“I have to be seen to be believed.” ~ Queen Elizabeth II
Roll out the red carpet and practice your curtsies. Polish your tiara if you like.
A very special guest is joining us for tea today!
Mr. Cornelius has been a fan of Her Majesty the Queen for a long time. He likes that she loves animals and chocolate, lives in several beautiful royal residences, always wears the best hats, and has reigned for an amazing 60 years!
A tea party lover from the start: Princess Elizabeth with her parents Queen Elizabeth and King George VI.
Needless to say, he was beside himself when she accepted our invitation. We spiffed up the dining room, stocked up on Earl Grey and Darjeeling (reputedly her favorite), and made finger sandwiches and cake.
She’s so photogenic!
We were a little nervous but she immediately put us at ease. Imagine our great surprise when she brought Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry with her! They were such a jolly group and didn’t seem to mind dipping in hot water.
We filled the sandwiches with Coronation Chicken, which you may know was served at Her Majesty’s Coronation Banquet back in 1953. English food writer Constance Spry and chef Rosemary Hume are credited with inventing coronation chicken, which may have been inspired by jubilee chicken, a dish served at George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. It’s basically cold chicken tossed with a dressing of mayonnaise, curry spices and mango chutney, reflecting the British love of Indian cuisine. It can be served as a salad or as sandwich filling.
Of course we simply had to make Chocolate Biscuit Cake. It’s the Queen’s and Prince William’s absolute favorite, and we’ve been curious about it ever since the royal wedding, when William requested it for his Groom’s Cake.
I made Darren McGrady’s recipe from his most excellent cookbook, Eating Royally: Recipes & Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen (Thomas Nelson, 2007). Darren was chef at Buckingham Palace for eleven years, and Princess Diana’s private chef at Kensington Palace for four years after she separated from Prince Charles.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Darren’s royal reminiscences, as he worked in the kitchens not only at Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, but at Windsor Castle, Balmoral, Sandringham, and even aboard the HMY Britannia.
Royal Chef McGrady
He’s included over 100 recipes, from French gourmet cuisine served at fancy balls, diplomatic receptions, state dinners and holiday celebrations, to teatime treats for garden parties, to traditional everyday British fare the royals enjoyed when dining alone. Imagine trying to get your cheese soufflés to rise when they’re wobbling back and forth and you’re seasick in a swaying yacht! Or getting your chef’s uniform soaked when two mischievous Princes race into the kitchen with their new water guns!
Pomp and ceremony aside, what I enjoyed most was hearing about Darren’s time with Diana and the boys. In stark contrast to the strict protocol followed at Buckingham Palace, life at Kensington Palace was more streamlined and relaxed. He fondly recalls how Diana sometimes sat at the kitchen counter if she was eating lunch alone, how William would wander into the kitchen in search of ice cream, happily chatting away as he polished off a scoop or two while sitting in the windowsill.
For the most part Darren was cooking simple, wholesome food for them, with the occasional splurge for childhood favorites like pizza, stuffed potato skins, and pasta. When Diana entertained, Darren would often make a fat-free version of a dish just for her, unbeknownst to the guests. And William and Harry loved to please their mother by asking to help make her favorite stuffed eggplant for dinner.
Click for Diana’s favorite Bread and Butter Pudding recipe (photo by Leonardo Frusteri, Eating Royally)
Darren developed a special friendship with Diana during their short years together and considers Kensington Place in some ways the most important place he’s ever worked in his career. It was fascinating hearing about the day to day behind-the-scenes things that went on, some quite poignant.
Diana Frances Spencer
I didn’t realize Diana was alone at Christmas — the boys spent the holiday with the royal family at Sandringham, and Darren and the other staff members left on Christmas Eve to be with their families. He made sure to stock the fridge with her favorite goodies, but it was still heart wrenching to know she wasn’t able to spend Christmas with her boys.
Back to the Chocolate Biscuit Cake!
No doubt you heard about this no-bake confection when the whole world stopped for the royal wedding. What could be more endearing (and “normal”) than for William to request a childhood favorite instead of something fancy and French? McVitie’s made his cake using approximately 1700 rich tea biscuits.
Her Majesty also loves this cake and makes sure she orders it whenever William joins her for tea at Buckingham Palace. With this big buildup I was sure this cake would be the bee’s knees, the cake to top all cakes.
