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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Eating Royally

I just finished reading Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen by Darren McGrady. He was a chef in the Royal kitchens for Queen Elizabeth II for 11 years before becoming Princess Diana's private chef at Kennsington Palace for 4 years up til her death.
     The peek into the royal kitchens was fascinating to me. I was amazed at how much of the food the royal family (and their staff) eats comes directly off their land. Whether it be white Windsor peaches or fresh cream and cheese from the Windsor Dairy. (The Queen didn't have her milk pasteurized until a few years ago, which the chefs said made for a poorer quality cheese.) They eat alot of game, especially at Balmoral and they grow their own fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit. They even make some of their own cheeses and jam.
     He took us on a culinary tour of the various royal residences. The royals eat seasonally, eating whatever is in season. And different foods are available fresh at different residences. What I found interesting was that the royal kitchens themselves varied so much between palaces, castles, etc. Some were more modern and others were not. And each could present its own challenges. For instance, at Buckingham Palace her Majesty's breakfast is prepared in the kitchens and has to be kept warm the mile trek to the Queen's personal dining room. Or on HMS Brittania the royal kitchens were 3 floors above the staff kitchens and the freezer and refrigerators were in the staff kitchens. And staff accessed the various floors by ladders. So it was poor sobs job to carry food on a tray, on his shoulder, up and down 3 flights of ladders from the refrigerators to the royal kitchen.

     As much as I enjoyed the stories, this is also a cookbook. There are recipes that I will try like Cottage Pie (otherwise known as a shepherd's pie), but there are alot of recipes the average joe will never make. Either we don't need fancy food like that, or we can't find some of the ingredients. Vanilla paste is more concentrated than vanilla extract, but I haven't a clue where to find it. I'd have to shop online. There are quite a few recipes that call for some version of liquor as an ingredient, with Brandy the most popular. Many recipes call for fresh fish such as Salmon (can't get that fresh in landlocked Nebraska), or cuts of meat like Lamb (difficult to find and expensive if I do find it). And I just can't afford to be buying and cooking Lobster. However, something like a Royal Tea Scone I can make. You will find alot of high fat ingredients like tons of butter and cream. Occasionally Princess Diana requested a fat-free version be made for her. Her guests got the full-fat version and never knew. The Christmas Cakes might be good, but I'll never know as you must start making it in September if you want to eat it at Christmas or the New Year. That's because it's soaked in Brandy and a sugar syrup weekly for 3 months.
     I do have two problems with this cookbook. Let me state that I've got a first printing and I understand that two other editions or printings are available and these may have been corrected in later editions. I don't know. I did contact the author via his website www.darrenmcgrady.com and haven't received a reply yet. There is a recipe for Pommes Fondantes on page 64. This is sliced potatoes fried in a pan. The recipe calls for potatoes, butter, broth, fresh thyme and salt and pepper. First instruction is to preheat the oven. Then it tells you to peel and slice the potatoes, melt the butter in a pan and cook the potatoes in the pan until golden brown for about 15 to 20 minutes. That's where the recipe ends. There is no mention of what to do with the oven once they told you to preheat it, nor what to do with the salt, pepper, thyme, or broth. Obviously half of the recipe instructions are missing. I emailed the author to ask for his help with the rest of the recipe.
   The other error is in the Chilled Tomato and Dill Mousse with Lobster recipe on page 20. It says... The recipe for the fat-free version appears on page 199. The recipe can actually be found on page 213. This cookbook obviously needed a better editor having missed two glaring mistakes. It's quite likely that these have been corrected in later editions of the cookbook. If anyone out there has one of those editions and has the full and complete recipe for Pommes Fondantes they can email me, I would appreciate it. It's very similar to a recipe my great uncle used to make and I'd like to try it.

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