Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Wishing you all the best for 2011.

With luck in the coming year I can shift this blue funk and keep you better informed than of late .

All the best and remember to drink responsibly tonight people....I may even allow myself a little drinky to celebrate the success of this event. An update will be forthcoming after the dust has settled, possibly a short one tomorrow too, but for now obscenely loud music calls to drown it all out!

TTFN and all the best

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Why So Silent?

You'll notice a dearth of detail about the Xmas event for the moment for the simple reason, it's not sorted yet and I prefer to get it right this time before giving you the nitty gritty....silly really, but that's how it is!

From our point of view in the kitchens, all is tickety boo, just the meal part to get 'right', but considering it's the first time this has been done like this for several hundred years I suppose it's not going too badly!! Fingers crossed by the end of tomorrow we'll all be sorted and I can give you the SP from our end....for now though, pop to the forum for a 'punters view' and look at the pictures and so on posted by Terry L.

I can certainly say though that it is mentally draining trying to get this event 'right'...sit down for 5 minutes and I drop off to draining in fact that I'll even let Terry's comment about me not working pass....I don't just 'supervise' you know....there is other stuff involved too!! ;o)


Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone.

Fingers crossed for a successful event over the next week and an equally successful 2011.

All the best.


Friday, 24 December 2010

The Die Is Cast!

Right, that's it, I've done all I'm going to towards the Christmas's now time for the holiday, short and sweet though it be honest though I really can't recall Christmas' that have been longer than Christmas and Boxing Day so wouldn't know what to do if we had the time anyway.

All the ingredients that needed to have arrived have arrived.....or, after a short delay this morning, were collected and have all now been put away in the cupboards and fridges. Some things have been portioned up, like apples for the table, to save them being forgotten and lists of daily needs are sitting on the desk ready to get started.....there's probably loads more I could have done to prepare, but in the end, enough was enough and it'll all just have to come together on the day....which I have no doubt it will...still the nagging worry about the event though, given the amount of work put in so far, but isn't that always the way with something new?

That's probably all from me until we get to work on Boxing Day, though so saying I expect I'll pop up a seasonal salutation to you all 'on the day', both here and Twitter.

Don't forget, any questions then fire away, but do try to use the forum first and foremost as that's likely to get results/answers quicker than using the comments system here.


Thursday, 16 December 2010

On Tonights Menu We Have......

Finally it's finger out time and the promised update on what we'll actually be cooking over the Christmas event!
Now that all the plans are finally signed off and in place I have to say it's all looking rather good....I know I shouldn't count proverbial chickens and that, but the dress rehearsal for the 'upstairs' component looked really good and hopefully it'll all gel together to give a really good visit. Yes there are still a few niggles, but they're all behind the scenes things like the delivery dates of ingredients and the like....nothing major, but enough to keep us on our toes and add extra work that needn't really be there, still if that's all that goes wrong then I shouldn't complain.

So, the menu then. I should first explain that the menu I planned has had to take into account a number of added factors that we normally wouldn't have to deal with. It's not like it's a doddle at the best of times as it isn't a case of just throwing dishes together willy nilly...availability of ingredients, equipment and staffing all have to be considered as well as possible cost versus the 'return' of learning outcome/interest for the visitor....add to that the complete change of taking the food into the Great Hall, a conservation sensitive area containing priceless items from the Royal Collection and all the rules and criteria that go with that...which precludes the use of very liquid dishes or anything 'staining' like red wine or berries as well as the necessary rules about how food should be transported to and carried through the Hall...all of which meant that 'simple' was the way to go.
So as I said in the original post about the event, given all the factors to take into account, we shall be cooking a menu that ostensibly sticks quite closely to one of the two courses listed for the Kings meals in the diet lists contained within the regulations for the Royal Household set down at Eltham in 1526. Obviously, in order to cook and talk to the visitors, we aren't able to prepare the full menu (that and the fact that we don't have a fully staffed kitchen!) so I cherry picked dishes that fit all the criteria and will be interesting to cook as well, hopefully, as interesting to watch.

We'll be cooking the following menu on each of the 7 days, with only the potage of flesh varying in order to give us a little variety:


Cheat and Manchet breads
A potage of flesh
Lamb stewed & chynes of mutton
Gigot of mutton stopped with cloves
Roast capon
Roast pheasant
Roast beef

The Potage of Flesh will be:

Beef y-stywyd
Fylets en galentine 
To stew steaks of mutton 
Lange wortys de chare 
Stew after the guise of beyond the sea 
Autre veal en buknade

From our point of view, cooking a large and varied number of roast meats (all of which can be served pretty 'dry' to reduce the risk of spillage) will be a challenge...getting them all ready at the same time is the aim rather than cook one, then the next and not worry too much about it going cold as we would have done in the past....well, it was only us eating it, this time, with a 'client' things are different. As I've mentioned before this is the first step on a new ladder, so perhaps in the future the balance of dish types may change....who knows.
I intend to put the recipes that we'll be using for the potage's of flesh up on the forum, in the recipe area, so that you can see what we'll be cooking and ask any questions that you'd like about them's also an easy place for people to find them if they ask when we're actually cooking so that they can have a go themselves.