But. No. It’s not really a “cake,” more like a very rich candy bar made with melted chocolate and tea biscuit (cookie) pieces. It’s easy to prepare, but requires advance planning as it must be chilled for at least 3 hours before frosting.
Darren’s recipe calls for 8 ounces of McVitie’s Rich Tea Biscuits, which can be found in the international section of some supermarkets or at places like World Market. If you can’t find McVitie’s, try Petit Beurre or Nabisco Social Tea cookies. Use the best quality dark chocolate you can afford (I like Valrhona).
Once it’s chilled and you’ve poured melted chocolate icing over the cake, you must wait until the icing is set before serving it. Cutting this baby was quite a challenge. Think about it — would you cut a candy bar or chocolate covered cookies with a knife and then eat it with a fork? Why, no. You’d break off a piece and eat it with your hands.
But we dare not displease our guests, so we cut the “cake” using superhuman arm and wrist muscles and presented Her Majesty and the Prince with civilized pieces on pretty plates. They were delighted and didn’t struggle one bit with their forks, having had years of chocolate biscuit cake practice. Such finesse!
If you like cookies and lots of rich chocolate, you will of course love this “cake.” Next time around, though, I might add some heavy cream to the chocolate mixture and icing to see if that will make it easier to slice.
Just in case you’re expecting the Queen and/or Prince William for tea, you can find Darren’s recipe here. Supposedly the cake is better after a day or two in the fridge, when the cookies have had time to soften (and if your resident munchkins haven’t devoured the entire thing by then).
What about the Coronation Chicken?
I adapted Pamela Foster’s recipe by adding finely diced apples and celery. I do love curry powder and mango chutney, so deciding to make this chicken salad was a no-brainer. Just make sure that if the Queen’s coming, you cut the corners off any square or rectangular sandwiches, making a kind of octagonal shape. A coffin-shaped sandwich might suggest you wish her ill.
CORONATION CHICKEN TEA SANDWICHES
1. Mix the chopped chicken, celery and apple with the mayo in a large bowl.
2. In a small cup, make a paste with the curry powder and water. Stir the curry into the chicken mixture, then add the mango chutney to taste.
3. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
4. Spread the mixture between the slices of cut, trimmed bread.
Note: For a calorie-conscious version, substitute low-fat mayo, sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt for the regular mayo.
* * *
Hold the phone!
We almost forgot something!
It’s a good thing Paddington dropped by with a plate of jam pennies, another of the Queen’s favorites. He made them with raspberry jam (not wanting to sacrifice his personal stash of marmalade). He cut them into rounds to resemble Old English pennies. Clever bear! The Queen, of course, was immensely pleased.
In all, a royally splendid tea. We extended a standing invitation to Her Majesty, who requested that next time we ready some fresh carrots for her horses. On the way out, she whispered, “I like Colin Firth, too!” See why we love her?
♥ For more about Royal Chef Darren McGrady, who now lives in Dallas, Texas, visit his official website.
I highly recommend Eating Royally (all proceeds from the sale of this cookbook are donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation). The insider tidbits and information about each of the royal residences alone are worth the price of admission. I like the mix of British + French cuisine, with recipes suitable for beginners as well as more experienced cooks. You might even want to make a Royal Birthday Cake (sinfully rich), just in time for the Queen’s Birthday on April 21.
Queen’s Birthday Tea: Scones, Royal Birthday Cake, tea sandwiches, Raspberry Tartlets (photo by Leonardo Frusteri, EatingRoyally)
Enjoy this recent video where Darren talks a little about “Downton Abbey.” He’s leading a culinary tour to England in August 2014 that includes visits to Sandringham and Highclere Castle (more info at his website):
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.
There are a number of Windows Phone devices that are rumored to be unveiled by the Finnish smartphone maker Nokia soon. While the good news for the Nokia fans around the world who have been waiting for an Android-based device from the same company for a long time is here as the company has recently announced a couple of affordable Android-based devices.
The smartphone series which come dubbed as Nokia X is in fact being rolled out currently. While in India the Nokia X Dual SIM handset is already available at the price of Rs. 8,500 via online stores. Thus today GizBot has come up with a number of Coupon Codes pertaining to the handset.
But before you jump on to the deals, take a look at the specs of the device. The Nokia X (Dual SIM) will come in Black, Green, Cyan, Yellow, Red and White color variants.
