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Lunch with Claudia Roden and her Recipe for Raisin & Sweet Wine Ice Cream

Claudia Roden in her garden

Claudia Roden has long been an inspiration for me. My first forays into Middle Eastern cuisine quickly led me to her door, and I devoured her books A Book of Middle Eastern Food  and Arabesque. I was obsessed with ful medames and was desperate to recreate it at home. When I became curious about Jewish cuisine I quickly purchased The Book of Jewish Food following which I discovered her other books (the full list on Amazon is here).  Discovering Claudia Roden felt like I had fallen down a culinary rabbit hole.

So when I spied her at the OFM Awards last November, I was overcome with shyness and couldn’t say hello. I also didn’t want to be annoying and invasive. Later in the evening, Claudia came over to say hello and to congratulate me on my award. I was delighted and borderline dumbstruck: how lovely of her!

The Food of Spain

I knew that Claudia had been working on a new book The Food of Spain for the past 5 years and that it would be out soon. It is always exciting to know that one of your favourite authors is working on a new book. Thrillingly then, recently I received an email asking if I would like to come over for lunch and to talk Spanish food.

Claudia Roden, making Spanish hot chocolate in her kitchen

So, on a beautiful sun scorched March afternoon, I found myself knocking on Claudia’s front door. Not long after I was sitting in the sun with a glass of thick glistening Spanish hot chocolate. Claudia shared stories of Spain, Spanish culture and food. All about the regional variations, all about Spanish food including the influences of the Roman, Visigoth, Muslim and Jewish populations over the centuries. Really fascinating and peppered with many charming anecdotes of the 5 years that she spent researching and travelling Spain, it was a wonderful afternoon.

Claudia Roden

There were tales of coca – a pizza style tart that appeared at around the same time as pizza did, and maybe influenced / inspired pizza itself. Nobody seems to know for sure. Naples was part of Spain at that time so it is possible. There were tales of fiestas in Seville and beautiful large bowls of tomato with eggs and tuna. There was a beautiful platter of fried aubergine with salt and honey. We sampled the dishes as we chatted about them and finished with raisin and sweet wine ice cream and walnut cake with brandy.

Spanish lunch

Claudia’s book The Food of Spain is as informative and charming as I expected it to be. I am still over the moon that I got a chance to sit down with her and chat about it, while eating some of the food too.

Walnut & Brandy Cake

I will leave you with Claudia’s recipe for Raisin & Sweet Wine Ice Cream. She made it like a large round cake and served it in slices. I recommend you do the same as it is a bit of a show stopper. For ice cream, it is a fabulously straight forward recipe that does not need an ice cream machine or regular beating by hand.

Raisin & Sweet Wine Ice Cream

Recipe: Raisin & Sweet Wine Ice Cream
Helado de pasa y vino dulce

Serves 10 or more

Ingredients

100g raisins
100ml sweet Pedro Ximinez sherry plus more to pass around (love that!)
700ml double cream
300 ml whole milk
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar

Method

Put the raisins in a small bowl and pour over the sherry. Leave to soak for an hour or longer.

Heat the cream and milk in a large saucepan with the cinnamon stick and vanilla extract until almost boiling. Remove from the heat and leave fir half an hour to infuse before removing the cinnamon stick and reheating.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar to a pale thick cream with an electric mixer. Add a ladleful of the hot milk and beat well, then pour this egg and sugar cream into the saucepan, off the heat, beating vigorously to mix well. Now return the pan to a low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the mixture thickens. Do not let it boil or it will curdle (if it does, you can save it by beating it thoroughly with the electric mixer until smooth).

Pour the custard into a serving bowl and let it cool, then cover it with cling film and put it into the freezer. After about 3 – 3.5 hours, when it has firmed enough but is not yet hard, take it out of the freezer and thoroughly mix in the raisins together with their sherry. You must do this before the ice cream becomes too hard to mix but when it is firm enough so that raisins remain suspended evenly and do not sink to the bottom. If you do not mix thoroughly there will be little white lumps in the ice cream, but that too is lovely. Return to the freezer and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Take the ice cream out of the freezer 10 – 15 minutes before serving, then cut it into slices. If it proves difficult to dislodge the slices from the bottom, dip the bowl in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds.

