We are in the grip of full-on Queen’s Jubilee Madness. For those of you not a party to the endless TV coverage, bunting draped from every shop window and weekend plans ruined by traffic diversions, this weekend marks the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne. Apparently there hasn’t been a royal celebration like this in 350 years and the BBC news anchor promised there probably wouldn’t be for another 350 (thank goodness I won’t be around!).
Personally I find the Queen utterly adorable. I love her Easter egg colored ensembles, sensible heels, diamond broaches, square pocketbooks and accompanying corgis. She has been traveling throughout her Empire over the past few months, visiting her subjects around the world and looking none the worse for it whatever the time zone. This weekend is the culmination of this year’s parties to honor her long rule and a full four days of events are on the docket.
The festivities kick off on Saturday with the Derby which is supposedly her favorite event of the long weekend. She’s quite the horsewoman herself and owns several racehorses which she enjoys betting on. I will be watching to see if she really puts herself into it, grappling at her betting tickets and shouting encouragement to her fillies. Other events include a concert headlined by Elton John in front of Buckingham Palace, a regatta on the Thames, a Royal Picnic and an appearance on her balcony to greet the throngs wishing her well.
While researching the food that was served at her original Coronation Banquet I was struck at how mired in World War II this little island nation still was. Rationing was still in effect but in concession to the upcoming Coronation celebrations each household was given an extra pound of sugar and 4 ounces of butter to help them celebrate at home. In addition, the Ministry of Food granted 82 applications for people to roast oxen if they could prove that by tradition, an ox had been roasted at their previous coronation parties. The street party was encouraged throughout the country as a opportunity to lift the spirits of the people and support the monarchy through this transition of power.
Probably the most famous dish to come out of the original Coronation Banquet in 1953 is Coronation Chicken. It was invented by chef Rosemary Hume and her business partner Constance Spry and is made up of a cold chicken salad with a mayonnaise curry sauce. Indian food was terribly chic at the time and it was thought that this cold dish served alongside a well dressed salad of rice, green peas and herbs would appeal to the foreign guests in particular. To this day, this regal chicken salad is a mainstay in the English picnic basket. I’ve lightened up my recipe with the addition of creme fraiche and some mango chutney but really, as long as you add curry powder, you have yourself a dish fit for a Queen. Ma’am is said to be partial to simple English food and a strong Dubbonet cocktail to wash it all down. Here are some recipes for you to try as this nation sings “God Bless our Queen!”
2 oz. mayonnaise
2 oz. creme fraiche
3 oz. mango chutney
1 tsp. curry powder
zest of one lime
juice of two limes
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and diced
Whisky together the mayonnaise, creme fraiche, chutney, curry powder, lime zest and juice. Add the diced chicken and season to taste.
makes 36 small sandwiches
4 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. Stilton cheese
fleur de sel and pepper
15 radishes sliced into thin rounds
18 slices of thin white or wheat sandwich bread
Mix together the butter and Stilton until very smooth. Spread the mixture on half of the bread slices and arrange the radish slices to cover. Season with the salt and pepper. Now put the other bread slices on top, cut off the crusts and cut on the diagonal to make 4 even sized triangles from each.
2 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup sugar
one pound variety of summer berries such as raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries
5 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
whipped cream or custard to serve
Bring the sugar and water to a boil and add the berries of your choice. Stew until they soften but not so long as they loose their shape.
Line a medium sized ceramic bowl with plastic wrap and then press the bread slices into the sides making sure there are no gaps. Fill the bread lined bowl with the stewed berries and then add the final slices over the top. Place a saucer and a weight (like a heavy can) on top and leave the pudding to rest in the fridge overnight.
Turn out the pudding onto a serving dish (the plastic wrap will be your friend here). Serve with whipped cream or custard.
Pour the gin and Dubbonet into a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass (apparently the Queen Mother preferred it on the rocks). Garnish with the twist of your choice.