Who doesn’t love a wedding? The dress, the flowers, the promise of love everlasting …
Add to the mix a good-looking member of the British royal family, an historic venue and a bride who’s just as self-assured as she is lovely to look at, and it’s guaranteed television magic. Even in the wee hours, when much of the world (husbands, mainly) would rather be sleeping.
As many as a billion are expected to tune into the Event of the Century, aka the royal wedding of Prince William and commoner Kate Middleton. Coverage gets under way, with great pomp and circumstance, at 4 a.m. (Pittsburgh time) April 29, with the wedding at 6 a.m. (11 a.m. in London).
To help folks celebrate in the appropriate style, hotels all across the country have rolled out the royal carpet with wedding specials. At New York’s Trump International Hotel, for instance, Anglophiles with an extra $149 in their pockets and mimosa in their right hand can watch the young couple get hitched on TV at a reservations-only Trump Royal Wedding Breakfast. The tasting menu — doors open at 5 a.m. — includes scrambled eggs with caviar.
Eggs also are on the menu across town at the New York Palace, only there they’ll be served with Devonshire cream. Other traditional English breakfast offerings at the $150 event, which commences at 5:30 a.m. with coffee and tea, include scones with marmalade and bangers — British-speak for sausage.
Here in Pittsburgh, Lord and Lady Palumbo of London, who bought Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentuck Knob in Fayette County in 1986, will host a group of diehard royalphiles at a strolling dinner reception at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley Heights on the evening of the wedding. The festivities, a $250-per-head benefit for the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, will include a royal look-alike contest along with wedding cake and Champagne. Hats, gloves, kilts and serious jewels recommended, though optional.
A less elaborate option, but still oh-so-British, is high tea from 1 to 3 p.m. on the day of the wedding at The Fire Escape coffeehouse in Ben Avon. For $12, you get scones with jam and clotted cream, finger sandwiches and jam layer cake. Ladies are encouraged to wear hats, and there will be games and door prizes. Reservations: 412-772-8569. Or throw your own tea with English goodies, including Dorset Drum Wedding Cheddar, Spotted Dick (steamed suet pudding) and jarred lemon curd, from McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville. They’ll even teach you how to brew a good cup of tea, which apparently is harder than you might think.
I’ll most likely be watching the ceremony in the pre-dawn darkness from bed, with only the glow of the TV and the occasional stink bug to keep me company, as my husband is not a fan of other people’s weddings in general, and the royals’ in particular. Though I am keeping my options open: Arriving in the mail last week was my friend Kim’s invite to a 5:30 a.m. wedding breakfast at her Ben Avon home.
“Please bring tiara, diamonds and pajamas,” it instructs.
It wouldn’t be a true celebration without something a bit fancy, and authentically British, to nibble on while drinking coffee — er, sipping tea.
But not too authentic.
I’m guessing it’s so early in the morning that Kim, or anyone else not accustomed to pre-dawn eating, won’t be feeling Britain’s famous “fry up” breakfast of scrambled eggs with sausage, black pudding, bacon, half a tomato and baked beans. Ditto with any dish that requires a lot of prep work or can’t be eaten in bed (remember, it all begins at 4 a.m.).
With the five-hour time difference, it’s a stretch to think Americans will want to breakfast on the braised partridge and Filet de Sole Mountbatten a 21-year-old then Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen) and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten enjoyed after their wedding in 1947. Or the brill (a type of turbot) in lobster sauce and chicken breasts topped with lamb mousse that guests devoured at Diana Spencer and Prince Charles’ 1981 reception at Buckingham Palace. Definitely not the cod with oyster sauce historians believe was served after Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, or roasted capons with mushroom-madeira sauce that graced the wedding breakfast table after the Queen Mother’s 1923 nuptials to “Bertie,” the Duke of York. You’d have to get up too darn early.
That’s not to say an easy menu that celebrates British food isn’t possible. For ideas, I tracked down on Amazon a copy of “Eating Royally” by Darren McGrady, who began cooking at Buckingham Palace shortly after the marriage of Lady Di and Prince Charles. All of the dishes I share below can be made the day before the wedding, and eaten either half-asleep in bed or enjoyed later in the day with a glass of celebratory Champagne.
Cheers, William and Kate! A toast to love and laughter, and happily ever after.
Royal Tea Scones
These are on the sweet side but taste delicious with lemon curd. Also feel free to slather on strawberry preserves, clotted cream (a thick, buttery cream often used in desserts) or whipped cream. Be careful not to cut out the scones too large or place them too close together on the baking sheet, as they do expand.
— Gretchen McKay
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-fine granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 stick ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3/4 cup to 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 cup raisins (optional)
- 1 beaten egg yolk for glazing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in butter and stir until flour mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add beaten egg and about 3/4 cup milk. Add raisins, if using. Bring mixture together with a metal spoon, making sure you don’t overmix and toughen the dough. If mixture seems dry and crumbly, add more of the remaining milk, but add it gradually. You want a lightly bound dough that is neither too wet nor too dry.
