Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year Everybody.

Well that's that then, another year done and dusted with only the drinking and enforced jollity of the night left to go!
As usual it as another pretty uneventful day in the kitchen.....lots of people to talk to and food to cook. To be honest as I sit here typing this I can't actually remember all of what we did eventually cook today. Although the menu was planned to be the same as the second day, we changed a few things around as we did yesterday and probably will tomorrow, so I'll try to post a full revised list of what we cooked when I get home and recover from the week.

Tomorrow sees the final day of cookery for this Christmas event and another long day for the team with all the washing up, clearing away and sorting that needs to be done as well as the total deep cleaning of the modern kitchen that we use.........stripping the fridge seals and shelving down, mopping the floors and disinfecting all the work surfaces and door handles. Any leftovers will need to be bagged up and space found in the freezer ready for us to use them during the February weekend.... so far the plan for that weekend is to talk about and look at the run up to Lent and how we can make use of all of our leftovers ready for the period of fasting to come. March will be in the middle of the Lent period so is the ideal time to look at all those lovely tasty meat and flavour free recipes that they seemed to have loved then......hopefully we can weave our culinary magic and pull some surprises out of the bag then.

Lots of thoughts for what to do next year on top of those I just mentioned are flying around my head currently, lots of chats with Robert, Robin and Barry have propagated many ideas that I think we need to pursue and a couple of chats with Kent who is one of the curators have also given me a few leads to look at as this space for exciting details !!

I think now that all that's left for me to do is wish you all a Happy New Year and now off to some compulsory fun and games (we've even got crackers to pull thanks to No.1 Fan!)

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Eat, Drink And Talk, Talk, Talk

Hooray, the battery was charged, the tripod erected and the video'll see it below when I finish typing this. The only downer to the whole process is that I was so worried that the battery would give up before the meal finished I stopped the recording early, but on the up side it was only stopped 5 minutes before the palace closed.

As it happened I didn't need to be worried as the battery had plenty of life left in it.....enough to record a time lapse of this evenings washing up. I won't be showing you that video though as it is safely stored away ready for potential blackmail uses.....tee hee.

Any how, enough with the tomfoolery....on with the video, just as soon as youtube can process it. (and now off to the pub!)

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Damn This Technology!

I did have some cool stuff planned for the post today, another time lapse video of the meal......table being laid, food being served the whole shebang. Unfortunately some lackwit bumpkin forgot to re-charge the camera battery last night and it shut down half way through the job in hand?!?! This unexpected termination of events lead to a corrupted video file that nothing will play......hopefully better luck will ensue tomorrow (the battery is charging as I type this very missive!)

As with the previous posts there's not really a lot to say about the day today. All the food was cooked and an enjoyable time was had by all. Actually that's not strictly true, from all accounts the meal today was stunningly good....Jorge lived up to his commenting name here on the blog and Gorged his way through the dishes. I was particularly happy with the fyllets en galentyne but the star dish of the day was the tartes owte of Lente which was absolutely superb....perfect pastry, perfect filling flavour and consistency, in fact words cannot do it credit.

You may have noticed a dearth of images appearing recently and today again is no different (although 4 have just gone to Flickr), we just aren't taking that many but will endeavour to put that right tomorrow as well. Until then I'll leave you with this comforting image of Adrian relaxing after hours!!

Hmm....What To Say?

Not a lot to report today I suppose, we were fairly busy, well more so than yesterday any way, and apart from swapping the egges in moneshine for pokeraunce everything went to plan......we did that because we were a little over zealous with our egg use yesterday!!

Today has been marked though by a cracking evening in the pub where we passed the time just chatting about nothing in particular, but having a great night out. It was Jorge who summed it up best.......a group of guys who can and do talk about absolutely anything and everything without fear of offending anyone else in the group no matter what the subject......simply put, time spent with a great bunch of guys that I am proud to call my friends.

Bed time now, hopefully more for you tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Get Back In That Kitchen!!

Day 1 of 6 and it’s all back to business as normal I suppose.......we cooked food......people watched and asked questions......we ate the food.......we washed was done!

Very little of any note occurred, well nothing worth telling all of you about anyway, the food was good and most of it got eaten. There was the odd gripe from my end of the table about there not being as much choice as normal, but the dissention was soon crushed with an iron fist ;-)
Dish of the day seemed to be shared between the tarte of beanes and the custard lumbarde although for my money the custard was a bit too eggy....this was due in part to the use of whole eggs as the thickening agent, but also to how the cases were filled I think. The cases were raised and then blind baked as the recipe calls for

¶Custard lumbarde.