Pass the bottle of Pedro Ximinez around for everyone to drizzle a little over their ice cream.

Raisin & Sweet Wine Ice Cream

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

25 Comments

  1. The raisin and sweet wine ice-cream looks delicious and I like the way you can serve it in slices like a piece of sponge cake! I reckon some lemon/orange zest would go nicely with the sherry flavour.

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  2. Wow! that must of been so amazing to sit down with one of your food heroines! Surreal. The photographs are so full of colour and verve. Wonderful blog post. I almost felt like I was there (or maybe just wished I had been!). I’m going to try that ice-cream but veganize it. I used to love rum and raisin as a little girl, perhaps this will be similar (with some orange zest…thanks Rax).

    I’m now off to write the guest list for my ‘dream’ veggie dinner party.

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  3. Great post Niamh. Would live to meet Claudia. Imagine working on a cookbook for five years; Amazing, so good to get right under the skin of regional cooking… One day!…

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  4. Great post Niamh. I’m jealous!! Quite incredible to work on a book for five years; a real labour of love! Brilliant to get right under the skin of a country’s cooking. One day!…

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    • I know – would be a dream come true :)

      She is a wonderful lady and a real inspiration. It was fantastic to meet her.

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  5. Awesome! We had a huge Lebanese/Moroccan feast last night for my husband’s birthday (I was cooking all weekend) and almost all the recipes were from Arabesque. So jealous that you got to meet Claudia and delighted to know that she has a new book coming.

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  6. What a dream of an afternoon. Pedro X is such a special thing. For me a small glass and a piece of dark chocolate and a few almonds is all it takes to turn a wretched eve into something great.

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    • Isn’t it wonderful?! It is terrific with pineapple desserts too :)

      A little bit of wine can change an otherwise awful evening. I usually reach for a rich red and some roquefort!

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  7. What a wonderful afternoon! I have a few books by Claudia Roden and this one is on my list as well. She is a gifted writer, food historian and (I wish I could taste) great cook as well.

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  8. Yummy.
    My mother was the presenter of its Farmhouse kitchen for many many years. It may have been before your time but ran for over 15years and still has the record for the longest running cookery programme. Any way she knows CR through the Guild of Foodwriters-I’m sure you already know of it but if not seems very active and has good speakers etc

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    • Hey Gráinne! Just submitted my membership as it happens :) Thought it was time. I am afraid I am unaware of the cookery show though. Sounds great.

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  9. I love how that ice cream comes in a huge wheel, much like cheese, or cake. I can just imagine serving a slice of that much like you would a slice of cake for afternoon tea/dessert.how lucky to be able to share an afternoon just talking about and eating food with a cook you admire! it was lovely reading about it.

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  10. How lovely to have met Claudia Roden and lunch with her on such a glorious afternoon. I saw a sneak of some of her recipes in The Observer a couple of weekends ago and was highly excited. I met and interviewed Diana Henry a little while ago and felt the same way about meeting someone whose work, writing and recipes inspire me so much. I believe Claudia Roden was one of Diana’s biggest inspirations, too. The food and recipes look wonderful, I’d love to try the Spanish pizzy-style tart, as well as the ice cream!

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    • Sounds lovely, Ren! I think Claudia Roden has been a huge inspiration for many food writers and home cooks generally.

      Reply

  11. Pingback: Spanish Food Culture

  12. What a beautiful day you had for it too! I tried aubergine with honey once in Spain and I couldn’t believe how well the flavours went together.

    Reply

    • Makes sense that the bitter aubergine would love sweet honey, but quite how much I never realised until I tried :) Gently crisp batter provides a nice textural contrast too :)

      Reply

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