Lightly dust a cutting board with flour, and roll or pat out dough to about 1 inch thick. Then, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out about 16 scones and place them on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Brush tops of scones with the beaten egg yolk.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until scones are lightly colored. Serve hot or transfer scones to a cooling rack.
— “Eating Royally” by Darren McGrady (Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Homemade Lemon Clotted Cream
Lemon extract and fresh zest brighten this traditional English spread.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 ounces mascarpone (Italian cream cheese)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add remaining ingredients and whip until evenly combined.
Makes about 2 cups.
— Maureen Petrosky, themotherboard.com
Asparagus and Cheese Tart
The Royal Wedding luncheon is sure to include seasonal items, including asparagus. I used grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for the dough, and cheddar for the filling.
- 5 ounces plain flour
- 3 ounces butter, cubed
- 3 ounces cheddar or other hard cheese, finely grated
- 5 eggs
- 6 ounces milk
- 3 1/2 ounces cheddar or other hard cheese, grated
- 10 1/2 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
Put flour in bowl, add butter and rub with your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add grated cheddar into the pastry and mix. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 5 minutes. Butter a deep loose-bottom tart tin or a rectangular tart tin.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, roll out the pastry and line the tin. Chill in freezer for 20 minutes.
Place a square of parchment on top of the dough, fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake for 15 minutes. Remove beans and paper, and continue baking for 10 minutes.
Crack eggs in a bowl, whisk, then add milk and whisk again. Sprinkle half the grated cheese over the baked pastry, then add asparagus, egg mixture and remaining cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until egg mixture is set. Serves 8.
— Adapted from bbcgoodfood.com
Chocolate Biscuit Cake
The multi-tiered traditional fruit cake Fiona Cairns is baking for the lunchtime reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth will be decorated in the language of flowers. But Prince William reportedly also has asked for his childhood favorite, a no-bake cake made with McVitie’s cookies. I found the “tea biscuits” by Lyons at Market District.
- 1/2 tespoon butter, for greasing pan
- 8 ounces McVitie’s rich tea biscuits
- 4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 ounces dark chocolate
- 1 egg, beaten
- 8 ounces dark chocolate, for icing
- 1 ounce white chocolate, for decoration
Lightly grease a small (6-inch) springform pan with 1/2 teaspoon butter, and place on a parchment-lined tray. Break each of the biscuits into almond-size pieces by hand and set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture is a light lemon color.
Melt 4 ounces dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Add butter and sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Add egg and continue stirring. Fold in biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.
Spoon the chocolate biscuit mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all of the gaps on the bottom of the ring, because this will be the top when it is unmolded. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Remove cake from refrigerator and let it stand while you melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate for icing. Slide ring off cake and turn cake upside down onto a cooling rack. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, and smooth the top and sides using a butter knife or offset spatula. Allow chocolate icing to set at room temperature. Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where it has stuck to the cooling rack, and transfer cake to a cake dish. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle on top of cake in a decorative pattern.
Makes 8 servings.
“You should be aware of the most famous dish invented for a Royal event,” my Londoner friend Tony Wales responded via email, when I asked what “real” Brits would be eating on the day of the royal wedding. “Coronation Chicken was designed for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation (in 1953) as a dish that every guest from every part of the Empire could happily eat (i.e. no pork, no red meat, mild spices, etc).” He included a link to a recipe for Coronation Chicken that ran in 2009 in The Telegraph.
So it’s not exactly breakfast food. But the chicken-salad-like dish is perfect for lunch after your post-wedding nap, served either with rice salad or spooned on bread.
I took a shortcut by using two supermarket rotisserie chickens.
- 2 chickens
- 1 carrot
- Splash of wine
- Pinch of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Handful chopped parsley
- 4 peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon tomato puree or paste
- 8 ounces red wine
- 6 ounces water
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch each of salt, pepper and sugar
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons apricot puree, made from soaked and boiled dried apricots
- 2 to 3 tablespoons whipped cream
Poach chicken for 40 minutes in water with carrot, wine, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns. Cool in the liquid, then remove the meat from the bones and set aside.
To make sauce, heat oil in a pan and add chopped onion. Cook gently for 3 minutes then add curry powder. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add tomato puree or paste, wine, water, bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add pinch of salt, pepper and sugar, lemon juice, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and cool.
Slowly add mayonnaise, then stir in apricot puree or marmalade, Season again — the sauce must not be too sweet. Finish by adding whipped cream. Add only enough sauce to coat the chicken lightly, then eat it with a rice salad.
Serves 6 to 8.
— Adapted from The Telegraph, June 2009