If you're planning to watch the royal wedding live on Friday, be prepared to wake up early. Thanks the time difference, the televised ceremony will start at 6:00 a.m. on the East Coast and 3:00 a.m. on the West Coast. If you have a hard time thinking about food at such an uncivilized hour, food writer Nigella Lawson is here to offer some wedding-worthy breakfast suggestions.
Weddings can be stressful, so if you need to take the edge off, start the day with a drink. "I suggest what I call a Fragonard but I'm going to re-name it, a 'Princess.'" Lawson tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Some fizzy wine — champagne if you want to really give it everything you've got — with a strawberry puree." Just split some fresh strawberries in a food processor or blender, she instructs. "Having fruit early in the morning is a fairly healthy thing," she adds ... so what if it's floating in alcohol?
If it's 3:00 a.m. on the West Coast and you really need something to get you out of bed, Lawson recommends an iced coffee, with a kick: One shot of coffee liqueur, and a quarter of a cup of espresso or very strong, dark coffee. "I put it in a blender with some ice," Lawson says, but "if you're desperate don't bother for the icing stage." Drink it like a shot, or just add ice and make it an Americano.
Once you've had a drink or two in honor of the royal nuptials, it's time to start thinking about breakfast. Lawson, who is from London, says she "going to upset a lot of English people" by recommending scones — normally associated with tea time. "Our scones aren't what you call scones in America," she explains. "Ours are round, not triangular. In fact, what the English call scones are really what you would call biscuits."
Bake the scones the night before and then quickly heat them up in the morning. Lawson recommends enjoying them with jam (you can find her recipe for Buttermilk Scones, Jumbleberry Jam below) but you can also go the savory route with hardboiled egg chopped up with a bit of parsley.
If you want to go truly traditional — "the sort of breakfast dish that would have been served at about the time of The King's Speech" — then go for Kedgeree. It's a fish dish of Indian origin. Lawson uses salmon — "a beautiful thing to have at breakfast" — and poaches it with lime leaves (Lawson's full Kedgeree recipe is below). She cooks the rice with coriander, cumin and tumeric. Then she flakes in the poached salmon, some cilantro, and quartered hardboiled eggs.
With traditional British breakfast in hand, wedding watchers in the U.S. can settle in to watch William and Kate tie the knot. But are Americans embracing this latest royal union with more gusto than the British? Lawson doesn't buy it. "I think that everyone is giving a show of enormous bored nonchalance and indifference in this country," Lawson says. "However, I think everyone's going to watch it."
Lawson's not sure she'll watch the wedding in full, "but I want to see the dress," she says. "I can't make myself feel it's a pivotal experience in my life, but I think it would be an affectation to ignore it."
Recipe: Buttermilk Scones and Jumbleberry Jam
Last summer, I gave up on going abroad and took a staycation in Cornwall. Apart from one gorgeous, glinting day, it rained and blustered and blew, and I loved it. There I was, with a fire burning inside, the mackerel-colored sea swirling outside, living off the fat — that's to say, the rich, thick, clotted cream — of the land.
If you can't find clotted cream (sometimes called Devonshire cream) then feel free to lavishly spoon softly whipped heavy cream onto the scones instead. The buttermilk in these scones not only gives them a slight tang, all the better to enjoy the jam and cream on top, but is also what yields such a melting, tender crumb.
These scones do look as though they are suffering from cellulite (I dare say we all might, if we ate too many of them), but proper scones should not have the smooth-sided denseness of the store-bought variety. And they are so worth making. Until you have made a batch of scones, you won't have any idea how easy they are to throw together. Frankly, it shouldn't take longer than 20 minutes to make and bake them, from start to finish. Even though the process is hardly lengthy enough to warrant cooking them in advance, I like to make up quite a big batch — and this recipe will give you about 18 scones — and freeze some (they thaw incredibly quickly) to produce a near-instant cream tea at some future date.
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
4 tablespoons ( 1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons soft vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg, beaten, for an egg-wash (optional)
1 large lipped baking sheet or half sheet pan
1 2-inch biscuit cutter, preferably fluted
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a large lipped baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the flour into a bowl with the baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar.
Chop the butter and the vegetable shortening into pieces and drop them into the flour.
Rub the fats into the flour — or just mix any old how — and then pour in the buttermilk, working everything together to form a dough.
Lightly flour your work surface. Pat the dough down into a round-edged oblong about 1I inches thick, then cut out 2-inch scones with a biscuit cutter. (Mine are never a uniform height, as I pat the dough into its shape without worrying whether it's irregular or not.)
Arrange the scones fairly close together on your lined baking sheet, and brush with beaten egg (to give golden tops) or not, as you wish. Bake for 12 minutes, by which time the scones will be dry on the bottom and have a relatively light feel. Remove them to a wire rack to cool, and serve with clotted or whipped cream and Jumbleberry Jam.