¶Take good creme, and ffoiles of and yolkes And white of egges, and breke hem thereto, and streyne hem all þorg a straynour till hit be so thik that it woll bere him self; And take faire Mary, And Dates, cutte in ij. or iij. and prunes, and put hem in faire coffyns of paast; And then put þe coffyn in an oven, And lete hem bake till thei be hard, And then drawe hem oute, and putte the licoure into þe Coffyns, And put hem into þe oven ayen, And lete hem bake till they be ynog, but cast sugur and salt in þi licour whan ye putte hit into þe coffyns; And if hit be in lenton, take creme of Almondes, And leve the egges And the Mary.

I then put the cream, egg and parsley mix (the ffoiles in the recipe above are leaves of parsley...this can be found by comparing this text to other versions of the recipe) into a jug which makes it easier to pour into the cases. I think that it separated slightly in the jug though, which would explain why one of them had much more parsley in than the other......still, live and learn!

A couple of videos for you......the first is in reply to the suggestion by Elise a few posts back and shows Robin raising a tart case.

The other one is a time lapse of us setting the kitchen up on Boxing’s a bit dark and only shows a small portion of the actual room but it should give you an idea of what goes into setting up for the cooking.

With luck, more tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

You've Come A Long Way Baby!

Ho Ho Ho....Merry Christmas!

Well who'd have believed that.....a year of blogging and still going....what were the chances of that happening eh?
We've come a long way from the first tentative post last Christmas eve (back on the old Yahoo 360 blog) ....then the move to Blogger and 130 posts later here we are at Christmas 2007 with several thousand views of the blog, a map showing where you all are and a bumper collection of images, a large chunk of which are viewable at the Flickr page.

First of all I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to all of you that have been following along over the last year and I'll also extend that and say thanks from Robert for all of you that have looked at our pictures over at the Flickr site.....I know that having an audience for his pictures has re-vitalised him and his photography so I'm looking forward to seeing lots more in the next year.

What a year it's been as well.......there have been highs.......lows......and a handful or two of smut........which as it happens generated the most interest that the blog had all year!!...........shame on you ;-) All of this was documented in pictures and put on Flickr for all to see, but I still feel that a retrospective look is in order so have a butchers at what we did this year...

and the last of the year before the Christmas cookery begins again.

PHEW!! having just looked back through all the Flickr images......we did quite a bit last year and I only posted a fraction of the pictures that we all took.

Then there was the book, which while not exactly a top seller, is ticking along nicely......and 2008 should see another 1 or 2 joining it (a Georgian recipe book first then a Stuart period one) plus who knows what else??

Now on to more pressing business.....the Christmas cookery event at Hampton Court from 27th December to 1st January inclusive.
Unbelievably all the deliveries turned up relatively on time yesterday and all of them were correct....nothing missing, no substitutions and no errors.......quite unexpected really. The office had it's final tidy up ready for the onslaught, the last load of Christmas cards were collected from the post room and put up on the mantle piece and final Christmas wishes were said to the Howard and Warren that work the fire in the kitchen. All that's left now is for the guys to turn up on Boxing day, set the kitchen up then crack on with the cookery on the 27th....but what are they going to be doing?
Well the plan for the cookery is as follows:

Day 1

roast beef
custade lumbarde
tarte of benes

Day 2

roast venison
beef y-stwyd
buttyrd wortys
hen in clene brot
egges in moneshine
ryse of genoa

Day 3

Roast pork
Tarts owte of lente.
Fylettys en Galentyne.
Oyle Soppys.
Applade Ryalle.
Wardons in syryp.

The plan was to then repeat this for day 4,5 and 6 but I'm thinking now that although this will form the basis of those days menus, we'll probably wing it and cook a few other recipes....possibly a trayne roste, some different pies, who knows.....but I aim to let you all know just as soon as I do!
Fingers crossed that technology will allow regular posting over the week and I'm hoping that we'll be able to upload pictures and video as well....but there's no guarantee of that.

All that's left is to wish you all a Happy Christmas....New Years salutations will come nearer to the time.....and to hope that you all keep on following the work that we do.
As always, if any of you visit the kitchens over the course of the cookery this Christmas then do say hello.


