Olympic food in the 21st century – what would you put on the menu? ... and what happens next at the site of the old Greenwich Palace?
|Greenwich: Old Royal Naval College -|
showing the four courts, Queen Mary's House.
The Painted Hall is under the dome on the right.
Ancient Greek cuisine was characterized by its frugality and was founded on the “Mediterranean triad”: wheat, olive oil and wine – with some fish quite often, while meat was rarely eaten.
Too much refinement was generally considered to be against the hearty spirit of the Greek cuisine – but this food series was for the faster, higher, stronger Olympians participating in the technology-driven 21st century of the London Olympics 2012 and the 7th Great British Menu.
|Detail of William and Mary from the|
ceiling of The Painted Hall
... the chefs to create a menu that captures the Olympic spirit – food that is both breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
With a sub-brief ...
The food must be worthy of and display Olympian qualities. Illustrating ground breaking techniques, ideas and presentation, the food must be perfection.
Personally I found the whole thing too convoluted, too muddled and not desperately inspiring – I enjoy food, seeing how it’s created, then imagining the deliciousness of each course being served (to me!).
|Not selected for the GBM - Stephen Terry|
cooked an Olympic Rings dish c/o BBC -
tasted rather good and it looks Olympian:
Fish and Shellfish Medley (Relay)
Somehow the show felt contrived and the brief was not easy to adhere to ... still out of all things there’s always something fun and interesting to write about.
|The Painted Hall looking towards the dais area|
The setting was pretty incredible – The Painted Hall – one small part of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, which is often described as ‘the finest dining hall in Europe’ – sadly the paintings have severely faded over the years as they were painted directly onto dry plaster.
Housed within the King William Court, one of four courts of the Royal Naval Hospital, is the monumental Painted Hall ... I think a mammoth could easily fit inside.
|The gargantuan size of the dining hall|
The Royal Hospital for Seamen was the result of Queen Mary II’s long held ambition to establish a refuge for wounded sailors, similar to the Army’s Royal Hospital at Chelsea.
Queen Mary instructed Sir Christopher Wren to ‘build the Fabrick with great Magnificence and Order’ ... but before work began, she died from smallpox, aged just 32, in 1694.
Mary’s husband, King William III, was determined that her project would be completed ... and it was 55 years later in 1751. Funds today are being raised to preserve and restore the paintings in that 'Fabrick with great Magnificence and Order' ...
... these paintings by James Thornhill too took forever ... from the starting date of 1707 until 1726, nineteen years later. Thornhill’s design traced the recent royal history from 1688, then changed with the times ...
|An early drawing of The |
Painted Hall (as it became) by
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)
... beginning with a glorification of the reign of William III and Mary II (William and Mary) on the Lower Hall ceiling, then culminating on the west wall with a celebration of the recently installed Hanoverian dynasty.
Queen Mary’s hospital became realised: The Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: ‘A Refuge for All’. To stick with my theme of the Great British Menu – the hospital food in the 1700 and 1800s makes for an interesting comparison ....
|Quails in the Wood by Colin McGurran|
was the first course
Hospital food was plentiful, if basic – five days a week it would be a 1lb of meat (half a kilo), boiled or roasted beef or mutton, 4 oz (125 gm) cheese, a1lb of bread and half a gallon (2.25 litres)of beer;
... while on two of the days they would have had pease pottage, 8 0z of cheese and 2 oz of butter; in the 19th century tea joined the rations, chocolate at breakfast, potatoes and other extras, but cabbage was the only green vegetable – available during the summer.
|c/o BBC: Phil Howard's Cornish Mackerel celebration|
One of the logistics of cooking large banquets in today’s age – is that the kitchens tend to be in the bowels of buildings –or vaults– having been banished with their Medieval smoke and grime below stairs.
From 1708, Thornhill’s work even caused the pensioners’ meals to be moved from their intended dining hall to the kitchen level in the undercroft below.
The selected recipes for this year’s Olympian feast were:
Quails in the Wood served on a bark platter, with moss and game smoke - different ways with quail were topped off with a fantastic foie gras parfait recipe and quail egg kebab. This looked very impressive.
|Daniel Craig's Slow Poached Chicken|
The Cornish Mackerel fish dish celebrated all things Cornish and fishy ... smoked mackerel pate, tartare of mackerel, served with a velouté sauce, topped with oysters, mussels, winkles, samphire and an oyster beignet.
Slow-poached chicken, sweet-corn egg, spinach with bacon and peas ... was described by all the judges as a stunning dish ... just superb ... and this was the first time that chicken had featured as the main course.
|Simon Rogan's Poached Pears|
To complete the banquet - poached pears, atsina cress snow, sweet cheese ice-cream with a rosehip syrup collected from the Fells of the Lake District – all the guests raved about the sweet cheese ice-cream.
|Sir Steven Redgrave hosting the evening|
Sir Steven Redgrave, five times Olympian Gold Medallist (1984 – 2000) hosted the event to celebrate a 21st century Olympian Feast in the Dining Hall of the Royal Naval Hospital.
The Olympian guests came ... medallists from recent times back to the summer Olympics of 1948, when Tommy Godwin won a bronze in the 1,000m time trial, to our highest achiever – the para-Olympian Dame Tanni Grey Thomson: 11 golds, 4 silvers, 1 bronze from 1988 – 2004.
I might not have thought much of the Great British Menu series this year – but I’ve learnt a thing or two about Greenwich and its origins ...
... then to remember how far we have come as nations in the nearly 3,000 years since the Ancient Olympic Games began in 776BC ...
... the feasts we enjoy today, the creative chefs we have out there being prepared to try different methods, seeing the setting of The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College – which has been used as a back drop for many many films and tv series ...
|Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich looking east towards|
Queen Mary's House from the River Thames
... now these magnificent grounds are to be transformed once again for the London Summer 2012 Olympic Equestrian Events starting very soon ... as for the Beach Volley Ball at Horse Guards – a successful dummy run was conducted last August ...
Recipe photos c/o BBC or similar
Recipes - can be found at the BBC Food Programme site here
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