Toni Marí: «Recipes should be left the way they are»

He talks slowly, searching his memories, flavours and anecdotes, to express the gastronomic wisdom of 87 well-lived years..

How can a recipe be kept alive for so long?

By using the same ingredients as on the first day and not changing anything. It is complicated to stick to traditional recipes, there has to be a commitment and do things the way they should be done every day.

What is sofrit pagès and what is the origin of the recipe?

It is a typical dish that was prepared at big family gatherings, especially at weddings. I went to Las Dalias when I was 18 to peel potatoes and I collaborated with two women from Sant Carles and two cooks who made the most amazing sofrit, Toni Es Plà and Toni Mariano den Xicu. They were experts but it was the women who always gave the seal of approval to the cooking and added the right amount of sofrit.

What ingredients did they use back in 1943?

he same ones as today – potatoes peeled by hand, sobrasada, butifarra, chicken and lamb – with every component cooked individually. There is a lot of preparation, but there lies the secret. When everything is half cooked the meat is combined with chopped parsley and garlic. It is added to a paella pan with some chunks of sobrasada and butifarra, and fried well and then the meat stock is added. The pan is shaken by hand and not stirred with a wooden spoon, because this would spoil everything. It is a very hearty and nutritious dish but involves a lot of work.

Is it difficult to cook?

No, it isn’t difficult, but these days people don’t have the time to make it, it requires a lot of patience because you have to boil the lamb and skim the stock, then do the same with the chicken. This is why it is a dish that is disappearing from restaurants – we must defend it. I recommend that everyone who cooks it makes an effort to do it well, because it is a classical Ibizan dish and we are playing with tradition. Recipes should be left the way they are and not have other ingredients added, which distort them.

What is your opinion of all the traditional cooking contests that take place on the island throughout the year?

hey are detracting from the original recipe, because they are adding things that don’t correspond to the authentic flavour. Before we used good chicken and genuine Ibizan potatoes, which are fundamental for the flavour. In these competitions they do what they know; it’s like a Galician chef coming to Ibiza and learning how to make a sofrit. He will cook it the way he knows – but it’s not the same.

And what is your opinion of the famous chefs and new cooks that are opening restaurants on the island?

Good cooks are very few and far between, today’s chefs are people that work in the kitchen, but that’s not the same as being a good cook. A good cook knows what he is doing; the other only does what he knows.

Are Michelin-starred chefs a good thing for Ibiza?

Lately there are a lot of ‘Michelin chefs’. If you explain to a cook how to make a dish, they will do it well, however there are some chefs who just work in the kitchen, but they are not real cooks.

Could you tell me the key to making a good sofrit pagès?

Make sure everything is cooked to perfection, because if one component isn’t cooked right it spoils the flavour. The difficult part is adding and combining each ingredient at the right moment to obtain the perfect balance of the dish. Today’s chickens are better for cooking but don’t make as much stock. The authentic free-range chickens from the old days were better for making the stock, but real country chickens are a thing of the past.

Do you often get asked for the recipe?

Lots of people ask for the recipe, which we gladly give them, and when they come back and say, «How do you do this, mine doesn’t turn out the same?» I tell them to come by the kitchen one day and I show them how it’s done. Every Tuesday I taught young people how to cook for free, but they weren’t consistent, and one of them, who was very good and wanted to stay, didn’t have his papers in order.

How many sofrits do you think you have sold over the years?

estimate ten dishes every day for 365 days a year multiplied by 47 years…

Has anyone ever complained about a plate of sofrit?

I always offer a rice dish, a country salad and a sofrit; no one has ever complained. Some ballet dancers from Mallorca that were visiting Sant Carles for a festival didn’t want to try it because they didn’t know what it was, and a lady said to me: ‘Not the sofrit, it’s not good’ but in the end they ate everything as it was free! Not even a tourist has ever complained. The renowned English chef, James Martin, wrote an article about it, which was published in Australia, England, Italy, Spain and other countries, and now people from all over the world come to sample this iconic dish.

 can’t imagine Cristiano Ronaldo eating a plate of sofrit?

can’t imagine Cristiano Ronaldo eating a plate of sofrit?

At 87, what do you love doing?

I love to go fishing because it rejuvenates me, and watching football on TV, I’ve seen some matches in the country and it’s something else.

What is your favourite dish?

From Ibizan cuisine, the sofrit, naturally. I also love fish and seafood, freshly caught by the local fishermen.


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