Friday, 21 December 2007

Back In Business

Thanks to the unique way that Norton Ghost works, the repair took a little longer than I'd hoped for....but everything is back to normal now! Ghost is a cracking program that allows you to copy your hard drive then re-install it at a later date to avert disaster and the need to re-install everything. It also backs up separate data folders like the pictures and video ones on a regular basis so that you can re-install those if they get deleted.....unfortunately this isn't as easy to do as I'd hoped if you have to use the 're-install the whole drive' option.....As my machine was restored to just over a month ago it then lost the data for the backups that were made after that date?!?!?
Anyway, after a little fiddling and RTFM everything is back where it should be....I think.

So as promised, the video and pictures I took the other day are here.

It's not much, just a VERY quick trip through the kitchens as they appear on any normal's a little like being on a fairground ride at times I'm afraid, but at least it will give those of you that have never visited a rough idea of what the kitchens are like to visit.

It transpires that I didn't take as many pictures as I though I had....apart from those that made up the panoramic image in the earlier post.....just 2 that were worth putting on Flickr it happens, one of which is this one

It was perishing cold when I took this on Monday and you can clearly see that the smoke isn't going up the chimney like it should be.....why is this? The fire isn't big enough to generate enough heat and hence updraught to overcome both the atmospheric pressure and the cold air that dams the top of the chimney the kitchen fills with smoke. This is the main reason for the huge black stain on the wall above the fireplace, something that wouldn't have happened if the fire was running at a size that the Tudor cooks would have experienced.

Off to work tomorrow to receive all of the food deliveries for next weeks cookery, then home and some time off for a family Christmas to recharge in time to get cooking next Thursday. No doubt there'll be a few more posts before Christmas, so keep watching this space!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Aaaaargh Bummocks!!!

Won't be a post of pictures and that for a while as I'm having to re-install everything onto my computer.....AGAIN!!
Hopefully back to normal much quicker than last time.


Tuesday, 18 December 2007

One Of Those Days!

It's been a bit of a day of two halves to pinch a football colloquialism.
A very informative morning was spent in a meeting going through some of the findings from market research that the interpretation department commissioned earlier this year. The aims of the various studies and surveys were to discover what our visiting public (that's visitors to the whole Palace group not just Hampton Court) views 'live interpretation' other words, what do they think of people dressed up funny from the past?!?
Well to cut it down to the essentials.....they loved it.....lots of very positive and constructive comments for all concerned with lots to take on board for planning future events.

Unfortunately, that all ran on a little longer than had been planned, which meant that my plans for the afternoon had to change drastically, so after a little sorting out ready for next week and a couple of cups of tea I spent a few hours taking some pictures in and around the kitchens along with some video of the kitchens display for you to have a look at.

So for your edification and delight here's another one of those panoramic pictures.....this time of the main roasting kitchen

All you need to do is place your cursor onto the image, then left click the mouse and whilst holding the button down drag the picture around......have a go and you'll see what I mean I hope......PLEASE DO LET ME KNOW IF THIS DOESN'T WORK!!

Video and pictures tomorrow I hope, along with some more information about next weeks cookery.......damn, it's only NEXT WEEK!!!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

To Answer Some Questions

It was easier to answer Elise's questions as asked in a comment on the last post with this post so that everyone gets to see the answers.

Would you give a brief explanation of the fundraising dinner?

This is a project that is very much still in the planning stages, hence the lack of information from me and the stilted answers to this post....sorry! The idea is to put on a fundraising dinner showcasing 'Tudor' food and giving the diners an idea of how it would have been consumed. The best way of thinking about it is to imagine that we still ate the recipes today and in the same manner but with all of our modern service ware and sentiments about sharing food! It's difficult to explain but if it all goes to plan then pictures will be able to say it so much better than words ever can.
It's a very complicated idea that we're working on and only if all the pieces are in place will/can this idea take place......It's that sort of event.

Who does it benefit?

'Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.
We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.'
Straight from the horses mouth!

Can the public make reservations?

I am unable to say at the moment....suffice to say this will be marketed to a corporate market first and foremost.....expect prices to match.

Does this happen every year?

Although there have been fundraising events in the past, NOTHING like this has ever happened before!

Is it only at Christmas time?

A date and time have yet to be set.

Where in Hampton Court does it take place?

Again, nothing has been set.

As I say, things are very much in the planning stage and vague answers are really all I am able to give at the moment. As soon as that changes then trust'll all know as I expect it to occupy most of my waking time.
Things have taken a turn recently so I hope to have some news one way or the other soon

Monday, 10 December 2007


Only 15 days until Christmas!...............Only 17 days until the Christmas cookery!!

Fortunately, all is in hand I think (although It's thinking like that which has seen us scuppered before!). I just have a few minor tweaks to do to complete the menu and the shopping lists and I now know when we can have stuff delivered so dividing the shopping up into sensible delivery schedules shouldn't be a problem. As with previous major cooking events like Easter as soon as I've finalized the menu details I'll post it for you to see what we are planning to cook although to be honest I've posted some of it already?!

The Christmas cookery will be another ideal chance to work on the menu/dishes for the fundraising dinner although not in the same way that we have been over the last two months cooking weekends. Christmas sees the kitchens joining in with transforming Hampton Court into a Tudor palace once more, with costumed characters populating the state apartments and (weather permitting) courtyards, while down in the kitchen we strive to produce meals as they might have been some 460 odd years ago. To be totally honest at this moment in time I have absolutely no idea what's planned for 'upstairs' over Christmas but for us in the kitchens things will tick over fairly normally I think. The biggest difference between Christmas and the cookery weekends is that we won't have Robert in whites recording times, temperatures and so on as he'll be back in his office (that's the one in the Tudor kitchen) catching up with all of the paperwork and talking to people about that.......although undoubtedly he'll still be taking the odd picture now and then I'm sure, especially as the carousel in front of the Palace presents a golden opportunity for long exposure pictures

Another bumper crop of pictures are now up at the Flickr page....28 new ones from the December weekend to give you yet more of a glimpse into how and what it is we do.......or just some more photographs of some people mucking decide!
Over the course of the last weekend I think we spoke more than ever before about using everything and not wasting stuff. This was mainly brought about by the deer being processed when people seemed fascinated by how little waste there was.....we even had Jorge salvaging the sinews from the legs to use in future art projects

Having now looked through all of the pictures that Robert and I took, I can now see what we actually did over the weekend in terms or preparing for Christmas. Jorge managed to recover quite a large amount of bone marrow ready to use in recipes like custard lumbarde

Whilst Pick and Carter managed a sterling effort over the two days and produced a shed load of sausages and sausage meat ready for quick dinner production on those undoubtedly cold well as jointing the two deer carcasses into roasting and stewing portions

Dave made more progress on the wax fountain as well, although I do believe that he had a few teething troubles with his mould making.......a job that is normally Adrian's domain.....still, he'll be back at Christmas and they can crack on then....I believe that there may well be light at the end of the tunnel for this particular model project.

Now is as good a time as any to remind you that this blog was always intended to be a two way thing. If you've got any questions then please do feel free to ask them.....either use the 'comments' button at the end of a post, or email them to me (address is in my profile, accessible via the column on the right as are so many other things!) and we'll do our best to answer them.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Back In Blighty

Back from a brief sojourn to La belle France where we were shopping for supplies for the all too rapidly approaching Christmas cookery week, so now it's time for a brief roundup of the weeks events.

Wednesdays evening talk went OK, 54 people in total which is pretty good for one of these talks at the Palace. Most people seemed to enjoy themselves and they all got a glass of wine and mince pie at the end so it can't have been all bad now can it?

Yesterdays jaunt under the Channel and then to Boulogne went well....apart from getting absolutely soaked to the skin whilst walking to get some lunch.......oh and getting onto the train to go through the tunnel was a bit of a performance too! Everyone was getting stopped for security checks and so a large number of us missed our scheduled train. The next train ended up getting filled to capacity but just before we got on, so there we were at the front of a queue with nowhere to go, in the middle of the channel tunnel depot! We then had to follow an official van along the platform, up and out the other end, then round and down onto the next platform where they popped us all into a coach carriage for the journey over. It meant that we were about an hour later arriving in Calais than we would have been had we got on the correct train, so only time for the briefest of lunches then a quick trip round the supermarket for ingredients before heading home.......all day being permeated with rain, rain and more rain!

The trip home did give me a chance to play with some long exposure pictures though.....not perfect but you'll get the drift of what I was after......might be better if I try similar with an image stabilising camera??

As we're on the subject of pictures (what a segway!! eat you heart out Dave Lee Travis!) I've put a load more from last weekend up on Flickr, 19 of them in fact, some by be and some by Robert.

These are pictures of egges in moneshine, a recipe taken from the selection we will be working on next year but one that will be on the menu for the fundraising dinner. It's egg yolks cooked in a boiling syrup made from rose water and sugar, they are put into the sugar and we reckon 40-50 seconds of cooking is all they need, they taste odd at first but then sensational.......'expensive' is how Dave said that they tasted!

My favourite of the batch and possibly the best of the weekend is this one

Now that Robert seems to have got the focus 'thing' sorted he's more than back in form with superb shots like that one.....just goes to show you what's possible in terms of photographs I think.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Advantages Of Archiving

Whilst finishing off tonight's talk on Christmas Past I wanted to put in some pictures of Christmas food that we had made last year when we took a jaunt up to Harewood House in Yorkshire. We did that trip after I gave my Christmas talk last year so I wasn't able to put the pictures in the old talk.....could I find! Looks like I deleted them in the grand cock up that saw this springs USA trip pictures go to the great re-cycle bin in the sky.

Anyway, in a vain attempt to find some other suitable pictures I dug out one of my archive disks and voila.....there they all were......Christmas food, USA, the lot.......phew. So the moral is everyone, if you value your digital data then make adequate archives of it.

The talk is now finished and I'm just about ready to go and give it.....if you're coming along tonight then say hello....let's just hope that the noise from the merry go round outside isn't as distracting as last year. I'm hoping that the modified talk makes sense....I can't stand showing people the same slides over and over for talk after talk, so I've made quite a few alterations to last years presentation, I just hope I can remember what I've added and removed.

A few more pictures are now up on Flickr, mostly of the deer processing that Pick and Carter undertook ready for use at Christmas.

Off to France shopping for the Christmas cookery tomorrow so I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to post more pictures tomorrow......if not then Friday will have to do!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

I Had A Chat....

.....with Robert today about yesterdays post, it seems to have inspired him to write about the photography and to compare the new fangled digital camera he has with some of his earliest plate cameras.....It will also be a great opportunity to show you the results of some photographic experiments that he did at Hampton Court a few years ago using the calotype we wait with baited breath (and now I have to find where I put those pictures so I can post them...)

In the meantime I've just put 8 of Roberts pictures from this weekend up for your viewing pleasure.

As you can see, the big man is there to keep a beady eye on things whilst repair work is taking place on the tower that contains the astronomical you drive past the front of the palace you can see him peering over the top!

Apart from the chat with Robert, there was another meeting about the fundraising dinner today; plans for which are still being worked on but look quite good (although I sense a LOT of hard work to come with this idea)....more news on this front when I can.

Now.....back to that lovely PowerPoint presentation.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Seems I Underestimated... many pictures Robert and I actually took this weekend when I said in the previous post that a few had been taken.......just over 900!!! Fret not though, I won't be subjecting you to all of them like some kind of sad demented family slide show, just a selection of the best.

The reason for the massive number is quite simple, since he got his new camera Robert has taken more out of focus images than in the rest of the year put together. We had chat to try to work out why, I thought it could have been because the new camera doesn't use a split prism to gauge focus, it does it all digitally and when manually changing focus it's quite tricky to see if you've got a crisp image. It turns out that the camera and lens don't work quite as Robert was expecting and so his technique for sure fire focus with his old camera didn't quite work in the same several hundred test shots later and (rather ironically) Bob's your uncle!! Sorted.

I've started to post images from the weekend up to Flickr, a small number only today as I'm in the middle of finishing off Wednesday's talk on Christmas this'll only be a flying posting for now. Due to the poor light conditions over the weekend I was trying to wring out good pictures using long exposures.....not easy with a compact camera with no user control on the aperture setting other than playing with the ISO settings, still I'm quite happy with the results.

Pop over to the Flickr site to see them a bit well as a few others.

I've also added another small video

This is of Pick trying to get the second half of the ribcage off of one of the 2 deer he processed over the weekend......although it turns out that this was the difficult side to get off, perhaps he needs to learn to be ambidextrous?

More pictures and waffle about the weekend later in the week.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Good Grief.....'s as black as pitch in here! Winter's finally here, how can we tell? Is it because the annual visit of the ice rink has come round again? Is it the smattering of Christmas lights adorning shops across the road? No, we know it's winter because today was the first day when even with all the lights on in the kitchen seeing was difficult from 3.00 onwards.
Nothing much to report as it happens, a few pictures were taken even with the poor light, a deer was butchered into jonts and all the recipes for the fundraiser meals third course were tried.....with some degree of success it seems. I'm not going to go into details now as things will be much clearer with pictures as well as words.
Tomorrow sees more preparation for the Christmas cookery with another deer to dismantle, marrow to extract from beef bones and sausages to be made....well that's what Pick & Carter will be doing, I think that the rest of us will be having a less busy day than that though!!