Following in Grandma’s footsteps

Claudia Roden has two things to be proud of – a new updated edition of her book, The Food of Italy, and grandson, Cesar Roden, who has launched a gourmet ice lolly-making business

By Rosa Doherty, May 8, 2014
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Claudia Roden is one of the most famous names in Middle Eastern cookery. Now food has become a family affair.
She has been joined in the kitchen by grandson Cesar, who, last Spring, launched gourmet artisan ice-lolly company, Ice Kitchen, last spring with his aunt (Claudia’s daughter) Nadia Roden.
According to 24-year old Cesar, despite his grandmother’s expertise and success, she doesn’t get in the way in his kitchen.

“She is very excited, has told all her friends and loves tasting the lollies, but she lets me get on with it and doesn’t interfere.”

Claudia admits it was hard for her not to want to be involved.

“Even though I’m always saying ‘oh I have this idea’ they say to me ‘no no’. They wanted to do it on their own. When they want me to taste something I will, but they are very keen to do it on their own and I really respect that.”

She has, however, supplied Cesar with a few Middle Eastern recipe ideas including an Egyptian pudding made with pistachio, milk and rose water, which he plans to use in the future. And she has definite ideas on their flavors, which she gets to sample when they do the testing in her kitchen.

“The tastes are simple and sophisticated. My favorites are the ones with coffee and a orange and lemon one that is so thirst quenching, it is better than a drink in the heat.”

Cesar hand makes the luxury ice-lollies, in his Crouch End kitchen, and sells them at food markets and fairs, from his Ice Kitchen trolley.

Ice Kitchen's orange and lemon lolly

Ice Kitchen's orange and lemon lolly

“We use the latest rapid freezing technology and only the very best, fresh natural ingredients with no artificial anything” says Roden, whose first recipe book Ice Kitchens – 50 Lolly Recipes, co-written with Nadia, is to be published in July.

“The book is in perfect time for summer. We have created classics, and twists on the classics, as well as surprising and unexpected flavour combinations like raspberry and basil dipped in white chocolate, and rose and pistachio. You’d be surprised by what tastes great together.”

His grandmother hadn’t expected him to be working with food:

“As a child he maybe would only eat four things. Then in his teens he suddenly wanted to eat everything and would try the things I cooked. That’s whenI thought he had a real taste for food and experimenting. I am so happy and proud of him for doing it. I get more excited about Cesar and Nadia’s book than I do when it is one of my own.”

Cesar says Claudia, whose book The Food of Italy was re-published this month, has played a huge part in his discovery of food.

“We have all her books at home and growing up around them gave me an idea that I could make a living from food. She always tries out new recipes on the family and provides us with massive meals, which are usually from her new book. I feel proud going to public events with her and I know that so many people, from professional chefs to foodies, have been massively influenced by her.”

Also hugely influential has been his New York based aunt, Nadia. He decided he wanted to make the lollies after working with her making and selling ice cream and lollies in Lower Manhattan.

Cesar says his aunt had spent several years researching and perfecting her innovative iced creations. They were so well received in New York he was confident a similar business would flourish in London.

And it did. Earlier last year Ice Kitchen featured on BBC’s The One Show, where they caught the attention of business tycoon Alan Sugar.

“The One Show wanted to highlight the start of the Apprentice series, by featuring some young entrepreneurs. They picked Ice Kitchen and another food company, and spent the weekend filming us at our markets to see who made the most money. Ice Kitchen won.”

Lord Sugar’s feedback was short and sweet: “He told me to ‘make sure I had an alternative product to get me through the winter,’ then he and his wife had to rush off to dinner.”

Cesar spent this winter planning for the coming year and has been busy finding additional outlets for the lollies which will be available from Curzon cinemas and COOK frozen food shops from this month. He is also about to relaunch his carts at this summer’s food markets.

Claudia says she is proud of her offsprings’ ambition and eye for emerging trends.

“It is wonderful to see them doing something together as a family. Cesar looks so hard for the best products and has a way of bringing flavors out that are very popular. Street food has become popular and fashionable and that is exactly what the lollies are.”

‘Ice Kitchen: 50 Lolly Recipes’ will be published by Quadrille in July

    Last updated: 12:19pm, May 8 2014