There's probably more to add, but I can't think what at this time, I'll post 'it' if and when I work out what 'it' is!


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Lock In!

Phew, another good day at the coal face, if somewhat cold...especially after the sun vanished at about 1.00 when the temperature inside dropped like a stone. Still, all warmed up now, thanks to a gift of a bottle of Woods 100 rum and a marathon Clint Eastwood DVD session....there's been a rather large function at the Palace tonight and the options were stay in all night or go out and stay out until midnight, so we plumped for the former and a pleasant evening it was too.

But what about the day? Well, Terry has it fairly well covered over at the forum (in the Cookery at HCP board)...much better than I can deal with using the tiny keys on the phone here. No we didn't do a vast amount, but we did more than enough to please the visiting brave souls that we had and keep ourselves busy, as well as some testing for Christmas and leaving enough spare time to warm up now and again.
Those that couldn't make it in to work due to the poor weather were missed, but rather they were missed than take risks with travel given the state of some parts of the country.

If you've read the forum post about the day, the eagle eyed will have noticed mention of a deer...more on that when I've got a proper keyboard....but it certainly proved fascinating for the visitors.
Tomorrow, much more roasting as a precursor/test for Christmas...2 chickens, a mutton leg and a beef rib joint, all to be ready at the same time more or less. A few bonus sausages to use up to clear space in the freezer....and give us a warming snack (not sure what flavour they are, but I'm sure that Mr P will have made them nice when he made them.....whenever that was!) we've storage space for Xmas, possible coleys for me to try aalong with some more deer butchery for Robin to finish up.

More news and details after the weekend. Keep warm!


Friday, 3 December 2010

Still Not Funny?

Spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening trying to work out what we will do over the weekend, but to be honest, until we know how many are in the kitchen and what we'll have to work with...snow may well scupper the deliveries, on the other hand it might not...there's actually little point in planning anything.
I've got a few ideas of what we can do so all I can do is take the weekend one proverbial step at a time.

Off to bed now and will keep you all updated as the weekend progresses....don't forget that the main page at has the latest posts from here, the forum and Twitter too so always a useful first port of call for those who don't use the RSS feed facility here.

An update about Christmas early next week now, once we've had the chance to mull some details over between us this weekend....and I promise I'll give you the menu then too.


Thursday, 2 December 2010

December Event Is Snow Joke!!

see what I did there??

Well the weather is taking its toll on the coming weekend already. So far three of the guys won't be making it as travel is impossible for them from where the live, could be more, but we'll have to wait and see.

So far (fingers crossed) all the main roads from my direction are clear, so as long as I can get out of our road it should be fine for me....but the forecast is grim for this evening too so we'll have to see what happens overnight.

All of this means that the previous plans for this weekend of cookery are pretty much not going to happen......if you make it in to the Palace as a visitor then you'll see stuff happening in the Kitchens, but what stuff I couldn't say at this time!! pop down for a warm up by the fire though, at least we should be able to offer that for certain (fire and heat subject to availability of course ;o) )

Keep an eye out on Twitter and the blog over the weekend to see how things progress....the forum too if I can, but posting to the forum via the phone isn't as simple as Tweeting or sending a blog update....conversely, comments to the blog are more difficult to manage and reply to via the phone, so may be best to stick any blog comments on the forum if you want a speedy answer.

Still, got this evening to sort stuff out and tomorrow to work out how/if to get to work....and find out if any more won't be making it.

Will post the Xmas menu later on, but that's it for now....


Ho Ho Ho, It's [Finally The] Christmas [Plans]

Snow, snow and more snow....there's a turn up for the books! All this white stuff that's covering the country (about a foot in the front garden) means that the meeting to sort out the niggles over the Christmas event has had to be postponed until the weather improves....which means not this week for certain. As this meeting won't be for a while, it's kind of unfair to keep the poor old kitty suffering in the bag and to be honest, any potential changes to the plans don't really impact on the bulk of what's planned for the kitchens, so I think it's safe to let the moggy free and spill about Christmas!

From a very broad point of view you could say it's business as usual for the event...people will be able to visit the kitchen where they will see a meal being produced ready for the latter part of the day and this meal will then be served and eaten using period manners in front of the public, the kitchens will then prepare for the next day and the whole thing will repeat for the 7 days of the event, 27th December 2010 - 2nd January 2011 (inclusive). But that's where any similarity to the past 19 or so years ends!!
For the first time at Hampton Court for a number of years (please note the intended lack of detail here) the Tudor kitchens will prepare and cook a meal that will be served in the Great hall for the 'King' to eat each day.

