Former Royal Chef Dishes on Food and Palace Life
What is your favourite recipe from “The Royal Touch” cookbook?I have really had to think about this as so many of the recipes in the book have wonderfully happy and nostalgic associations for me! However, the Tiny Treacle Tarts hold an extra special place in my heart. As a child my mother made treacle tart as a special treat for me; it was my absolute favourite. I have always enjoyed making things in miniature and I was so thrilled that Prince Harry enjoyed them so much. “When HRH Prince Harry was very young I used to make miniature treacle tarts for him. I kept a supply of them in the freezer, so that they were available at a moment’s notice. Once when he came into the kitchen to get one and I asked him to check with HRH The Princess of Wales if he could have one. He re-appeared moments later with a slip of paper in his hand. It read, ‘Mummy says it’s okay!’ in Princess Diana’s handwriting. I have always treasured this wonderful little note!” - An excerpt from The Royal Touch cookbook.
Which member of the Royal Family was the pickiest eater?They were all a pleasure to feed; no faddy diets, no allergies and they all enjoyed and appreciated simple, healthy meals.
What are the items, whether they are ingredients or utensils, you absolutely cannot cook without?Ingredients: Really good olive oil, farm butter, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and good quality couverture chocolate. Utensils: Sharp knives and a heavy, wooden chopping board, nonstick frying pan, stick blender and microplane.
What is one of your fondest memories with the royal family?Shortly after I joined the household I accompanied the family to the Scilly Isles (just off Cornwall) for a short break in the spring. It was the perfect location for children and it was wonderful to see the family off-duty where they were able to go on bike rides, enjoy picnics and do the simple things that are just not possible for them to enjoy in their everyday lives.
In your cookbook you mention that you have travelled and lived all over the world. Of all the places you’ve visited, what city or country inspired you most? Where did you learn your most valued lessons about cooking?My time spent in restaurant kitchens in Italy was very special -- the raw ingredients are wonderful, the dishes the Italians have created are amazing and the chefs that I worked with were superb; such fun, so kind and very passionate about cooking and food. (For many chefs, sadly, cooking is “just a job.”)
My most valued lessons about cooking came, without a doubt, from my mother. She was a wonderful cook, always super organized, extremely tidy and she was always 100% honest with me about my efforts -- and told me if they were not up to scratch!
Which do you prefer – Sweet or Savoury?Sweet!
Chocolate Biscuit Cake RecipeChocolate Biscuit Cake was one of Carolyn’s favourite desserts as a child. The recipe was passed on to her by her mother. During her time with the Royal Family, when Prince William and Prince Harry were very young, she often baked this cake for them. Prince William took such a liking to Carolyn’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake that he chose this recipe for the groom’s cake at his wedding!
The Chocolate Biscuit cake at the Royal Wedding was reportedly made from 1700 McVitie’s biscuits and 17 kilograms of chocolate.
IngredientsYOU WILL NEED:
One 20 cm (8-inch) round or square cake tin or flan ring or a 450g / 1lb loaf tin, approximately 16 cm x 11 cm x 7 cm (6¼ x 4¼ x 2¾ inches).FOR THE CAKE:
- 3 sticks (340 g /12 oz)of butter
- ¾ of a cup (240 g/8.5 oz) of golden syrup
- ⅔ of a cup (60 g / 2oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ⅔ of a cup(120 g / 4 oz) cup dark chocolate
- 5 ml (1 tsp) of pure vanilla extract
- ½ a cup (60g / 2 oz) of pistachios
- ½ cup, packed (100g / 3.5 oz) soft, plump dried figs, sliced
- 450g / 1lb digestive biscuits, crushed
- 2 cups (300 g / 11 oz) dark chocolate
- ⅔ of a cup (50g / 2oz) white chocolate
- Selection of small chocolate sticks and dark and white Maltesers or Whoppers
- Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a heavy-bottomed pan. Do not let it boil.
- Remove from heat and add the cocoa powder, dark chocolate and vanilla extract.
- Stir until you have a very smooth, glossy mixture.
- Add the pistachios, figs and crushed biscuits to the chocolate mixture and stir well.
- Line the base and sides of the cake tin with baking parchment or plastic wrap.
- Place the mixture into the tin and press it down. (If you are using a square tin, make sure you press it down well into the corners.)
- Leave to cool at room temperature before covering and chilling in the fridge. It will take about 2 hours for it to set completely firm.
- When set, remove from the tin and place it on a cooling rack.
- Melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate separately.
- Spread the dark chocolate all over the cake.
- Decorate with the Maltesers before the chocolate sets, so that they stick to the cake. Position chocolate sticks as desired and drizzle with the white chocolate.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Keeps for up 2 weeks, although it seldom lasts that long once people know that it is there!
- You can replace the pistachios with pecans, toasted almonds or macadamia nuts.
- You can replace the figs with raisins, sultanas or dried cherries.
- For a festive holiday treat, use glace cherries and dried apricots that have been soaked in cherry brandy.
- For a children’s party cake, decorate with Smarties or M&M’s.