made it at home this way but the thought of not having some crispy skin to dive into on this list is killing me (if I try this one time and it doesn’t work, I’ll stick with normal pan fried chicken for this meal). Some people also like to serve it with prawn crackers, oh go on then I’ll have some of that as well. Mango Lassi is just a must, first tried this at Dishoom and fell in love with its yoghurt texture. Feel like I’m cheating by bundling this one in with a meal as opposed to waiting to put it in desserts, but it’s got to be done. 

Desserts: dark chocolate chip brownie with Ben and Jerries Oreo ice cream, Kleicha and Portokalopita with Bastani ice cream with a pot of tea

I’ll get onto the desserts in a second, but don’t you think it’s imperative that after dinner you relax and have a nice pot of tea that is warmed from the stove? This is a whole experience in itself. Now for my first dessert, standard, Who doesn’t like a nice warm brownie topped with ice cream, I need no explanation of that, it is certainly a feel-good dessert and always gives me comfort. Kleicha is a Middle Eastern almost cookie-like dessert, filled with date mixture and sometimes walnut, the best way to describe it is it looks a bit like a cinnamon roll in a way. As soon as it comes out of the oven, I’m clamouring to get some at home. Portokalopita is an orange cake that is famous in Greece and Cyprus, I had it when I was in the old town of Nicosia. Made up with components like yoghurt, dough, and orange it seems a simple dish to make yet very effective. To add another tang to it goes with ice cream and the best ice cream I think I’ve had flavour-wise is Bastani ice cream which is Persian inspired contains pistachios and saffron for flavour.

Let’s ask the Time Squad

I also wanted to ask other members of Bath Time what their last meals would be, as I was curious to see how my answers stacked up against theirs. Below are the lethal combos they’ve gone for.

Adam Ellis’ last meal:

Bread course 

Assorted bread basket:

* Alter – pizza bread

* Sour dough from Aldeburgh 2 magpies

* Warm sweet loaf from De Kelder (PE) with the garlic butter

* Dough balls from pizza express 

* Roosterkoek bread stick’s

* With lava salt and Whipped Skar yogurt (moss restaurant – blue lagoon hotel – Iceland)

Starter 

* sea spice: peppered scallops

* Grilled octopus from Liondi in Athens 

* Shredded duck pancakes with crispy skin from Yum House in Kuala Lumpa

* Barata from Freddy’s in Galway

Main

Mums chicken pie 

Mums’ toad in the hole 

Tamarind duck at bo tree

Drinks

Sage colada from that place in London

Asahi pint chilled

Nice cold Coke Zero from a glass bottle 

Dessert

Chimney cake with cinnamon and sugar

Beach cake 

Gingerbread ice cream from the lake district

Big shoutout to Adam as well who has started food blogging on Instagram, you should check out his page if you want amazing recommendations. He goes by OnlyPans, drop him a follow and support one of our own! 

While I’m plugging Adam as well, I just wanted to plug my other friend Arian who does high-end food blogging, Some of the presentations on the plates he snaps are truly mesmeric. He is called Londonfoodblogs, and 1 million per cent I suggest you also follow him and you won’t regret it. 

Alastair Nicol’s last meal:

Meal 1)

Starter: Tandoori Lamb Chops

Main: Chicken Tikka with Masala Sauce on the side (it brings out the tikka flavour more, but you still get the sauce), rice and garlic naan

Desert: Mango Kulfi

Meal 2)

Starter: (might not even have a starter but if I need to) caprese salad

Main: Steak sandwich made up of a ribeye cooked to medium-rare in baked ciabatta on a bed of rocket and topped with either fried onions or onion chutney

Dessert: caramel ice cream (ideally Lakeland)

Meal 3) 

Starter: doughballs with garlic and herb dip (my local pizzeria makes the doughballs with mozzarella and sea salt, which is heaven in a mouthful of dough)

Main: The classic Neapolitan Margherita pizza, complete with buffalo mozzarella and basil

Dessert: after all that dough and cheese, you’ve got to end the Italian extravaganza with a light Tiramisu

Drinks: Old Mout Kiwi and Lime with all of them

Elliot Rose’s Last Meal:

Starter: Beans on toast with cheddar cheese (what did you expect!)

Main meal: A wood-oven fired pizza, doused in truffle oil with two runny eggs on top (Bath Pizza Company do this perfectly, would definitely recommend!). 

Dessert: psychedelic mushrooms (after all, this is my last meal, so I deserve some perspective over my imminent death).

To drink: A glass of Malbec. I’m not a sophisticated fucker, rather the sort of revolutionary wine drinker plotting to bring down the oligarchy. 

How did we fare?

Now it’s over to you to make up your mind, how did you think we did? Completely rubbish? Or have I made you all hungry writing this? I’d say it’s time you take on this challenge and think about how you’d order what you have and see if you can fit what you want onto your list. It’s definitely not an easy challenge, and I encourage you to talk about it with friends and family and see how you match up with them. One thing I hope you also took away from this is the need to have an appreciation for all foods; a lot has crossed over with different countries and even continents, and a lot has also stayed within local communities. There are disagreements on what is best and continuity. The only objective truth I know when it comes to the topic of food is that we are truly blessed to have so much great food that warms our souls and gives us joy.

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