I’m not sure if you know (or care) that since acceding to the throne on June 2 1953 Queen Elizabeth the Second (QEII), by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith became Britain’s longest serving Monarch on September 9, after serving 63 years and 7 months. It’s time for a Stress Free Dinner Party Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II Coronation.
Other things that happened in 1953 include the “first” successful ascent of Mt Everest, the Shah of Iran was restored to power, Stalin died, the Korean War ended, the polio vaccine was developed and the double-helix structure of DNA was discovered. Ian Fleming’s first Bond book Casino Royale, and Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral (Poirot) and A Pocket Full of Rye (Marple) were published, and popular movies included From Here to Eternity, The War of The Worlds and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
In the UK, storms broke flood defences killing 150 people, sugar rationing ended (though meat was still rationed), the Queen’s grandmother Queen Mary died, John Christie was convicted of murder and executed, Winston Churchill was knighted and won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pinza won the Epsom Derby, the English cricket team won The Ashes, Panorama‘s first episode aired, Piltdown Man proved to be a fake and matchbox toys were introduced.
But back to the Queen, a celebration of the length of her reign should hark back to its beginning, and according to The Royal Trust Collection (RTC), her official coronation celebrations consisted of two State Banquets and two evening receptions (she had a lot of followers).
Bearing in mind that we’re making this Coronation Dinner Party at home for friends, we’ll once again be keeping it simple.
The RTC has helpfully supplied the menu for one of the banquets which includes turtle soup, fillet of sole, rack of lamb with buttered string/green beans, new potatoes, asparagus salad, strawberries and assorted treats. Yum!
The menu helpfully includes the wines: Sherry, Riesling, Bordeaux, Champagne, Sauternes and Port. Easy.
RTC tells us that the events were held in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace, with guests seated at small round tables (looks to be settings for eight). They ate from Sevres porcelain using silver gilt cutlery. The pictures show white linens, and while there aren’t any glasses on the table I think we can safely assume crystal.
As this was a State Dinner it would have been the very formal White Tie code, but for our small group let’s just ask for suits and cocktail frocks. Not that you can’t go all out and mock it up if you want to.
As always, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Smoked Salmon Dip and Champagne (or Sherry)
My ideal would be goujons of lemon sole, but they need to be hot and that’s a bit tricky when you are making something for your guest to nibble on in the meantime. So instead we’ll go with smoked salmon mousse (because she might have had salmon sent from her Scottish estates), though of course you could do smoked salmon and cream cheese on crackers.
Put 4 oz (113 g) cream cheese, 2 oz (57 g) smoked salmon, a good squeeze of lemon juice, a little grated lemon zest and salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (or hot sauce) to taste into a blender and mix until smooth. Serve on a slice of cucumber or a cracker garnished with a sprig of dill.
7.00 Entrée: Asparagus Salad with Riesling
Fortunately, I am just coming into asparagus season and it is very young and tasty, so just a very simple salad. To make the dressing mix 6 tablespoons of olive oil with two of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you like anchovy sauce you could add a tiny splash of that as well. Shave some parmesan. Just before serving grill two bunches of asparagus, divide between the plates, sprinkle with the cheese and drizzle with a little dressing.
8.00 Main: Rack of Lamb with New Potatoes, Buttered Beans and Bordeaux
The menu does specify rack, and I suppose that a crown roast would have been a bit ostentatious, but that’s good for us as it’s less fiddly. And if you made the Advanced Titanic Dinner, then you already know how to make this.
Lamb: allow 3 chops each (two racks of nine, or three of six). Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Roughly chop some rosemary, mint and garlic, and put in a blender with some salt, pepper and olive oil, blend to form a paste. Cut a crisscross pattern into the meat and smear the herb paste into the cuts – if you can do this ahead it’s much tastier. Weave the bones together (like you are playing church and steeple with your fingers) and cook according to taste (rare: 18 minutes per 1 lb (450 g), 24 minutes for medium and 30 for well-done).
Potatoes: scrub 2-3 small potatoes each per person, and boil for 5 – 10 minutes then drain. Add to the beans to coat with butter.
Beans: Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large fry pan. Boil 1 lb (450 g) of beans for 3 – 5 minutes until the are cooked but still a little crisp, then drain and add to the butter with the potatoes. Give the pan a jiggle to coat the vegetables with butter.
Mint Sauce: Chop the leaves from a bunch of mint and pop in a jug with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar then stir in 4 tablespoons of boiling water and leave to cool. Top up with 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
Gravy: really good gravy starts with the pan juices (yes fat) – 1 tablespoon per cup of gravy. I recommend allowing half a cup per person. Take the meat out of the pan and put it on the stove. Whisk 1 tablespoon of flour for each tablespoon of pan juices to form a thick paste, then gradually add the required water. You could also substitute the first cup of water with a cup of the Bordeaux or some brandy.
9.00 Dessert: Strawberries in Sauternes with Lemon Biscuits
It’s been a lovely fresh and simple spring meal, and I think it would be ruined by anything too stodgy, so fresh strawberries it is.
Strawberries: cut 26 ½ oz (750 g) into chunks and put in a bowl with 12 ¾ oz (375 ml) Sauternes and a couple of strips of unwaxed lemon peel. Chill for a couple of hours.
Lemon Biscuits: I can recommend the Duchy of Cornwall lemon biscuits, but you could also make your own – preferably the day before, just because it makes the day easier. Beat 4.4 oz (125 g) butter and 3.5 oz (100 g) caster sugar until creamy, then beat in an egg until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add 7 oz (200 g) plain flour, the zest of two lemons, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt then mix until you get dough. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours until firm. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s only ½ cm thick, then cut shapes and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Serve the strawberries with cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche and the biscuits.
10.00 Coffee, Fruit and Cheese with Port
There’s no mention of cheese, but I love a cheese platter. Pick a young (e.g. brie), an old (e.g. cheddar) and a blue cheese as well as some fruit like a crisp apple or pear, some fruit paste, nuts and crackers.
Again assuming the cleaning, table laying, etc. is complete, we’ll pick up at the cooking (and as usual I recommend a practice run, and an acceptance of schedule slippage).
3.00 make the biscuit dough
4.30 make the salmon dip and put in the fridge to intensify the flavours
4.45 prepare asparagus, shave the parmesan and make dressing
5.15 prepare the strawberries
5.30 preheat the oven and cut the biscuits
5.45 put the biscuits in the oven, then prepare the lamb, mint sauce, potatoes and beans
6.00 take the biscuits out of the oven and turn the temperature up
6.15 get the meat in the oven
6.20 put your apéritif together and get your drinks laid out ready to go
6.30 guests start arriving
6.5o grill asparagus and put salad together on serving plates
7.00 serve entrée
7.45 take the meat out of the oven, make the gravy and cook vegetables
8.00 serve main
8.45 “plate up” dessert
9.00 serve dessert
9.45 put the cheese plate together and make the coffee
10.00 serve coffee
I think it’s so interesting that such a formal occasion has such a simple menu, but I suppose they hadn’t fully recovered from the war so things were bound to be a bit austere. Nonetheless, it would have been an excellent meal don’t you think?