Her love affair with the Mediterranean stretches back to her early childhood, when her family holidayed in Alexandria on Egypt’s coast and she found the city joyous.
Her classic Mediterranean Cookery was first published in 1987 – but three decades on, when she had reached her Eighties and wanted to bring the culinary delights of the area to the next generation, she decided against venturing out on another gruelling expedition: “I didn’t have the strength to travel, and research and drive and carry a suitcase, sometimes up a hill.”
Instead, she enlisted the help of her three children – Simon, Nadia and Anna – and six grandchildren to test and sample recipes mined from her memory or, as she calls them, “remembered magic moments”.
Five years in the making, the book was completed during the pandemic, when family and friends would gather in Roden’s garden to gobble fragrant spiced rice and roasted veg, warming lentil soups, meaty Spanish stews, Arabic-inspired filo pastry parcels, steaming bowls of seafood spaghetti and more.
Catalan fish soup recipe
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves: 6 finely chopped and 2 crushed
good pinch of saffron threads
2 litres fish stock (use 3 fish stockpots)
100ml dry white wine
800g new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
1 tsp fennel seeds
strips of peel from ½ orange
800g skinless fish fillets, such as hake or monkfish
200ml good-quality bought mayonnaise
juice of ½ lemon
good pinch of chilli pepper, plus extra to serve
4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and black pepper
1. In a wide pan, fry the onion in the oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the chopped garlic and stir for 2 minutes until it just begins to colour.
2. Stir in the saffron and pour in the fish stock and the wine, then put in the potatoes, fennel seeds and orange peel and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for 20–25 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
3. Ten minutes before you are ready to serve, remove the orange peel and put in the fish. Cook, covered, over low heat for 4–10 minutes, depending on the fish and the thickness of the fillets, until the fish becomes opaque and the flesh begins to flake when you cut into it with a pointed knife. Break the fillets into pieces.
4. In a jug, beat the mayonnaise with the lemon juice, the crushed garlic and a pinch of chilli.
5. Just before serving, add a ladleful or two of the hot stock into the mayonnaise mixture and beat it in, then gently stir into the simmering soup. Heat through but do not let it boil or the mayonnaise will curdle. Serve sprinkled with parsley and pass round some chilli for anyone who would like to add more.
Green olive, walnut and pomegranate salad
100g good-quality pitted green olives in brine, drained
3 spring onions, chopped
bunch (25g) of flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
salt, to taste
chilli flakes, to taste
3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1. Coarsely chop the olives and walnuts, place in a serving dish and mix with the spring onions and parsley.
2. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses with a little salt and chilli flakes to taste. Pour over the olives and walnuts and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
butter or sunflower oil for greasing
4 large eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
400g full-fat Greek-style yoghurt
grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
For the strawberries:
60g caster sugar
juice of ½ lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Butter or oil a round non-stick cake tin (about 23cm in diameter) with a removable base.
2. Using an electric whisk, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.
3. In another bowl, using the same whisk, beat the egg yolks with the sugar
until thick and pale. Add the flour, yoghurt, lemon zest and juice and beat to
a homogenous cream.
4. Gently fold the egg whites into the yoghurt mixture and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned – watch it carefully for the last few minutes of cooking so that it doesn’t brown too much. The cake will puff up like a soufflé and then subside.
5. Let it cool a little before lifting it out onto a serving plate. Serve warm or cold.
6. For a beautiful accompaniment to the yoghurt cake, briefly rinse 500g strawberries, hull and cut them in half through the stem end, then sprinkle with 60g caster sugar and the juice of ½ lemon and leave for 1 hour.
Med by Claudia Roden, photography by Susan Bell, is published by Ebury Press.