Royal Wedding: Menu for Commoners

For a country that supposedly isn't interested in the royal wedding, there sure are a lot of restaurants betting otherwise. And I'm not talking about the type of joints that royal wedding tourists would happen across. My local pub The Alma is just one of many I've noticed advertising a special menu celebrating Friday's pomp, vows and circumstance. Offers of big screen TV broadcasts and traditional British grub have blossomed across sun-soaked London lately.

The Charles Lamb, a lovely little pub tucked away in a residential area, recently announced that tickets to their royal wedding street party have sold out. Sounds brilliant — there will be a brass band, a big screen TV for nuptial gazing, 'Royal Punch', a three-course pub banquet, a royal wedding dress code, and even a dog show! Will the dogs be dressed as royalty? Corgi's revenge? If you drink enough of that special punch I'm guessing anything is possible.

If you prefer your nosh a bit more posh for the occasion you're in luck as many of the fancier establishments are flouncing out royal spreads. Fortnum & Mason (the iconic specialty grocer and department store that has been supplying the royals with foodstuffs for over a hundred years) is holding a Royal Wedding Brunch featuring Celebration Soup with Highgrove Peas & Truffle Oil, Scottish Lobster Salad, and Garriguette (ah, the French sneak in) Strawberries & Yorkshire Rhubarb Gratin. The Ritz Restaurant will also host an extravagant brunch, complete with 'themed food stations' (sounds like an American wedding reception!) and an outdoor grill on the terrace.

If you’re hungry for history, Axis at One Aldwych aims to satisfy with a special menu based on authentic dishes served at past royal weddings. The four-course feast features: Ballotine of duck with Cumberland sauce (HM Queen Victoria's wedding to HRH Prince Albert in 1840), Quenelle of brill in lobster sauce (Lady Diana Spencer's wedding to HRH Prince of Wales in 1981), Côtelettes d'agneau Prince Albert (Miss Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon's, the late Queen Mother, wedding to HRH Duke of York, King George VI, in 1923), and Bombe glacée Princess Elizabeth (HRH Princess Elizabeth's wedding to HRH Prince Philip of Greece in 1947).

But chances are you aren’t an HRH, and you won’t be eating a ballotine of anything come Friday. From fine dining to gastro pub fare, the order of the day is traditional British food, prepared with British ingredients. Like many others, The Alma pub is putting on a patriotic spread to mark the occasion.

We’ve already had a chat about partying with scones, now let’s get you a proper meal. Bangers and Mash is a British menu staple — sticks to your ribs, fills the hole, and leaves a smile on your face.  There are three components to this symphony of comfort: sausages, mash, and gravy. As simple as this sounds, it can go very wrong. Glue-like mash, watery gravy, and poor quality sausages are all too commonly found congealing on plates across the UK.

I was never a fan of mashed potatoes until I met my husband. Have you ever heard anything so romantic? His mash changed me. Before I never saw the point of eating a mound of tasteless paste. But his creamy, fluffy, flavourful mash has won me, and many others who have tried it, over. Many who've tried it have asked afterward, "How do I make Alex Mash?"

The wait is over…

Bangers and Alex Mash 

Serves 2

6 sausages (meat or vegetarian)
3 medium floury potatoes (Maris Piper or Marfoma)
50g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
Ground white pepper
Sage and Onion Gravy (recipe follows) 

Peel the potatoes and cut into 2-inch cubes (approx.) Rinse the peeled, cubed potatoes a couple of times in fresh water. This stops too much foam building up while the potatoes are boiling.

Put the potatoes into a pot (it’s best not to use a non-stick pot as the chopping and mashing in the pot could damage any non-stick surfaces) and cover with water. Boil the potatoes for approximately 20 minutes until cooked right through. You can tell if they are cooked through by pushing a knife into one of the cubes. If it slips through easily, the potatoes are cooked. If there is resistance, then they will need a little longer.

While the potatoes are boiling, cook sausages as directed, and if finished before mash, keep warm in a low oven. 

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain off all of the water and return to the pot. Add the butter and whole grain mustard and chop through with a knife, cutting up the potatoes and mixing in the butter and mustard.

Once thoroughly mixed and the potatoes are nice and broken, add approximately 2 tablespoons of milk and begin to mash with a potato masher. Depending on how creamy you like the potatoes keep adding a little more milk while continuing to mash (1 tablespoon at a time) until the mashed potatoes reach your preferred consistency. Make sure the potatoes are mashed thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps.

Season the mashed potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Top with sausages and pool over the gravy.

Sage and Onion Gravy
Adapted from: The Grit Cookbook

The Grit is one of my favourite restaurants in the whole world. Based in my birth town, Athens, GA, it turns out hearty Southern food, without using any meat. It's a fun and friendly place — a visit is essential when you find yourself in Athens.

Makes 4 cups

2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons margarine
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground sage or 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1/2 scant teaspoon white pepper
1 generous tablespoon onion powder
Pinch of dry mustard (optional)

Combine water and soy sauce in a bowl and set aside. In a saucepan melt the margarine over medium heat and add sliced onions. Cook the onions until they are translucent, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Increase heat to a simmer, while gradually adding water and soy sauce mix. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes, until gravy thickens.

Love your Leftovers: Freeze any leftover gravy and warm it up again the next time you have a dish in need of some sauciness. It perks up a wide variety of leftovers.

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