Want to dine like a high-born Brit? Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen is my latest cookbook crush: a beautifully produced, full-colour hardcover by Darren McGrady, one-time personal chef to the households of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Princess Diana.
More than 100 recipes, along with personal photographs and touching memories of his years with the royal family make McGrady’s book both a highly readable memoir and (perhaps surprisingly) a source of the kind of time-tested family meals we’d actually cook for our own families.
But even more interesting, I think, are The Royal Chef’s notes and stories of life with the Windsors, and particularly of “The Royal Year” in which they moved from residence to residence, and the menus changed with the seasons.
Some of the collected recipes in Eating Royally were “comfort food” to various members of the royal family, while other recipes are more the fancy fare served to guests or on holidays and other festive occasions.
Kate and William’s Wedding Cake
If there’s a wedding in your plans, it might be fun to put one of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cakes on the menu. The now-famous Chocolate Biscuit Cake – the groom’s cake for the royal wedding, made by McVitie’s on the Prince’s request – is just one of the fabulous Royal Family recipes included in this cookbook (page 31). No, really – think about it! You’d have not just a royally special cake to serve for a life-changing occasion, but a dessert that would get even your crowd-shy guests chatting together at the reception, sharing memories of the 1980s, of the glamorous Princess Diana, and of all the foodie traditions we pass down from generation to generation within our own families.
More Must-Try Menu Items
Some of my favourite recipes from the royal cookbook:
- Eggs Drumkilbo – Lobsters and shrimp meet eggs and vine-ripened tomatoes in this favourite dish of the late Queen Mother; it was also served at the 1973 wedding breakfast of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.
- Christmas Pudding – I mention this now, as the “prep time is 3 months to 2 years”: the generous aging time is to give the dark beer, dark rum, brandy and other rich flavours in this traditional recipe time to develop and mellow.
- Coffee Mousse – It’s made with chocolate-covered coffee beans!
- Crepes Islandaise – The Duke of Edinburgh was served crepes with heavy whipped cream and seedless raspberry jam on a state visit to Iceland; he liked the dish so much that he asked for the recipe.
- Goujons of Salmon with Tyrolienne Sauce – I’m a mad fan of salmon (a taste I share with Prince Andrew, it seems), but you can make this with almost any kind of fish that takes well to being breaded. The garnish is interesting – fried fresh parsley!
About The Royal Chef
To be sure, Chef McGrady had me turning pages quite avidly from the start of Eating Royally:Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen, where, opposite to an autographed “to Darren with love” photo of a blue-jeaned Princess Diana, he tells of landing his plum gig in the Royal Kitchens – can’t you just imagine the damp palms and rapid heartbeat, as he went for that job interview?!
Trained at the swank Savoy in London, McGrady’s tenure in the Royal Kitchens began at Buckingham Palace in 1982. He served as personal chef to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, travelling with the royal family to Windsor Castle, Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle, and around the world on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
In 1993, he moved to Kensington Palace to become private chef to the late Princess of Wales, Diana. There he was in charge of the daily food preparation for the family – HRH and her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry – as well as catering luncheons and dinners for their many distinguished guests. That idyll lasted four years – until 1997, when the lovely and sad Diana (easily the most photographed woman and one of the highest profile celebrities in the world at the time) died in a tragic car crash, pursued by the paparazzi.
McGrady has cooked for no less than five US Presidents in his notable career, and now lives in the United States where he speaks at special events, cooks up gorgeous desserts inspired by, for example, a Royal Baby Shower theme, and generally shares his love of fine cooking with his family and fans.
Photo credit: Table Setting by colros