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Sami Tamimi imagines a day of serious eating

Sami Tamimi

The other half of the Ottolenghi food phenomenon hails from Palestine and lives in London. Here he imagines a day of serious eating, starting with moreish Moorish food

The other half of the Ottolenghi food phenomenon hails from Palestine and lives in London. Here he imagines a day of serious eating, starting with moreish Moorish food

June/July 2016

BREAKFAST I’d start the day sitting on the roof terrace at the Riad Kaiss in Marrakesh. I always have problems with food in Marrakesh; it’s very difficult to eat well there unless you go to someone’s house. Moroccan food looks nice on the plate but it lacks flavour. But here, at the riad, it’s like being in someone’s home. It is such a beautiful place, a bit shabby, but I like that. They cook these pancakes, msemmen, a sort of filo roti, but sweet, made from layers of pastry and Moroccan ghee – they’re so flaky and moreish. They give you a stack of them, served with Moroccan butter and local honey – the air is full of bees – fruit and juice from those little oranges, freshly made. Alongside, they bring you pots of their own homemade yoghurt, served still warm. And to drink, mint tea with sugar, always with sugar.

LUNCH  We can go to Jerusalem, to the Old City, for lunch. I lived in Tel Aviv for years but once a week or so I would go down to Jerusalem to see friends and visit my family. I would always stroll through the markets and end up having hummus for lunch in a humble place called Abu Shukri. Now it’s well-known to tourists but back then it was just a little local place. They do hummus to order; it’s not ready-made. You get it by the plate and it comes with warm falafel, chopped salad, pickles and fluffy pita bread. I would eat it with lemon, parsley and lots of garlic. Today people call anything spreadable hummus but I’m always correcting people on Instagram. Unless it’s 100% chickpeas, it’s not hummus. As a child, I would always go to Abu Shukri with my friend Nasser. Afterwards we would go down the road to Jafar, a sweet shop near the Damascus gate, for baklava or kunafa. We’d always share a portion – it’s so sweet.

TEA  No proper tea, not after the sugar rush of the pastries. Instead, staying in Jerusalem, I would go to the Notre Dame guest house, which used to be a monastery, at the border of East and West Jerusalem, up on a hill. The views of the Old City from its bar are mesmerising. A glass of wine, a couple of cheeses – French, not local – and those amazing views.

DINNER To Japan for dinner. You get to Tokyo and, jetlagged, wander round amid its chaos. Robata Honten (above) is difficult to find, under some arches, dark, and there’s no sign, but when you see the fruit and vegetables outside, you know you’ve found it. Inside, it feels as though you’re in someone’s house. The shelves are stacked high with ceramics, old and new. They have a tasting menu; not everything on it is great but the experience is. It’s run by two men, one an old guy who speaks English and another who looks like a Sumo wrestler. The food is a mix of Japanese and Western. Salads, seared trout, a sort of sashimi, their take on duck à l’orange. It’s not very Japanese; they’re usually so traditional about their cooking and the way places look. This is totally different. I would go with Jeremy, my partner, or friends. The joy of eating – and cooking – is sharing.

Sami Tamimi was talking to Josie Delap

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