Recipe: Jumbleberry Jam
As the name suggests, this jam does not rely on a do-or-die ratio of berry ingredients. Although there is one ratio that does matter, which is the equal weight of berries and sugar. When I rooted the recipe out of one of my kitchen notebooks, what I found was a not very helpful scribble that I hope I can illuminate here. In my defense, the whole point of Jumbleberry Jam is that you use up what you've got. It doesn't matter if you don't use all the fruits I've specified below, or if you use them in different proportions. Essentially a recipe is only an honest account of how something was made at a given time. If it helps you feel safer, by all means emulate more closely what I made, and for this I suggest 7 ounces of red currants, 6 ounces each of black currants and blackberries, 3 ounces each of raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
If this jam-making is a mopping-up operation (and I did give serious consideration to placing this recipe in the Cook It Better section), then I would probably make half the amount, and not bother with the blueberries, since they tend to cost more and have less taste than other berries in season; but if I have some blueberries knocking around (and I do have a weakness for them in muffins or mixed with pomegranate seeds in yogurt), I'm happy to pluck them from the refrigerator and toss them in the pan, too.
If you have a good proportion of red currants (which are naturally pectin-rich), then you may prefer to leave out the added pectin. I use extra pectin because I am impatient — I know it makes the jam set faster, and that means I don't need to fret that it won't set.
Makes enough for approx. 6 x 1-cup jar
1 3/4 pounds mixed berries, such as red and black currants, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries (5 1/2 cups prepared fruit)
4 cups sugar
1 1.75-ounce envelope powdered fruit pectin (such as Balls original fruit pectin)
6 1-cup sealable jars
Sterilize your jars (see note). Put a few small plates into the freezer to help you later to tell, without a thermometer, when the jam has reached setting point.
Quarter the strawberries (unless they are very small, in which case halve them), and put these with all the berries into a large, wide saucepan; bear in mind that the fruit and sugar will froth up hugely as they cook. Add the sugar and powdered pectin, and give a good stir.
Stop stirring and put the pan on a low heat.
Give the pan a gentle shake now and then, to encourage the sugar to melt into the fruits, but resist the temptation to stir. When the sugar has dissolved, you may turn up the heat.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to a medium heat so that you have a consistent, vigorous simmer, i.e. a contained boil that is not threatening to boil over! Keep an eye on your pan but do not stir.
After about 12–15 minutes, take a plate from the freezer, remove the pan from the heat and, carefully, take a teaspoonful of jam and smear it on the plate. Set the plate down for a couple of minutes and then push the surface of the jam with a teaspoon or finger; if it is beginning to wrinkle, the jam has set. If it doesn't set, return the pan to the heat and repeat the process after a few minutes. If you prefer to use a candy/sugar thermometer, you will see when it hits 220 degrees, which is the jelling point for jam.
When you judge the jam to be ready, take it off the heat. Put a jam funnel into the neck of a sterilized jam jar and carefully fill with jam, sealing each jar when you've finished, and then let cool completely.
From Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2010 Nigella Lawson. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved.
2 1/4 cups cold water for poaching the fish
2 lime leaves, torn into pieces
4 salmon fillets (approx. 1 inch thick), preferably organic, skinned (about 1 1/2 pounds in total)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup basmati rice
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for sprinkling
juice and zest of a lime plus more lime segments to serve
fish sauce (nam pla) to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. This is because the easiest way to poach the salmon for this dish is to do it in the oven. So: pour the water into a roasting pan, add the lime leaves and then the salmon. Cover the pan with foil, put in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, by which time the salmon should be tender. Remove the pan from the oven and drain the liquid off into a pitcher. Keep the fish warm simply by replacing the foil on the pan.
Melt the butter in a wide, heavy saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid, and add the oil to stop the butter burning. Soften the onion in the pan and add the spices, then keep cooking till the onion is slightly translucent and suffused with the soft perfume of the spices. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon so that it's all well coated. There's not enough onion to give heavy coating: just make sure the rice is fragrantly slicked.
Pour in the reserved liquid from the pitcher — about 2 1/4 cups — and stir before covering with the lid and cooking gently for about 15 minutes. If your stove is vociferous you may need a flame tamer.
At the end of the cooking time, when the rice is tender and has lost all chalkiness, turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a dish towel and then replace the lid. This will help absorb any extra moisture from the rice. It is also the best way to let the rice stand without getting sticky or cold, which is useful when you've got a few friends and a few dishes to keep your eye on.
