“Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals Of Rose Bakery” by Rose Carrarini is the story of a successful business woman with a passion for food. In the 1980s Rose and her husband were running a knitwear business and traveling to Italy, France, and Japan on a regular basis. Over time they found themselves more interested in the local food specialties and restaurants than the fashion shows. They were inevitably arriving back to London laden with food items that were not available at home. In 1988, after having given up their knitwear business, they opened an “epicerie fine” in London called “Villandry”. Initially they served only soup and sandwiches, but soon after, Rose added quiche and sweet pastries to the offerings. The concept was so successful the couple decided to expand and opened the Paris site of Rose Bakery in 2002. There are now Rose Bakeries in Paris, London, and Tokyo.
Rose states in the introduction to her book: “I am not a trained chef. Everything I have achieved has been a result of learning from other chefs, responding to customers’ desires, reading lots, and, most of all, knowing so strongly what I want from foods…their intrinsic health benefits, their taste and look, and ultimately, my choice of some foods and rejection of others”. Rose wanted her shop and restaurant to be “a true, honest, and wholesome place”. Accordingly, most everything is prepared, cooked, and eaten fresh on the same day. Produce is organic and locally sourced, as is meat and fish. Cheese is from the inimitable Neal’s Yard in London. It seems like a place I would enjoy. The recipes in the book reflect Rose’s philosophy of quality and simplicity. The progression is through breakfast: fruit, juices and smoothies, cereals, eggs, pancakes, and scones; lunch: soups, salads, pastry, risottos, main courses; and tea: tarts, cakes, biscuits and cookies, tray bakes, and puddings. There are many vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices, some gluten-free recipes, and hearty savory dishes. The photographs give a sense of the beauty of the food and the place. Rose says: “I never wanted to serve fussy or complex food-my intention was always to dissolve the distinction between home and restaurant cooking”. It seems from the contents of this book that she has achieved that goal. As I paged through each section, I saw many recipes I wanted to try, but the one I am sharing today was an easy choice. What Rose refers to as “tray bakes” we know more commonly as bar cookies. Her “date and oat slices” took me back to my childhood. I know this treat as “matrimonial bars”, and they were a fixture at every bridal shower I attended in my youth. My Mother, Grandmother, and many other family members made these; every ladies auxiliary church cookbook included a recipe for them. So here is the first of what I am sure will be many examples of recipes from this little gem of a cookbook.
Date and Oat Slices
150 g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
500g (scant 3 cups) chopped, pitted dates
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
150g (scant 1 cup) wholemeal flour (I used all-purpose)
pinch of salt
200g (2 2/3 cup) rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons wheatgerm (optional)
120g (scant 2/3 cup) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
2 tablespoons golden syrup ( I use Lyles) or light corn syrup
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Butter a 20×28 cm (8×11 inch) baking tin and line it with parchment paper. (I used a 9×9 inch pan with good results). Put the dates in a saucepan with 200ml (scant 1 cup) water and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dates are soft and have absorbed all the water. Stir in the vanilla extract and set aside. (At this point I cooled the date mixture and then gave it a few pulses in a food processor to smooth the texture somewhat).
In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt, oats, and baking soda. I sometimes add wheatgerm at this stage. Put the butter, sugar, molasses and golden syrup in another saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring, until melted. Pour this into the oat mixture and mix until crumbly. Press half the mixture into the base of the prepared tin. Spread the dates evenly over the top and sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden. Cool in the tin, and cut into slices when cold.
Here are more images from the book: