The Royal Touch Cookbook by Royal Chef Carolyn Robb
Afternoon Tea has been popular since the early 19th century when it was first established in England to tide hunger pangs between breakfast and dinner. Afternoon tea or high tea is now enjoyed in other countries. There are many restaurants offering Mother’s Day afternoon tea in Toronto, but you may want to consider having your own afternoon tea at home with recipes from Carolyn Robb, who was the personal chef to Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry. Robb has released a new cookbook, The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking From A Royal Chef, which includes recipes for afternoon tea favourites including Lemon Tarts, Scones, and Mini Victoria Sandwich Cakes, as well as many other recipes. Robb’s book includes glorious photos and recipes enjoyed by the Royal Family during her 10 years as their personal chef at Kensington Palace.
The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking From A Royal Chef features 216 pages of recipes for appetizers, salads, soups, vegetarian entrees, pasta, meat and seafood entrees and desserts. There is even a recipe for Chocolate Biscuit Cake that Robb says Prince William and Prince Harry enjoyed as boys and Prince William later had as the Groom’s Cake at his wedding. We’ve included Carolyn Robb’s recipe for Chocolate Biscuit Cake below.
Robb grew up in South African and completed her Cordon Bleu Diploma. Her first job was cooking for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester at Kensington Palace before she was offered the job of cooking for TRH Prince Charles and Princess Diana and their boys.
Interview with Carolyn Robb about her experience cooking for Prince Charles and Princess Diana
We spoke to Carolyn Robb via email about her experience working with the Royal Family:
LB: What was HRH The Princess of Wales’s favourite meal?
CR: Her Royal Highness enjoyed a healthy diet and a wide range of foods. In my cookbook, I have included a couple of her favourite dishes: ‘Aubergine, Tomato and Goats’ Cheese Stack’ and ‘Spring Lamb Salad’.
LB: Did you prepare every meal for TRH Prince and Princess of Wales during your employment?
CR: Yes, I prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner.
LB: Were all of the meals fancy or were there evenings when TRH Prince and Princess of Wales ate plain dishes.
CR: TRH were frequently at official functions which included meals, and the food served was often very rich so when they were at home and were not entertaining guests, they enjoyed simple, light, healthy options.
LB: If so, what plain dishes did they eat?
CR: I would not describe the food as ‘plain’ – it was always carefully prepared, attractively presented and well flavoured – it was just not too rich, for example, home made pasta served with fresh vegetables from the garden.
LB: Did TRH Prince and Princess of Wales have any food restrictions? Did they eat organic or vegetarian dishes?
CR: No food restrictions. The majority of the ingredients and fresh produce that I used were organic and locally produced.
LB: What were Prince William’s and Prince Harry’s favourite meals?
CR: As young boys, they enjoyed many traditional British favourites, such as sausages and mash, roast beef and Shepherds pie. As they grew up, they enjoyed a diversity of tastes, flavours and different cuisines.
LB: What did you learn from your experience cooking for TRH Prince and Princess of Wales?
CR: Cooking for Prince Charles was an incredible experience for a young chef and I learnt an enormous amount from him about organic farming and food production, sustainability and traceability at a time when few chefs were aware of the importance of these things.
Overall, I had so many unique experiences during my time in the royal household and I carry with me many fond and special memories that I will always treasure.
Chocolate Biscuit Cake, reprinted with permission from The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking From A Royal Chef by Carolyn Robb
My mother used to make this when I was a child, and it was a great favourite of mine. When Prince William and Prince Harry were very young, I made it for them using the same recipe. It was a firm favourite in the royal nursery; so much so that, many years later, Prince William chose to have chocolate biscuit cake at his wedding for the Groom’s cake. It was designed, made and gifted to Prince William by McVitie’s biscuit manufacturers and is said to have been made from 1700 biscuits and 17 kg of chocolate!
This recipe is very simple and children always enjoy crushing and crumbling the biscuits (in a variety of unusual, and often messy, ways!) I have included pistachios and soft figs in this version of the recipe, but for children I leave them out and replace them with the same weight in biscuits.
YOU WILL NEED:
One 20 cm (8 inch) round or square cake tin or flan
ring or a 450g / 1 lb loaf tin, approximately 16 x 11 cm, 7 cm deep (6¼ x 4¼ inches, 2¾ inches deep)
FOR THE CAKE:
340g / 12 oz butter (3 sticks)
240g / 8 1/2 oz golden syrup * (3/4 cup)
60g / 2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder (2/3 cup)
120g / 4 oz cup dark chocolate (2/3 cup)
5ml / 1 tsp pure vanilla extract *
60g / 2 oz pistachios (1/2 cup)
100g / 3 1/2 oz soft, plump dried figs, sliced (1/2 cup packed)
450g / 1 lb digestive biscuits, * crushed
300g / 11 oz dark chocolate (2 cups)
50g / 2 oz white chocolate (2/3 cup)
Selection of small chocolate sticks and dark and white Maltesers or Whoppers
Serves 16 – 20
- Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a heavy based pan. Do not let it boil.
- Remove from the 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 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 glacé cherries and dried apricots that have been soaked in cherry brandy.
For a children’s party cake, decorate with Smarties or M&Ms.
SCONES WITH VANILLA AND ORANGE ZEST reprinted with permission from The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking From A Royal Chef by Carolyn Robb
One of the abiding memories I have of the Garden Parties that I attended at Buckingham Palace is of the mountains of cream scones and cucumber sandwiches. Forever more, scones will be synonymous with Garden Parties for me. This is my favourite recipe for scones and my advice is to eat them fresh from the oven and never to stint on the cream and jam!
YOU WILL NEED:
A 4 cm (1½ inch) pastry cutter and 2 flat baking trays
450g / 1 lb plain flour (3 3/4 cup)
60g / 2 oz golden caster sugar (1/4 cup)
2.5ml / 1/2 tsp salt
15ml / 3 tsp baking powder
100g / 3 1/2 oz butter (7 Tbsp)
175ml / 3/4 cup buttermilk
50ml / 1/4 cup milk
1 free-range egg (UK medium / USA large)
5ml / 1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
Makes approximately 15 scones
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF.
- Sieve the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
- Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using your finger tips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Blend together the buttermilk, milk, egg and vanilla extract.
- Make a hollow in the centre of the ‘crumbs’, finely grate the orange zest into it and pour in most of the liquid. Add in the remainder later if the dough seems dry. Traditionally, a small round-bladed knife or palette knife is used to mix the dough. You want to achieve a lightly-bound dough that is neither sticky nor dry and crumbly.
- Lift the ball of dough onto a floured surface and knead it just 3 or 4 times to get rid of any cracks, working quickly. If the dough is over-worked it will result in ‘tough’ scones.
- Pat the dough out to a thickness of 2cm (¾ inch). Cut out the scones, dipping the pastry cutter into flour each time, so that it makes a clean cut and does not drag the dough when cutting through it. Place scones onto the baking trays.
- Gather the trimmings, lightly bring them together and pat the dough out again to cut out more scones.
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until well risen and golden.
- For fruit scones, add in 60g (⅓ cup) sultanas or raisins at Step 5. For savoury scones, replace the vanilla, orange zest and sugar with 60g (½ cup) of grated mature cheddar cheese and 15ml (1 tablespoon) finely chopped chives, added in at Step 5; top with a little extra cheese and a light dusting of paprika.
The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking From A Royal Chef by Carolyn Robb is published by . ISBN – 10: 1851497927, ISBN – 13: 9781851497928. You can purchase The Royal Touch Cookbook at Chapters Indigo.