Interpretation work will begin within the kitchens at 10.30 each morning and from then until 4.00 the kitchens will be active, cooking the meal and available to answer any questions as would normally be the case. The meal we will be cooking is based on the 1st course of the supper menu for the King as specified in the Eltham ordinances. I've had to fettle and fudge a little to get a meal that will work as we simply don't have the requisite number of staff or the time to be able to prepare an exact copy of the meal each day....and we won't dwell on the fact that some of the detail in the ordinances regarding dishes and quantities is 'sketchy' at best. The meal will be the same each day with the exception of the potage of flesh, which will change each day in order to give us a little variety, both in work and in eating as we get to eat the same menu but unlike previous years this will happen after the Palace closes and you've all gone home.

Why the change?

Simple really, the aim of all the work at Historic Royal Palaces is to present to the public the most accurate picture possible of life within the Palaces under the various monarchs and in the case of the vast majority of the interpretation at Hampton Court this means showing life at the Court of Henry VIII. For the past 20 years, the one thing you'd have heard more than anything else come the meal time within the kitchen was the phrase "this is showing you what it could have been like when the meal was served within the Great Hall, we're only eating within the kitchen as we're currently not allowed to do it in the Hall itself". Well for a number of years now, the aim of the interpretation was to enable this to happen, ideally with large numbers of diners to give the required sense of scale and purpose, but for now we'll make do with one diner....and if I was a visitor I'd want that diner to be Henry VIII, handy really. So this year we're implementing a prototype plan to see if we can make it work, with the aim of building on the results for the future.
There are of course slight problems, not least the public opening hours which don't allow us to show the meal at the correct time of 4.00 pm, the number of visitors also mean that we need the meal to happen earlier to ensure that people can move about the Palace freely and are not having to be coerced out of the building in order for it to be locked for the night, something that has happened in the past with the meal in the kitchen (for some reason people just want to stay and chat!). So this year the King will take the opportunity afforded to him by his position as monarch to dine at his convenience and he will eat at 2.30 within the Hall, a meal that will last approximately 30 minutes, before he retires and leaves the Hall for other purposes. This means that the day for the kitchens runs a little like this:
Start cooking at 10.30 (having started work behind the scenes at 9.00)
Food begins to leave the kitchen by 1.50 pm, heading for the Hall.
The table is laid between 2.00 and 2.30 at which point the king enters and dines.
From around 3.00 the table is cleared and the team then goes back to work in the kitchens until 4.00 when we stop for a tea break and to allow the Palace to begin to close. We'll then finish clearing up when you lovely people have left and set up ready for the next day.

Now as I said earlier, we're a little shy on staff, so in order for this all to work there are certain things we won't even bother to try to do. So you won't see the table being laid as the Hall will be shut to the public while the table is laid and the food served...we simply don't have the staff, clothing or budget to do this 'correctly' in front of people yet, so the visitors will walk in to a Hall with a laid table, the King will then enter, sit and dine. Unlike previous years, you won't be able to get close to the diner to ask questions about the meal, not only would that never have happened, he's the King after all....and as I said this is designed to give a better idea of what happened at Court....and we're entering a huge 3rd person 1st person crossover's also part of the concessions laid down by the Conservation and Collection Care department and rightly so in my opinion. They have to ensure that there is no chance of food spillage in the Hall (it's one of the reasons this has never been done before) and keeping the visitors at 'arms length' is one of the rules...still, there will be plenty of other costumed people in the room to ask, or you could ask any of us in the kitchens too.

There's probably a ton of other things you should know that I haven't said, like what the menu is, but it's that time of the night when the brain is going fuzzy, so I'm away to bed now before it all degenerates into drivel....will have a re-read tomorrow and add details like the menu, as needed.
If you've got any questions then fire away....don't forget you can always ask at the forum, you'll probably get a quicker answer there as other team members can add their 2d more easily......and I can do that via my phone, which has problems in dealing with the blog site....but I'll leave that entirely up to you.



Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Time's Up! Please Put Down Your Pencils.

That's it, time is up, the survey has now closed!

Many, many thanks to the 200 of you who responded, I truly am very grateful for you taking the time to fill in the responses and humour me with this part of the project. Now all that's left to do is to analyse the results and see what's what....obviously that will take some time and will have to wait for a little while until this weekend is out the way and plans for Christmas are finally in the bag....and the cat is released to make some room!

When some of the data is sorted I'll let you all know and post some of the results so that you can see the fruits of your endeavours too. For now though, it's back to the grind and back to Christmas plans!!