Breakfast A market, for me, is heaven. And La Boqueria in Barcelona is the most thrilling in the world – even the women working on the stalls are sexy, dressed up in lacy outfits. Here you will find everything – seafood, meat, offal, game, charcuterie, cheeses, every kind of bean and mountains of wild mushrooms. But what makes it even more exciting are the tapas bars where you sit on high stools and pick at whatever looks most delicious that morning. So I would start my day at one of my favourite bars, Pinotxo, with my dear friend, Pepa Aymami. We would share a plate of wild morels, sautéed in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. I’d love a slice of jamon, a few razor clams and some boquerones – anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil. I would even have a glass of Priorat, because it doesn’t matter what time it is, I never miss an opportunity to taste something – and I could always say it was “research”.
Lunch For lunch, I would sail to Italy and visit the Ristorante dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio in Lombardy. I first went there 30 years ago and I have vivid memories of meeting Nadia and Antonio Santini, the young couple who had taken over the restaurant, which was opened in 1925 by Antonio’s grandfather. At the time nouvelle cuisine was sweeping across Italy and many regional restaurants were struggling. But the Santinis transformed homely dishes into haute cuisine without losing their character. Dal Pescatore now has three Michelin stars and a couple of years ago Nadia was voted the best female chef in the world – but you still feel the spirit of their family in the restaurant. I would choose their signature dish, tortelli di zucca – large pumpkin ravioli with a filling of pumpkin purée mixed with crushed macaroons, eggs, grated Parmesan, nutmeg and grated lemon peel. On my perfect day it would be early summer, so I would have a glass of sparkling white wine while watching the ducks run around the restaurant’s pond.
Tea In the afternoon I would pack my bags and head east to Istanbul, where I would be met by my friend Nevin Haliçi, an authority on Turkish gastronomy. After we had nosed around Misr Carsissi, the great vaulted spice bazaar, she would take me to Mado, a pastry shop on Istiklal Caddesi. I would have maras dondurmasi, the ice cream of my dreams. The flour used to make it is from an orchid bulb. The taste is delicate, the texture dense, chewy and elastic.
Dinner As it turns to evening, I would return to London. It’s where I have come to feel at home. The ingredients of the Middle East that I wrote about more than 50 years ago, such as tahini and pomegranate seeds, have become part of our modern English cuisine, as are the scents of saffron, cumin and coriander. Moro, in east London (pictured above), has the most glorious way of using them. Their dishes trigger memories of my childhood in Egypt, and adventures around the Mediterranean. When it opened, I was enthralled by the way Sam and Sam Clark mixed north African, Middle Eastern and Spanish cuisines. Tonight I would choose charcoal-grilled octopus with chickpea purée, grilled lamb with white beans and a green almond, olive and tomato salsa, followed by my usual Malaga-raisin ice cream. I would be dining with whichever of my children are free and their partners. Maybe it will be someone’s birthday – we have been celebrating there ever since it opened.
Claudia Roden was talking to Amalia Illgner