In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so. As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.
(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)
Week 26 gives us Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray.
Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray were founders of the “iconic” River Cafe, located on the Thames River in London. The restaurant opened in 1987, and specialized in Italian cuisine. The restaurant has trained a number of notable chefs, including Jamie Oliver, and Rogers and Gray have also published six cook books.
Rose & Ruth met in 1969, when Ruth first arrived in London from New York, but their partnership didn’t begin until 1987. Ruth’s husband, Richard, was an old friend of Rose’s. He was an architect and wanted to build a community in the development where his office was located. Ruth brought up the idea of a restaurant to Rose, who had recently returned to London from time abroad in Italy and New York City.
Though their experience working in restaurants was very minimal (Rose had worked at a restaurant in New York for a mere six months), the River Cafe opened in 1987. Rose wanted to take introduce London to Italian food beyond bolognese sauce & tiramisu. She created a menu featuring the meals she had enjoyed during her time in Italy. Though the restaurant started out small, both had ideas about what they wanted it to become. They wanted to create delicious food, using fresh, seasonal ingredients. I absolutely love this statement from Ruth:
We lived over a market in the Maraisin Paris for five years when Richard won the contract to design the Pompidou Centre, and I learnt to go shopping every day, for every meal, and never to stock the fridge. With supermarkets people think that choice is important, but actually it isn’t. What’s important is seasonality. (source)
The restaurant flourished, and in 1998 it was awarded it’s Michelin star. Both women threw themselves into it, and eventually all four of Rose’s children would take part in the restaurant.
Rose was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. After chemotherapy & surgery, the cancer went into remission and she was clear for five years. In 2009, her doctors found brain tumors and she passed away on February 28, 2010.
Ruth still works at the River Cafe, and lives in London. She & her husband Richard have a family that includes 5 sons, and 12 grandchildren.
Plums are a fruit that I rarely ever think about. They’re in season during a time where I’m eating my weight daily in watermelon & peaches. But, I saw this cake when I was googling them, and decided to go with it. You can use whichever plums you like, but I went with black plums. And as I was cutting them up for this, I became furious at myself for not eating plums more often. They’re so delicious, and the color is absolutely gorgeous! The cake comes together quite easily, and is absolutely delicious. It’s not super sweet, has a really nice, crunchy topping, and the color… I’m in love with that shade of purple. It’s absolutely beautiful. Anyways. This is delicious on it’s own, warm & even cold. But it’s really, really good with vanilla gelato.
Plum & Orange Cake
(Recipe adapted from this one, originally found here.)
- 1 lb. of ripe plums (about 4-5), halved & quartered
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- juice and zest of one orange
- 2 t. of vanilla extract
- 10 T. of unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cups of self-rising flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2/3 cup of sliced almonds
- 2 T. of unsalted butter, melted
- 2 T. of sugar
- zest of one orange
- 1/2 of sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
- In an oven proof bowl, add the ingredients for the filling. Combine, and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Mix all ingredients together. Set aside.
- Grind the almonds in a chopper or processor, and set aside.
- Cream the butter & sugar together, until fluffy & pale yellow. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the rest of the ingredients.
- Spread the cake batter into a greased, 10″ springform pan. Add the plums, and their juices to the top. Press the plums lightly into the batter.
- Set pan on a larger baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325. Spread the topping mixture over the cake, return to the oven, and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan before removing the sides.