Potpourri of flavours
Claudia Roden, international expert on the history of Jewish cooking and author of several books on Mediterranean cooking, published in several languages, is the "godmother" of this section. She tells us about her childhood meals:
"We had a cook from Upper Egypt called Awad. He lived on the roof of the building where we lived in Cairo. He was a peasant when he first came to work with our family - before I was born - so he learnt all the cooking from my mother and from relatives. Three of my grandparents came from Aleppo in Syria and one grandmother came from Turkey. So the kind of cooking we had in the family was a mix of Syrian, Turkish and Egyptian, as well as French, which was common in Egypt at the time, and Italian as our nanny who was a Slovene from a village in the Friuli region of Italy cooked for us children when we were small.
When my parents had to leave Egypt after the Suez war in 1956, they settled in London. My mother cooked the same dishes that we had in Egypt. Every Friday we all, my two brothers and myself, as well as our children, had Shabbath dinner at my parents' house. My mother usually made chicken sofrito with onions, garlic and lemon, adding little sautéed potatoes to the sauce or chicken with chickpeas, lemon, garlic and turmeric. She always made plain rice and at least one vegetable dish such as fresh (or frozen) broad beans with artichoke hearts or peas and a salad.
At Hanukah we made zalabia - fritters soaked in sugar syrup. For Pessah my mother made a haroset of dates and raisins. She made kobeba hamdah - ground rice dumplings stuffed with meat and cooked in a lemony broth with leeks and celery. We had roast lamb and rice with pistachios and almonds and cakes with ground almonds or hazelnuts."