No one knows the royal palate like Darren McGrady

When it comes to the food Britain’s royal family likes, few people know their tastes like Darren McGrady. From 1982 to 1993, McGrady served as personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace before going to Kensington Palace to be the personal chef for Princess Diana and her sons, Princes William and Harry. In fact, for William’s wedding, the prince chose one of his favorite childhood recipes — McGrady’s chocolate biscuit cake — as his groom’s cake. Here, McGrady has a recipe for cottage pie, another of William’s favorites, which the chef predicts will be somewhere on the royal wedding menu.

Cottage pie
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4 servings


  • For the beef base

    • 2 tablespoons corn oil
    • 2 small (6 ounces each) yellow onions, finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried thyme, according to your taste
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet browning and seasoning sauce
    • 2 beef bouillon cubes
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • For the potato topping

    • 2 pounds (peeled weight) red potatoes, about 8, medium
    • 2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (about 5 grinds with the pepper mill)
    • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese


Baking Directions:

In a large saucepan over a high flame, heat the oil and add the finely chopped onion. Saute until the onion becomes soft and translucent. Add the ground beef and break it up using a wooden spoon. Saute until the beef has lost all its pink color. Gradually stir in the flour, thyme, water, Kitchen Bouquet, bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce.Reduce the heat to low and simmer the meat (so it is just bubbling) for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the meat is fork-tender. Remove the pan from the stove and use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to the earthenware dish. The slotted spoon will lift just the beef so it will not be too wet to hold the potatoes.If there is any sauce left after taking out the meat, cool and refrigerate it. Then reheat it in a small saucepan to serve alongside the finished pie. This recipe can be prepared up to this stage several days before you plan to serve the dish. Cool both the meat and the liquid and store in the refrigerator.While the meat is simmering, place the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to about 1 inch above the potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender when pricked with a fork (about 20 minutes). Drain off the water and replace the drained potatoes in the pan over a low heat for 1-2 minutes to dry them thoroughly. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or pass them through a ricer.Stir the nutmeg, cream and egg yolk with the butter, salt and pepper into the mashed potatoes. Then use the mashed potatoes to cover the top of the dish. Either pipe them, using a wide star tube, or spoon them on and then fluff up using a fork Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with the grated Cheddar. It can be kept for 24 hours at this stage if covered with plastic wrap.Bake in a preheated oven a 350 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown and the pie has heated through.

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