Archive for November 2nd, 2009

Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes
Colette Rossant
Pub: Bloomsburypbks

Collette Rossant recounts in memoir and in recipes a snapshot of her early life.  In 1937, aged five, she arrived in Cairo from Paris with her Egyptian/Jewish father and French mother. On the death of her father, her mother returned to France and Collette remained with her wealthy grandparents. At age fifteen she was summoned to Paris to join her mother, never to see her grandparents again. Before going to Cairo, even as a very young child, she loved the Parisien kitchen, but her maternal grandmother thought it was no place for her to spend time: “Une jeune fille de bonne famille ne fréquente pas la cuisine!” (A young girl of good breeding does not go into the kitchen!)  In Cairo entering the kitchen was not a problem. Collette recounts tales of the happy and seemingly carefree lifestyle of her childhood: the welcoming kitchen, where she learned so much from Ahmet the cook and her grandmother, the sights and sounds of shopping in the bazaar and the sumptuous meals she remembers. 

The final chapter of Apricots on the Nile tells how Collette, thirty years later and a journalist and food writer, retraces her steps.  She rediscovers the Egypt of her past, trying to find again the places with their remembered sights, smells and tastes. 

I loved this book with its honest account of Collette Rossant’s unusual childhood before and around the time of World War II, the sadnesses as well as the happy times, giving a window onto a world now gone for ever.   I loved too the unusual recipes, both Egyptian and French.  One in particular, Grilled Chicken with Sumac & Roasted Banana, we thoroughly enjoyed and my variation the recipe is included on this site.  There are many other delicious sounding recipes, including: Semit (soft sesame seed covered pastries) and Sambusaks (cheese filled pastries), Ta’miyya (like Felafel), Babaghanou (roasted aubergine puree, served as a dip), Stuffed Vine Leaves (filled with rice, lamb and cumin), Chickpea Purée and Traditional Hummus, Lentils and Beetroot with Swiss Chard, Fricasée of Fennel, Bean Soup and Apricot Pudding (a rich dessert of baked pureed dried apricots), plus from Collette’s time at the convent school, Soeur Leila’s Red Lentil Stew and Lentil Soup.

According to the Bloomsbury website, Collette Rossant has written two further ‘memoirs with food’, neither of which I have read, but I will try to track them down as I hope they are equally as enjoyable.
Return to Paris
Madeleines in Manhatten
I have also found reference to a book on Collette Rossant’s own website, supposedly the third in her series, called A World in my Kitchen: The Adventures of a (Mostly) French Woman in New York.   It is not clear whether this is Madeleines in Manhatten under a different title, or a new book.  Collette is also the author of several cookbooks, on a variety of subjects including Kosher Cooking, Japanese Cuisine and Slim Cuisine.

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Parkin is a sticky ginger flavoured traditional regional cake from Yorkshire.   It makes an ideal sweet course to follow the mug of warming soup and sausage and onion filled rolls usually eaten round the bonfire whilst watching fireworks on November 5th.  It is ideal for packed lunches as well. 

The original recipe comes from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course. The quantities given will fill a small square tin  but I usually double the quantity to fill a larger oblong tin which is worthwhile as Parkin keeps very well. Dried fruit can be added along with the flour, or ginger lovers can add some chopped crystallised ginger.  Ideally Parkin should be stored so it can soften, but I usually find it is all gone well before any suggested storage period is over.  Delia writes: ‘… if kept in an airtight tin it matures to a lovely chewy consistency.  One week’s keeping is enough, but two weeks is even better.’  Perhaps I ought to hide the tin?!

100_9018 Parkin

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Yorkshire Oatmeal Parkin
(Makes 8 or 9 pieces)

175g/6ozs medium oatmeal (I use porridge oats)
75g/3ozs self-raising flour, sifted
A pinch of salt
110g/4ozs golden syrup
25g/1oz black treacle
75g/3ozs margerine
75g/3ozs soft brown sugar
1½tsp ground ginger
1 small egg, beaten
1 dessertspoonful milk

1.  Pre-heat oven to Gas 4/275oF/150oC/ 140oC Fan.  Lightly grease a small square cake tin about 6inches/15cm square – I use one slightly larger about 8inches/20cm square. 

2.  Weigh a saucepan on the scales and then weigh the syrup and treacle into it, followed by the margerine and sugar.  Place on a gentle heat and watch carefully until the margerine has just melted down.  Do not leave it unattended – it must not boil.

3.  Weigh the oatmeal, flour and ginger into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and then stir in the warm syrup mixture.  Stir in the egg and finally the milk.  Mix well.

4.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. 

5.  Bake in the centre of the oven for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until the centre feels springy to the touch.  Be careful that it does not overcook.  The Parkin should be soft rather than crispy. 

6.  Cool in the tin for about 30minutes before turning out and cooling on a tray and cutting into squares or wedges.  I understand that it can sink in the middle, but this does not matter.

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