Early breakfast As it’s a special day, I’d treat myself to a Turkish-style breakfast of kaymak. Similar to English clotted cream – although firm enough to cut with a knife – the best version is made from buffalo milk, and you’ll spot trays of dainty kaymak curls in traditional milk-pudding shop windows all around Turkey. Rich and luscious, with the faintest cheesy tang, it is served with little dishes of floral honey, homemade jams and a basket of still-warm flatbreads from a neighbourhood bakery. For me, this is the stuff of dreams. Locals tend to drink sweet black tea with it, but I’d opt for freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and a heart-starting Turkish coffee.
Brunch After a relatively light breakfast I’d soon be ready for a home-cooked Lebanese spread. This would involve turning back time as nothing would give me greater pleasure than to stand next to my parents (both sadly passed away) in my Melbourne childhood home, cooking for our extended family. Dad would make his legendary salad of pickled lambs’ tongues with lemon and toum (garlic sauce), Mum would make stuffed vine leaves, I’d prepare salmon kibbeh nayee (a variation on the traditional Middle Eastern steak tartare), lentil tabbouleh and spiced roast quail while my brothers would barbecue ras-el-hanout prawns and lamb cutlets. To drink, it would have to be arak (the only thing to accompany a mezze spread) and we’d finish with slices of chilled watermelon.
Naughty snack By late afternoon I’d be hankering after a sweet treat. My favourite ice cream is bouza – “stretchy” ice cream, coated in crunchy pistachios – made famous by Bakdash in Damascus. I’d make do with the version from their outpost in the Dubai Mall, and reminisce about my wonderful travels around Syria, before the recent troubles began.
Dinner I wouldn’t need a big fancy meal, but by around 10pm I’d be ready to fly to Hong Kong’s Central District where I’d head straight to Yung Kee. I’ve been eating here for well over 20 years, since I worked in Hong Kong in the 1980s, and I always have their roast-goose noodle soup. It’s the perfect comfort food: slippery egg noodles, crunchy Chinese greens and slices of juicy, crisp-skinned goose, all in a fragrant broth.
Supper I’d be turning the clock back again, this time to the days when I was a newly qualified cuisinier, working at a boutique hotel in Meaux. Twice a week after service, the head chef and I would drive to the Rungis wholesale market in Paris. Rungis is hard-core, busiest in the night hours. We’d get there at around 1.30am and before starting to load up the van we’d join the crowds of market traders and chefs, crammed into Le Saint Hubert café in the poultry hall. I always ate a baguette stuffed with fromage de tête de veaux (brawn) and Dijon mustard, washed down with a glass of red wine. I went back a few years ago and was thrilled to find the place is still there – and the baguettes were just as good as I’d remembered.
Greg Malouf was talking to Lucy Rushbrooke