I learnt my craft growing up in a family of farmers and shopkeepers whose values were based on the importance of high-quality work and ingredients, and those values are still with me today. When I decided to open the Sant Pau, I did it because of my determination to use top-quality ingredients and combine them creatively. These are the values that have underpinned my husband Toni Balam's and my work since the day we opened. Working rigorously and respectfully has enabled us to achieve our most important objectives. My cooking is inspired by Catalan recipes based on ingredients from the Maresme region. I try to cook modern, creative Catalan dishes.
I buy espigall, a particular variety of cabbage, directly from a producer in the Garraf region. Espigall is more than a winter vegetable — for me it’s a real source of inspiration. It has a singular flavor and a slight bitterness that I find intriguing. This kind of cabbage is always a main feature of our winter tasting menu.
We use several cooking techniques. Espigall can be blanched and then sautéed, deep-fried as tempura, baked with fish or braised with meat. This winter we served it hot, unevenly chopped, mixing the stems and the leaves, and combining it with shiitake mushrooms. When it’s presented to the diners at the table, the waiter adds dashi [Japanese fish stock] and a romesco sauce [a thick Catalan sauce made with tomatoes, peppers, almonds and garlic]. The result is a delicious, delicate soup in which the qualities of the espigall really come through.