Four glorious weeks in the Falkland Islands!
We went for the wildlife (particularly the penguins and albatross) but, to our delight, we also received a wonderfully warm and hospitable welcome from the kelpers - as the islanders call themselves (after the kelp seaweed that grows in abundance around the shores and washes up in huge piles along all the beaches).
Unusually, given my foodie tendencies, this was a trip where food really didn’t come into it. We chose our destinations according to wildlife, available accommodation and cost. Our itinerary included a mix of full board (staying in the homes of the owners or managers of individual islands) and self-catering (where board was not available).
That’s not to say we didn’t eat well – we did. Kelper hospitality is renowned and hearty. Full board equalled generous cooked breakfasts, energising packed lunches and waistband-busting 3 course evening meals (or 4 at Carcass Island who added a cheese course at the end too!)
This post is in large part a thank you to those with whom we stayed.
Dishes that stood out (plus some wildlife photos thrown in):
Sheena at Darwin House served a huge roast lamb dinner. Her cauliflower cheese was particularly tasty! I’d say her breakfast sausages were also the finest we had on the island!
Carcass Island: flight in a FIGAS Islander, a striated caracara (known as a Johnny Rook), crested ducklings, magellenic penguin
Meals at Carcass Island Managers House are cooked by chef Roldan and his wife Eva. All delicious. But the one dish I’ll never forget is owner Lorraine’s home-made lemon meringue pie. Served with cream that was in the cow only hours before and is so thick you can stand a spoon up in it, I can understand why this was the dessert at Rob and Lorraine’s daughter’s wedding a few years back!
West Point Island: rockhopper penguin, long-tailed meadowlark, upland geese, black-browed albatross courtship, black-browed albatross and chick
We self-catered at West Point and our meal packs were provided by Heather Smith in Stanley. They were sent from Stanley on the same little FIGAS Islander plane we took from Darwin to Carcass Island (from where we took the boat across to West Point). We loved eating from our boxes of goodies and generally had simple egg and toast breakfasts, fried cheese sandwiches or soup and toast for lunch and the oven-ready meals in the evenings. All Heather’s meals were great but favourites were her mushroom soup and her chicken and wine casserole. And her chocolate sponge pudding hit the spot!
Pebble Island: rockhopper penguin and imperial shag colony, dolphin gull, imperial shag, young rockhoppers, gentoo penguins, gentoos approaching Kavey
We ate superbly well at Pebble Island Lodge too. Jacqui’s toothfish with a mushroom and wine sauce was so delicious; tender and perfectly cooked. And her lasagne another night was fantastic! Allan and Jacqui were wonderful hosts, so we particularly enjoyed our last evening where they dined with us.
Saunders Island, The Neck: magellenic penguins in sand storm, our footprints, sunset from the cabin window, gentoo penguin, Pete with the rockhopper penguins, rockhoppers heading to sea, rockhoppers returning from sea, elephant seal, baby skua, Pete and king penguin, king penguin grooming
The meal packs for our self-catering stay at Saunders Island were provided by the Malvina House Hotel in Stanley. I have to say that, whilst the main meals were decent, these meal packs were disappointing and poorly planned out. Luckily, we were able to supplement them at the Saunders Island store. When I say “store”, don’t imagine a regular shop with pristine shelves and a regular till. What I’m talking about is a rural farmer’s food store shed with sturdy shelves of long-life food, a chest freezer of meat (much of it from their own sheep and beef cattle), boxed wines and piles of empty boxes and packaging. Suzan keeps track of one’s purchases in a simple ledger book and one settles up in cash before leaving. Fantastic!
On our arrival, we chatted to Suzan as she transferred us from the airstrip to our first self-catering accommodtion at the Rookery. Discussion got onto food and Suzan asked if we’d tried much local food. Other than lamb/ mutton and beef from the herds on Carcass Island and Pebble Island, I replied that we hadn’t. Certainly we’d not tried any native species such as the wild geese.