Just before you want to eat, drain off any extra liquid that's collected in the dish with the salmon, then flake the fish with a fork. Add to it the rice, eggs, cilantro, lime juice and a drop or two of fish sauce. Stir gently to mix — I use a couple of wooden paddles or spatulas — and taste to see if you want any more lime juice or fish sauce. Sprinkle over the zest from the two juiced halves of the lime and serve. I love it served just as it is in the roasting dish, but if you want to, and I often do (consistency is a requirement of a recipe but not a cook), decant into a large plate before you add the lime zest, then surround with lime segments and add the zest and a small handful of freshly chopped cilantro.
This is one of those rare dishes that manages to be comforting and light at the same time. And — should you have leftovers, which I wouldn't count on — it's heavenly eaten, as all leftovers demand to be, standing up, straight from the fridge.
From Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2002. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
But not to worry, food writer Nigella Lawson returns to this program once again, and she has some early rising food suggestions.
M: I must say, it is an unearthly hour to be thinking of cooking food.
INSKEEP: Of course, we should mention, you're going to be doing this at a civilized hour because you are in London. You'll be in London for the ceremony.
INSKEEP: So you're going to get up at a decent hour, but some people will be waking up early. And I guess one way you could start is with a drink.
M: Well, you certainly could. I mean I think that I don't want to worry too many people by suggesting you hit the bottle at the crack of dawn. However, I suggest what I call a Fragonard, but I'm going to re-name it a Princess. Some fizzy wine, champagne if you want to really give it everything you've got, with a strawberry puree. Just split some fresh strawberries in a processor or a blender.
INSKEEP: It's a lovely shade of red here, photographed in one of your books, "Nigella Fresh."
M: And I suppose you could think that having fruit early in the morning is a fairly healthy thing.
INSKEEP: If that's not the drink of choice, is there another you would suggest?
M: Well, yes. I mean I think that if you really need something to help you get out of bed, I suggest - it's not a good name for it - I call it an Alcoholic Iced Coffee; a bit less than a shot of coffee liqueur and some espresso or really strong, dark coffee, say, about a quarter of a cup. And you can either put sugar syrup if everything's cold, or you can put a bit of sugar in the coffee. And I put it in a blender with some ice. In fact, if you're desperate, don't bother for the icing stage.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
M: You either have it as a short drink, like a shot. Or you can just add a lot of ice and make it really more look like what we call it, Americano Coffee.
INSKEEP: All right. If we have anything more to drink we're going to forget to make breakfast here. So let's move on...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
M: You'll also - you'll see the wedding in double.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: Or not at all, perhaps. But what's a good breakfast food we could go for?
M: Well, I am going to upset a lot of English people by suggesting something which we normally associate with teatime, scones. Now, our scones aren't what you call scones in America. Our scones...
INSKEEP: That's because we call them scones.
M: Well, some English people do. Ours are round, not triangular. And, in fact, what the English call scones are really what you would call biscuits.
INSKEEP: Buttermilk biscuits, here, is what you're talking about.
M: I use salmon just because it's very easy to get and it's more to everyone's taste, and it's a lovely thing to have - beautiful thing to have at breakfast. And I poach it with some lime leaves and really just cook rice with all those spices like some coriander, cumin, turmeric, which makes the rice go incredible gold. And then I, having cooked the rice, then flake in the poached salmon and add some cilantro and some quartered hard-boiled eggs. I should have said hard-boiled eggs are a very important part of Kedgeree.
INSKEEP: I love that you start with an Indian-accented dish and you mentioned the Indian association. We should remind people that India was part of the British Empire. And that suggests some of the ways that your country has changed, doesn't it? Because many Indians have ended up relocating to Britain and they're more and more visible all the time.
M: Yes. And also, of course, it's one of the ways in which I think both the English language and English cooking have that fantastic mix. That's what's quite interesting for English people right now. We've had a period of looking outwards and being very inspired by the Mediterranean. But actually, it's rather nice to look at our own cultural heritage in terms of the kitchen, and yet have the freedom to bring a little more razzmatazz to it.
INSKEEP: I'd like to know, now that you're going to be in London for this royal wedding, are you actually going to pay attention?
M: Well, I think that everyone is giving a show of enormous bored nonchalance and indifference in this country. However, I think everyone's going to watch it.
INSKEEP: You'll be watching.
M: I don't know. I don't know if my husband will let me.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
M: But I feel - I want to see the dress. I like that. I can't make myself feel it's a pivotal experience in my life, but I think it would be an affectation to ignore it.
INSKEEP: Well, of course, we'll be watching because we're up early anyway, at MORNING EDITION.
M: Yeah, sure.
INSKEEP: So we'll drink a toast to you.
M: And I to you.
INSKEEP: Nigella Lawson, thanks very much.
M: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Her suggestions can be found at NPR.org and in many books like "Nigella Fresh." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.