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On Being an Ersatz Oligarch

Maria and Ekaterina humouring the ersatz oligarchs

All over the Mediterranean, from Greek to Majorcan marinas, thousands and thousands of yachts bob on blue waters, their owners sporting yachting caps and playing at being sea-dogs; whereas the enormously wealthy ones who have acquired their filthy lucre in interesting ways, stay in their over-decorated lounges, feet up, watching football or something unspeakable on giant screens and snorting coke. They snap their fingers and a tom yum soup with lobster rolls appears. Another snap of fingers conjures up a platter of tacos and a jug of margaritas. They snaffle it up, falling asleep in a stupor of over-indulgence, secure in the knowledge that they won’t have to wash up even a teaspoon.

Katrina has cooked on many such yachts; but now she is on terra firma with her partner Maria and they are both indulging us with dish after dish, expertly turned out and served on a table decked with spring mimosa that has just been picked from the hillside.

We are offered sunshine yellow margaritas, made with passion fruit and sea-buckthorn and infused with aromas of a tropical paradise.

Ekaterina mixing the cocktail

Then follow lobster rolls in home-made brioche buns. These are supplemented by chili ceviche and spicy tacos, after which a couple of fish courses are presented with a charming flourish.

Maria and Ekaterina met in Fomentura, which is the little one off Ibiza, and decided they’d rather do their own thing, which would be infinitely preferable to waiting on Dimitri or Stavros or Giovanni and their entourages. Their dream is to set up a pension in Majorca which specifically caters to professional cyclists in training. Maria is taking a degree in nutrition to that purpose because this type of athlete’s diet is scientific and terrifically picky. Protein without carbs, carbs without greens, high energy shakes, green shots etc etc. Very time consuming to source and prepare.

The fearsome Thermomix

The chefs have brought along an unfamiliar German made machine called a Thermomix which supposedly does everything one can’t be bothered to do oneself. “It can even follow instructions from your smartphone. Everyone in Spain cooks with this, but I only used it for sauces.” Maria wrinkles her nose. “I prefer to cook with my own hands”.

A fishy dish with wasabi sauce

All the pottery has been made by Maria in Majorca.

another fishy dish

The dishes keep coming, the margaritas are deliciously woozy, and then the panacotta to beat all panacottas is served.

Panacotta with rosemary infused fruit sauce and lychee granita

The last delicacy of our celebration menu is a layered carrot cake infused with orange zest and a restrained but unmistakably flavoured coffee cream cheese icing. Not too sweet in the Spanish way, but very more-ish and decorated with candied kumquats and curls of candied orange peel.

At the end everything is discreetly cleared away, the chopping boards scrubbed, the dishwasher loaded and our very own chefs-for-the-evening disappear. It had been three hours of utter bliss to indulge in zero responsibility and make-belief. I think the occasional fantasy is far nicer than a daily immersion in self-indulgence, but I did long a little for the times when I planned the menu with our wonderful family cook, Mishrilal. Those were the days in my mother’s house when I didn’t have to cook. Mishrilal was furloughed to his village in the UP in November, but he is back now in Delhi making his incomparable sweet and sour pumpkin, fragrant dals and millet rotis. (See my blog Two Steps Forward and One Back.)

But even as I finish this sentence I get a message that he has been rushed to hospital last night with what sounds like a heart attack. Our stout-hearted, sunny natured friend, always ready with a terrible joke and his marvellous talent, nurtured and developed by my late mother: Get well soon, Mishri.

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