We’re doing Henry VIII (which also goes by the highly inaccurate name of ‘All is True’) on Sunday, so it’s time to go hunting for appropriate recipes.
(Is it just me, or do recipes disappear out of cookbooks when you aren’t looking? I could have sworn I had at least three recipes for Maids of Honour [absolutely de rigeur for this play, even though our Anne Boleyn isn’t going to be able to eat them] and one for Bishop Cake, but half an hour of hunting through likely books has failed to turn them up.)
Fortunately, the internet has come to my rescue with a very plausible-looking Maids of Honour recipe, and a Nigella recipe for Cardinal Cake, which is even better than Bishop’s Cake – for one thing, Cardinals outrank Bishops, if I understand correctly. For another, Wolsey is a Cardinal, and I don’t think he’d be appreciate being demoted. And then there’s the fact that Cardinal cake looks like a deliciously light lemon cake with a little jam on it, whereas Bishop Cake is full of glacé fruit and nuts which are both expensive and not something I like in this context (I do like fruitcake. Just not this one).
Then, of course, there are Queen Cakes, which do sound rather a lot like Cardinal cakes, but I’m not going to let that stop me, because I want to decorate them in sets of six – divorced (or rather, annulled), beheaded, died, divorced / annulled beheaded, survived. Beheaded will be a little axe, of course, and died a little cross. Survived will have a crown. I’m not sure about annulled. A pair of broken entwined rings, perhaps? I know it’s tacky, but this is Henry VIII we’re talking about, and the play does deal with his annulment of the marriage with Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn. It’s necessary.
For Henry himself, I’m thinking about a Galette des Rois, or maybe a Gateau des Rois if I can figure out how to make it without egg yolk (I need to have something among the sweets that isn’t full of eggs and nuts). Or maybe I’ll just get King Island cheese or make Chicken à la King – you may have noticed that there is a distinct lack of savoury recipes on this list so far. This is because the play is giving me no help at all in that department, despite the fact that the historical Henry VIII actually passed laws limiting the amount of sugar you could put in cakes, so you’d think this feast would be all savoury, all the way. (Then again, I’m playing Queen Catherine, so I don’t feel all that obliged to obey His Majesty’s strictures on this point. It’s not like he was a very good husband.)
Other than that, I’m looking at recipes that have cherries in them, biscuits shaped like hearts, suns, moons, stars, and a variety of other things, and anything containing spices. It’s not an especially illuminating mix (if you leave the heavenly bodies out of it, at least). I haven’t the faintest idea what my savouries will be yet, which is a problem, since I have to start making them tomorrow. I’ve been eyeing off my Renaissance recipe books, and everything is either full of onions (not an option for one of my guests), full of eggs or nuts (not an option for another of my guests), or else it contains a mix of sweet and savoury flavours, which is something I like very much but which not everyone else does. And anyway, we definitely look like we’ll have enough sweets.
I’ll be doing the Elizabethan Garden Salad, of course, and probably little risotto balls and meatballs shaped to look like apples and pears, and Chicken à la King is looking increasingly irresistible, but I really don’t know what else. More vegetables, certainly, but what kinds?
What I really need to do right now, though, is sleep. I’ll be cooking for at least 12 hours tomorrow, I expect, and probably six more hours on Sunday, and it’s been a very long week at work.
See you on Sunday, with photos!