Shopping: If I Win The Lottery -Tonight... Claudia Roden, food writer

MOST OF the things that I hanker after aren't buyable. I led a charmed life, as I grew up in Cairo, and at 20 I was an art student in London with lots of money, but then I became a penniless refugee. Money has always come and gone throughout my life, but it has never changed my level of happiness. I don't do the lottery as I usually win through hard work rather than luck, but I'd be terribly pleased if I ever did win!

To be sensible, first I would invest in my children's activities. Then I'd buy art by young people, rather than art on a grand scale, such as a Monet, which I'm just as happy to view in a gallery. It's a way to support the artists and to enjoy their beautiful work as well.

I've travelled to so many wonderful places, through working on my cookery books, that I understand why the very rich have homes in several different countries, especially in the south of France or Umbria in Italy. But my constant dream is to buy one old house, or rather, I'd like to commission my son - who is an architect - to design one for me in the old Arabic style.

My great-grandparents had this type of house with room enough for all their extended family to live with them. I'd build this house in a relatively isolated place, high on a hillside with spectacular views and surrounded by wild herbs with their fabulous scent. Most important, it will have a central courtyard garden where family and friends can gather - a place with flowers, fruit trees, figs, oranges and almonds, a fountain, colourful ceramics and mosaics.

I love convivial company and my greatest joy is, of course, eating good food. Eating good food out in the open is even better. So I'd build an outside oven in the courtyard and then everyone could join in the cooking. I don't think I've ever finished the cooking when people come over - they usually help me complete the meal.

I held the Eygptian 50-metre backstroke record when I was young and I love water. Even in the shower, I have wonderful memories of swimming. My dream house would have to have a big swimming pool as I'd want to swim, not just take a quick dip.

I'm not a very big gift-giver, believing that the best gifts are those of friendship, affection and love. I usually bring people gifts of food that I've cooked but, if I won the lottery, I'd give people jewels. To my three children and three grandchildren I'd give all that I have. I was a single parent and they mean everything to me.

Claudia Roden's `Invitation to Mediterranean Cookery: over 150 vegetarian and seafood recipes' is published by Macmillan at pounds 14.99. Interview by Diona Gregory

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