It comes packed with a 4-inch WVGA display having a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, 1GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory. There's a 3MP fixed focus camera on the rear side of the device.
Besides being a dual SIM handset, it also supports 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS with A-GPS connectivity options. The makers have added a 1500mAh battery fitted inside. The Android 4.1 Jelly Bean powered handset also features FM Radio.
Take a look at the sliders:
Many of you know my true and abiding love of that old Hardy Boys knock-off series The Three Investigators. Far superior to their contemporaries in every way, The Three Investigators combined good old-fashioned boys detective action adventure heroics with the sensibility of Scooby Doo and the bizarre presence in many of their titles of Alfred Hitchcock (Jim Averbeck take note!). Sondra Eklund pierces the veil surrounding the trio’s first adventure The Secret of Terror Castle (how can you resist a title like that?) and the results are fabulous. I mean, the bad guy in the series was named Skinny Norris. Tell me that’s not the best character name you’ve heard in a while. Sounds like an escapee from Goodfellas.
Know a children’s literary enthusiast in need of some hipster insider children’s lit clothing? Look no further than this little offering from BustedTees:
Granted it’s clearly making a more specific reference to the movie adaptation of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (a movie that I need to rewatch one of these days, if only to confirm that it was as creepy as I recall) but we won’t hold that against it.
Thanks to Alison Morris for the link!
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It's Women's History Month, and in honor of that, two of our longtime Cybils judges, Kelly Jensen and Kimberly Francisco of the blog STACKED, invited 10 female YA authors (ahem, including your temporary blog editor) to write about either female YA authors, female YA characters, or broader topics about girls in YA.
I had a lot of fun talking about some of my favorite characters in fiction; others deal with more serious topics; but all of the posts are going to be GREAT. The series kicks off this week, so go check it out!
Book: Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy, Book 2)
Author: Mark Frost
Age Range: 12 and up
Alliance is the sequel to Mark Frost's The Paladin Prophecy. (This review may contain spoilers for the first book.) Alliance picks up a few months after the events of the first book, and again features Will, the genetically enhanced center of a group of five students at a special private school. Will is recovering from the physical and emotional traumas of the fall. As summer approaches, he again tries to understand how he fits in to a battle between good and evil. An encounter with someone who helped the teens in the first book sends them on a quest deep below ground, to find a special key. The plot involves physical confrontations, as well as historical investigations into the past, and personal quests to understand each student's special abilities.
It took me a long time to get through this book. To be fair, I was reading it during a busy time. But every time I would try to read it at night, I would fall asleep after just a couple of pages. I kept going because I was interested in the characters, but I eventually had to find time to finish it during the day. I felt that if the pacing had been a bit tighter, Alliance would have worked better for me. There was one section in particular, where the kids are planning a detailed campaign to gain access to a guarded location, that really dragged for me. I also felt like some of the characterization was a bit over-telegraphed, particularly Nick not being very bright and Ajay being absurdedly geeky.
But there are still things that I like about the book. As in The Paladin Prophecy, I love the way Will is guided by sayings that he learned from his absent father. Like:
"#24: YOU CAN'T CHANGE ANYTHING IF YOU CAN'T CHANGE YOUR MIND"
"IF YOU DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO NOTICE YOU, ACT LIKE YOU BELONG THERE AND LOOK BUSY."
An appendix lists all 100 pieces of apt advice.
There are also cool settings, including a castle-like building, and hidden tunnels and caves. There are neat gadgets. The kids have interesting abilities, and their interactions are reasonably realistic. They use their brains, and work to solve complex puzzles from sparse clues. Kids who enjoy adventures with a supernatural bent (like Rick Riordan's books, for instance) will most likely enjoy this one, too.
I could on principle do without Will being the love interest of both of the two girls in the group. But in truth, neither of the other two boys would work in that context. As far as content goes on the love interest side, there's a very small amount of kissing - nothing objectionable for younger kids.
Bottom line: Alliance didn't really work for me, but I'd definitely still purchase it if I were shopping for a middle school or high school library. And I won't be surprised if the series ends up in the movie theaters one day. There will certainly be at least one more book, as this one ends on a cliffhanger.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Here you go.
I warn you, though: all you're going to want to do IS WATCH THE REST OF THE MOVIE IMMEDIATELY.
As the limited release doesn't include Maine (at least so far) I really might have to make the trek to Boston next week.