Roast dinner: the Upland goose as it arrived, the feather shafts I pulled out, my stuffing, my makeshift spaghetti sutures, the roasted goose and potatoes
Suzan immediately offered to get a goose for us; plucked and gutted, ready for the oven! We made a plan for a roast dinner at the cabin at The Neck (a self-catering unit made from a one and a half shipping containers!) and Suzan also provided potatoes and a large onion (from which I made a basic bread and onion stuffing). I did have to pull out a lot of feather shafts that had remained in the skin – I just focused on those that felt solid, like thin plastic, and left in those that were teeny tiny soft. For the stuffing I simply mixed moistened brown bread with chopped white onion and lots and lots of black pepper and stuffed it into the enormous cavity. A futile search through the kitchen saw me fasten the cavity with raw dried spaghetti sticks – yes, I broke a few during the process! Whilst I knew the wild bird would be less fatty, I probably should have rubbed some butter over the skin for added moisture. Following Suzan’s advice I roasted the goose for 3 hours at gas mark 3. Whilst it wasn’t as tender as a domesticated goose bred for the table it wasn’t tough either – the meat was dense but really good. Our two cabin mates shared the meal with us and also enjoyed it. And the thin crispy skin was popular. The roasties, cooked long and slow, were unbelievably gorgeous! And the stuffing, so simple, was really good. Meaty juices had obviously imparted their flavour – yum!
Suzan also provided us regular deliveries of fresh cream from their cows – much like the cream at Carcass Island this was far thicker and fresher than anything I’ve ever been able to buy in England – truly fresh from the source! We had tinned fruit and fresh cream for dessert every single one of our 8 nights on Saunders Island and it was utterly delicious!
That eighth night was unplanned- FIGAS were unable to operate any flights (due to the weather) on the day we were due to transfer to Volunteer Point so we had an extra day on Saunders instead. We shared two houses down in the settlement with 16 crazy girl guides from the UK and a Canadian traveller who’d been with us up at The Neck. As none of us had food for the extra day, Suzan and David kindly provided two enormous joints of beef for roasting (which they even came across to carve for us, and Suzan made the gravy). For all the hype about longer hanging times for beef here in the UK, I found this beef wonderfully flavoursome and tender, and yet the cow was killed just 2 days previously!
And as if that wasn’t enough, Suzan made us an immense pile of dough-fries which we slit and stuffed with fresh cream, drizzled with the golden syrup she also provided and served with tinned fruit. Oh my, they were decadent and I must make some myself soon!
Photos to be added later
At Volunteer Point we stayed with wardens Derek and Trudi in the Warden’s Cottage. We loved watching Derek toast bread over the peat-fire in the range cooker. And the roast mutton and braised gammon dinners were both wonderful. Trudi also introduced me to the lethal combination of rum and port, which I had better not drink too often!
We were also able to try a fried penguin egg for breakfast (gentoo for those who were wondering!) which locals are permitted to harvest at certain times of year, to a strict license. Derek and Trudi preserve theirs in some strange gluey fluid they told me about, which allows them to preserve the eggs raw. Penguin eggs are an acquired taste, that’s for sure. I could probably get used to the strange-tasting orange yolk but the oily, translucent albumen (egg “white”) was just… let’s keep it polite and say unpleasant!
We spent the last couple of nights of our trip in Lafone House where Arlette served wonderfully generous breakfasts. That fresh fruit salad with plumb blackberries, strawberries, melon, kiwitfruit, bananas and more was more of a treat than you can imagine – fresh fruit is expensive in the Falklands and, given the way most food reaches the islands by boat, the range they get is limited!
The Diddle Dee Berry (empetrum rubrum) is a bittersweet species of crowberry that resembles a small redcurrant in appearance, though it has it’s own unique flavour. Found in Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands, it is the fruit of a small shrub that covers vast swathes of the Falklands. The Islanders commonly make it into jam and I bought back a couple of freshly made miniature jars.
One little jar (approximately 50 grams) of Diddle Dee Jam is up for grabs!
For once, I’m running a competition open to readers both inside and outside the UK! Leave a comment on this post before midnight on 31st March to enter!