The story of a food writer who authored a pioneering 1960s cookery book has been dramatised for BBC Radio 4 by Manchester creative writing lecturer Anjum Malik.

First published in 1968, Claudia Roden’s ‘A Book of Middle Eastern Food’ was a landmark cookery book in British cuisine. At a time when most Britons were enjoying cauliflower cheese and soggy spaghetti bolognese, she introduced chickpeas, sharp flavoured marinades, aubergines and her most popular recipe – orange and polenta cake.

Anjum Malik, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, as well as an established scriptwriter, poet and performer, has dramatised the story of Roden’s life for the five-part 15 Minute Drama series next week on BBC Radio 4. Tracy-Ann Oberman stars as Roden.

Malik said: “I wanted to write the drama series because I write food poetry all the time but I hadn’t written a food drama and to base it on a very famous cookery book was both very exciting and a great challenge.

“But the real truth is that my award-winning producer Polly Thomas said I would get to meet my food hero Claudia Roden, which I did at her home and we sat with her at her dining table eating her food as I did my research for the play. All the time I was thinking – wow this is my work, how lucky am I?”

Born in 1936 in Cairo, Roden was a foreign food correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times Magazine. Later, she hosted a BBC TV series, Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean Cookery, and has won many awards and trophies.

We sat with her at her dining table eating her food as I did my research for the play. All the time I was thinking – wow this is my work, how lucky am I?

Jay Rayner of The Kitchen Cabinet has described her as: “One of the greatest British food writers working in Britain today – one before whom the likes of Nigel Slater, Simon Hopkinson, Nigella and Delia will all willingly bend the knee.”

Malik said: “The audiences can expect an amazing story of how Claudia’s first book came about as her family from Egypt became refugees and arrived in England. Their recipes and food culture was all they had left. There will be recipes to tickle your tastebuds and inspire you to rush out to get Claudia’s books.

“The amazing soundscape created by the award-winning sound engineer Eloise Whitmore will have you sitting right by the Nile and the fantastic performances by the cast, especially Tracy-Ann Oberman, make for a mouthwatering and tremendous play for audiences of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy.”

‘Claudia Roden: A Book of Middle Eastern Food’ is a five-part series which will be broadcast on consecutive days on BBC Radio 4 from Monday April 2. Episodes will be aired at 10:45am and repeated at 7:45pm.


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