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The historic flotilla on the River Thames

Brits really know how to throw a party.  Londoners are currently enjoying a rare two day Bank Holiday, allowing commoners more time to engage in official and their own Diamond Jubilee celebrations, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s  60 years on the throne.  In response to a young lass whose tweet wondered why it was a big deal, my response to her in terms she could relate: think Girl Power.  This is only the second Diamond Jubilee ever celebrated, the first by Queen Victoria, and both were women.

Rain did not dampen spirits

Celebrations, mostly in the form of street parties, have been ongoing all weekend.  The weather was a bit bleak yesterday, but did not deter the crowds.  A  500 table Piccadilly Jubilee Big Lunch was held yesterday along Piccadilly Street, which was attended by Prince Charles and Camilla.  I can imagine pubs did good business, as revelers took shelter from the cold rain to watch the Flotilla on the Tele.  It was reported that over a million people did brave the weather to line the banks of the Thames to watch 1000 boats parade by. It’s Britain, it rains, what are you going to do?

Tonight is the Jubliee Concert which will see music royalty perform for the Queen, with acts spanning six decades, so there will be a little bit of something for everyone.  The concert ends with the Queen’s lighting of the national Beacon which will signal the lighting of 1000s of beacons across the Commonwealth and in other parts of the world.

Beacon lighting is a tradition which spans hundreds of years. It has been used to celebrate Royal Weddings, Jubilees and Coronations when beacons have been lit on village greens, castle battlements, church towers, farms, beaches, front gardens, car parks and mountain tops.  A beacon chain, once used as a tool for communication, particularly during war, has now become a symbol of unity across towns, borders, countries and continents.  In 1897 beacons were lit nationally to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and in 1977 and 2002 beacons were lit to celebrate The Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilees.

Jubilee Picnic

The Jubilee Picnic hamper

Before we get to tonight’s celebrations, 10,000 lucky lottery winners will be enjoying a royal picnic at Buckingham Palace.  The picnic is a tradition long enjoyed by the British, popularized during Queen Victoria’s reign, and carried through today.  My virtual friend Evangeline at Edwardian Promenade recently provided a wonderful extract from Everywoman’s Encyclopaedia on Picnics and Picnicking which gives you a flavour for how things were to be done.

As for today’s picnic, a  fleet of trucks from Waitrose, a national grocer, have been making deliveries all morning.  The picnic hamper includes traditional picnic favorites, with a modern twist, created by Heston Blumenthal, trendy UK Chef de Jour.  For the foodies in the crowd I will include the “formal description” of the menu.

  • Starter
    • Chilled British country garden soup. A chilled British baby plum tomato soup with red peppers and cucumber finished with garden mint-infused oil.
  • Main
    • Best of British potted duo. Tea-smoked Scottish salmon. Fragrant Lapsang Souchong tea-smoked salmon, mixed with delicious flaked poached Scottish salmon, lemon, British creme fraiche and a sprinkling of fresh chives.
    • Diamond jubilee chicken. A new take on a British favourite created in 1953 to celebrate the Queen‘s coronation – an aromatic blend of Indian species mixed with mayonnaise, tender shredded chicken and fragrant coriander, finished with peppery nigella seeds. Served with fresh bread rolls, butter and crunchy seasonal crudites.
    • Vegetarian option: mushroom parfait. a smooth, roasted mushroom puree blended with a rich port, brandy and Madeira reduction, British butter and free-range eggs, then baked until set.
  • Pudding
    • Sandringham strawberry crumble crunch. Creamy yoghurt marbled with Sandringham strawberries and British cream, with a crunchy meringue and oat crumble topping.
  • Cakes
    •  Lemon and caraway Madeira cake. A traditional Madeira cake with zesty lemon, and a warming aniseed finish.
    • Chocolate indulgence cake. A light fluffy chocolate sponge with a rich smooth ganache topping, decorated with a chocolate crown and sprinkled with popping candy.
  • Cheeseboard
    • A “taste of England” cheese selection. Duchy Originals from Waitrose organic mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar and creamy Red Leicester Crunch, served with Duchy Originals from Waitrose Chutney and Oaten biscuits.
If you didn’t a get a Golden Ticket to enjoy a picnic in the Palace Gardens, you can always create your Jubilee picnic, including a couple of interesting English dishes.

Flora Jubilee Celebration Sandwich

Jubilee Celebration Sandwich   created by former Palace Chef Darren McGrady

I have always had a fascination with the history of food.  Where did the food we love come from?  I am also partial to the old guard, so while Heston Blumenthal is a current favorite with the Royals, you have to love and respect a former Chef who served the Royals for 15 years.  I reviewed Darren McGrady’s wonderful book Eating Royally on Friday, and he came to my mind again as Lord D and I watched The Queen yesterday.  Darren’s last position was as Diana’s personal chef, so while the general public felt grief in our own way, imagine how her “Downstairs” staff were personally affected.  He does share some stories about his life in the Palace in his book, and his website www.theroyalchef.com

While he now lives in Texas, he has had a roll in some of the Jubilee celebrations.  In particular, he partnered with Flora, a popular spread, to create a sandwich which draws upon on the food elements that the Queen loves:  yes, gin! So while it is not a historical dish, it does have a story, which is just as nice.   I have kept the ingredients in the original UK measurements for this occasion, and you will be happy to note that substitutions are offered for the exotic ingredients which would not have access to on your own 50,000 acre estate.


Makes ONE sandwich

  • 2 slices 10-grain bread
  • 10g Flora Original (margarine)
  • 50g guinea fowl pate or readymade game pate
  • 4 thin slices roast juniper-crusted venison or cooked roast beef
  • 45g beetroot relish
  • 6g pea shoots or micro greens or salad leaves


  • 250g uncooked red beetroot
  • 50ml (Sandringham Estate) apple juice
  • 50ml white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 25ml Gin
  • 25ml Dubonnet
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 cooked guinea fowl breast (or chicken) skin removed
  • 20g Flora Original (margarine), melted and with fresh thyme leaves infused
  • 20g sour cream
  • 20g Stilton cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Beetroot Relish: Peel the beetroot and coarsely grate. Place in a small pan with the apple juice, vinegar and honey. Simmer until the liquid reduces by half and then add the Gin and Dubonnet and reduce again until the liquid becomes syrupy and the beetroot tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Guinea Fowl Pate:  Chop the guinea fowl (chicken) into small pieces and blend in a food processor with the Flora, sour cream and stilton cheese until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Build the sandwich:  Spread the bread with margarine, assemble the ingredients and enjoy your sandwich!

Pimm’s Punch

Lovely to look at, this gin based drink packs a big punch

I have had a number requests for this recipe which is much better served when the sun in shining.  I was first introduced to Pimm’s on my first business trip to London.  It was lovely alternative to a pint in the pub where we held a number of social meetings. I know, it was a tough life. For  a picnic I would suggest mixing all the ingredients together in advance with the exception of the soda water and add it when you are ready to serve.


  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 cups of strawberries, quartered
  • peel of ½ cucumber
  • crushed mint
  • 2 tbsp. of castor sugar (fine sugar or sugar substitute)
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • ice cubes
  • 3/4 bottle of Pimms No. 1
  • 1 litre club soda water


  1. Put the sliced lemons, strawberries, cucumber peel, crushed mint, sugar, lemon juice and Pimm’s into a jug.
  2. Stir the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the ice and top up with soda water.
  4. Enjoy responsibly.