Eating like Queen Elizabeth II isn’t as extravagant as one might think, says her former chef, Darren McGrady. But it is more extravagant than your average home-cooked meal of spaghetti and meatballs. It’s all relative, right?
The former royal chef served the Queen for 11 years — a post he left only for Princess Diana when she asked him to be her personal chef. Over the course of his career, he has cooked for “over 100 different kings, queens and presidents,” including President Reagan, President Clinton, President Ford, President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush. He now resides in Dallas, where he has his own kitchen, Eating Royally.
McGrady says there are three things about the Queen’s eating habits that people wouldn’t expect. “One is that she’s very disciplined,” he says, adding that she eats four small meals a day. “For lunch, it would probably be something like grilled fish with some salad. She wouldn’t have potatoes. Or when she’s on her own for lunch, she doesn’t have the starch. She just does the protein and the salad.”
The second is that the Queen favors frugality. McGrady details one time in particular when a chef sent up a whole lemon as a garnish to a dish. The lemon was promptly sent back down to the kitchen to be used in a future dish, as Her Majesty deemed it a waste.
Thirdly, the Queen is a chocoholic. “She loved chocolate so much, she’d give it up for Lent,” McGrady says. Her dessert of choice? Chocolate biscuit cake.
He calls Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh a “foodie,” adding that he would cook venison tenderloins for the family while at Balmoral Castle. He also says Prince Charles loved organic food, which he would grow in his gardens.
Princess Diana was apparently the healthiest; she avoided red meats and would primarily request chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes. McGrady cooked for her up until her death in 1997. He declines to give specifics about the last meal he prepared for her — “I always consider that the negative side,” and says he donated the advance and royalties from his first book, “Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen,” to her charity.
McGrady also says he used to feed Prince William and Prince Harry unhealthy food against their nanny’s wishes. “The Princess just wanted them to be boys,” he reasons. And growing boys need as much pizza and loaded potato skins as they can get.
McGrady’s second book, “The Royal Chef at Home: Easy Seasons Entertaining,” is due out on Aug. 1. View the recipe for Scottish Salmon Glamis, one of the Queen’s favorite dishes in honor of National Tartan Day, below.
Scottish Salmon Glamis
Makes 6 portions
Six 8 oz. Scottish salmon fillets, center cut
8 oz. puff pastry
1 egg yolk
For the mousse:
12 oz. brill or halibut center cut
¾ cup heavy cream
1 egg white (save egg yolk for fleurons)
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
For the fish broth:
1 lb. cleaned fish bones
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large leek, split and washed
1 onion, chopped
1 small fresh fennel bulb, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart water
For the sauce:
2 cups fish broth
2 cups Champagne
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Step 1: Wash the fish bones well in cold, clean water to remove impurities. In a large stock pot, heat all ingredients to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes and strain. Reduce to desired consistency.
Step 2: Roll out the pastry to ¼ inch thick and cut crescent shapes. Brush with the egg yolk and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.
Step 3: Poach the salmon in the fish broth covered in aluminum foil until opaque. Remove to a serving platter and keep warm. Add the Champagne and cream to the poaching liquor and reduce to a syrup. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 4: Coat the salmon with the sauce, garnish with the pastry fleuron and parsley. Serve with hot rice.