I was horrified when I saw the suggested Coronation recipes: quiche with creamy cheese and egg filling, followed by a trifle which also requires cream and eggs. Too much cream and egg in one meal!
Although the quiche also has some green cooked ingredients – spinach and tarragon – and the trifle (cake with custard and cream) is made with fresh fruit, the egg + cream content is still overwhelming, in my opinion. Good meal planning, whether at home or dining out, should consist of choosing a balance of nutrients.
The ingredients are not cheap or seasonal
The availability and cost of ingredients should have been taken into account. Even if the King and Queen-Consort (as she was then) never go to do their own food shopping, at least their advisers should have taken this into account. Where can fresh tarragon be obtained in May? Harvesting months are June to September in Britain. I substituted fresh coriander which is readily available, especially in Asian shops, as it is frequently used in curries.
Then the recipe on BBC Good Food states in the ingredients list ‘broad beans’; to me these are the green beans I grow on my allotment, often over-wintered, but they won’t be ready until the beginning of June in Kent, probably later further north. Fortunately I have some from last year, ready podded, which I found at the bottom of my freezer. But most people will not have such a find, so much better to state clearly that a tin of fava beans drained from a tin is the easiest substitute.
Spinach is readily available, and the instructions warn that it must be drained well, otherwise it makes the whole mixture soggy.
What cheese do they mean?
They could be much more specific with suggestions of type of cheese. I chose Sussex Charmer from Waitrose. But any British cheese of ‘maturity 4’ would do.
I state ‘British’, as this is an occasion to celebrate food produced in the UK. I notice the local supermarkets excel in food wrappings resplendent with the Union Flag and the name British in large type on the packet. So I politely and patriotically suggest that the brief given to the royal chef should have been ‘a recipe with ingredients produced in Britain’.
Lack of Commonwealth diversity
Actually, as the King is also Head of the Commonwealth, there is also a missed opportunity to invite each Commonwealth country to suggest their own recipe, preferably made of ingredients that are globally available. Or if there is something that is very specific and local, they should be required to suggest substitutes more readily available. For example, I tried jack fruit for the first time in Wagamama, but I do not see it in the shops round here: egg plant (aubergine) or even courgette is a good substitute.
Don’t lose the pastry!
So, if given the brief, what would I have suggested? I would still have something in pastry as that has been a staple in the British diet at least from medieval times. Many families make mince pies at Christmas so they have the equipment for small pie-making. So I suggest coronation pies, but with different fillings to suit a variety of tastes.
There could be a savoury mince filling, or curried lentil, or potato and cheese, or tinned fava beans with tomato sauce. Suppliers should have been royally instructed (a year ago) to compete for ready-made ingredients and sauces to be in the recommended pie recipes. The ready-to-cook pastry makers might have even produced ready-cut pieces, because there are always customers for short-cut ‘home-cooked’ meals.
Crown-shaped cookie cutters
Some metal working firm should have been commanded (as purveyor to His Majesty) to produce crown-shaped cutters, so that the children could have fun putting a crown motif in the caps of the pastry. If the party is to be diverse, and the cooks ambitious to try different fillings, then the various crown motifs could be the indicator of the filling.
Red-white-and-blue ice cream
For the second course, I would expect a Commonwealth selection for a fruit salad: bananas from the Caribbean, oranges and plums now in season from South Africa, and apples, from Kent of course. The suggestion would be that the children make labels saying where these fruits come from (and give the proper names of the Kent apples, so that they grow up to be shoppers aware of different cultivars). They could enjoy this fruit salad mix with some British cream. Some might prefer ice-cream, but this does not come in red, white and blue.
Maybe some deep purple ice-cream made from last year’s blackcurrants?
But that all means planning ahead with manufacturers and suppliers, not just dropping messy recipes into the Press a week or two before the event.
A clearer brief
To sum up: give a different brief to culinary experts. The meal must be–
- A healthy balanced meal
- Allow for vegetarians and vegans
- Be culturally diverse
- Easy to cook or prepare
- From readily available ingredients, or easy substitutes
- Not super expensive
- Allow for creative presentation and children’s input.
This time I feel their Majesties, the Palace culinary advisers, the British grocery industry and the food industry have missed a once-in-an-era opportunity. Shame!