His final meal would be in Kea!
One of the most famous food writers and restaurateurs Yotam Ottolenghi explains, in his weekly column for Guardian Weekend magazine, why his final meal ever would take place on the Greek island of Kea!
I would want to be on the Greek island of Kea, where we often spend time in summer with our closest friends. I first visited four years ago and it was love at first sight. It isn’t breathtaking in the way some Greek islands are: it doesn’t have the typical whitewashed villages and hypnotic sea views, but there is something unruly and wonderfully unclipped about its different landscapes: some mildly hilly and arid, others steep and densely green.
The morning would be spent on a nearby beach which is so hard to get to you normally wouldn’t find more than two dozen people there. On it there’s a small bar that serves mojitos: I’d have a couple of those.
I love cooking but on this particular occasion, I wouldn’t be involved. Instead, I’d just want a fabulous local cook. I don’t care who it is. I can instruct them. Cooking and thinking about food is part of my day job, but when I am away from home it’s very much a way to reconnect with my primal love of food and feeding: music is played, alcohol is consumed and there isn’t any action plan.
Mediterranean small plates are what you want to extend the occasion for as long as possible. I’d have lamb cutlets, marinated in garlic, lemon zest and oregano, grilled on the barbecue; grilled octopus salad with capers, celery, chopped up lemon and smoky paprika; burnt aubergine with crushed fresh garlic, drizzled with tahini paste and sprinkled with parsley; roasted red peppers marinated with vinegar, olive oil and rosemary, with chunks of feta on top; fava puree of yellow split peas topped with red onion and capers and olive oil; beetroot-swirled yoghurt sprinkled with dill and a massive pile of fried calamari. Fresh white peaches and some cream are all you need for dessert.
We’d rent a house on a dramatically barren hill overlooking a magical turquoise sea. The air is crystal clear, dry, hot and wonderfully atmospheric – especially around dusk, when serious quantities of Campari and grapefruit juice are being consumed.
I’d like my family and friends to be there. We’d watch the sun set together, consuming more Campari, followed by ouzo to accompany the food. Its aniseed aroma works so well with grilled meat or seafood and with anything that’s yoghurt- or cheese-based, so both food and tipple would keep on flowing until the early hours.
We would be sitting outside, around a large wooden table heavily laden with all the food. The simple furniture you normally find on the Greek islands – wooden chairs painted white, benches carved into white walls and scattered with blue cushions, a couple of hammocks nearby and a few pots with aromatic Greek basil dotted around – that’s all you’ll need. It’s all about the sea and the setting sun.