FO O D & D R I N K | B E N T I S H
Become fascinated by the food of the moors The restaurateur shares his passion for the foods of the Mediterranean and the Moors
Chef and restaurateur Ben Tish might have
“Their attitude to eating, how important
grown up in fish and chip shop-strewn
food is in their daily life - it’s all about when
Skegness, but his ultimate passion is the
they go shopping for their food, it’s top
food of the Med.
of the list. It’s not like us here, where it’s bottom of the list. I fell in love with that.”
He’s travelled to the region every year for more than a decade, spending lots of time
Skegness-born Tish has been a professional
particularly in Sicily, Andalucia and on the
chef for 25 years, and is the culinary director
Amalfi Coast - and his latest cookbook
of The Stafford London, but he actually “fell
Moorish, as the title doubly suggests,
focuses on the region and its culinary legacy of the Moors, which people still can’t
“I didn’t really come from a foodie family as
get enough of.
such; my parents were both terrible cooks,” he says, explaining this was more down to
The Moors were Muslims of North African descent, who invaded Spain and occupied
their lack of time and being overworked,
A B OV E Isaac Carew in the kitchen | Susan Bell/PA
than a lack of interest in food.
the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. “They had a pretty good run of it, it
“They did enjoy eating nice food,” he notes,
was fairly short-lived [around 200 years],”
Cooking techniques, like deep-frying and
recalling trips to France where they’d eat
says Tish of their attempts to conquer the
grilling over wood and charcoal, were also
their way around the Loire Valley with his
world, “but it’s still being felt now.”
introduced largely by the Moors. “As a chef, I
parents’ friends. “So I understood there
find that fascinating; as a food person, I find
was nice food out there, but I think the
He is entranced by the advancements
that fascinating,” says Tish. “You’ll get very
most important thing is my gran - my dad’s
and innovations the Moors brought with
typical non-Muslim ingredient like pork for
mum, [a] Jewish grandmother basically.
them, from their scientific developments
example, but rubbing shoulders with cumin
She lived with us, downstairs in a granny
(like distillation processes, even though they
and cardamom, and that’s just a natural way
flat at the back of the house. I would spend
didn’t drink alcohol for religious reasons), to
of cooking - it’s not a fusion, it’s just how the
a lot of time with her because my parents
their planting habits (as they invaded, they
food’s morphed over the centuries.”
the fruit, and the scent - hence Seville’s
Their legacy is as lively as ever, and intact,
“Honestly, she was the most amazing cook,”
famous orange trees).
down largely to the fact that “the places I’m
he adds. “And that stuck with me.”
planted citrus trees as they went, both for
talking about, Andalucia, Seville, Malaga, Their presence, says Tish, 44, can be found
they haven’t changed and they’re not going
in architecture (“In some parts of Sicily
to”, says the restaurateur with affection.
Mediterranean by Ben Tish, photography by
and Andalucia you could be in Morocco”)
“There are probably a few more cars - but
Kris Kirkham, is published by Bloomsbury
and through certain dishes; from nutrient-
Absolute, priced £26. Available now.
spices, to the area’s penchant for sweet
He feels that, although the dishes he makes
By Ella Walker, Press Association
are his “take” on a cuisine, he has fully
Ibizan biscuits and cakes (“There’s not
adopted the food and sensibility around
Are you feeling inspired? Try one of Ben’s
just partying in Ibiza”) owe culinary debts
produce and seasonality of people in
recipes for yourself...
to the Moors.
southern Italy and Spain.
rich cold soups, granita, aubergines and mouth-puckering
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