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The Royal Family's Italian Chef, and the Lemon Cream that Won Over Charles III

16 September, 2022
Enrico Derflingher

Photo: All Images, Courtesy Enrico Derflingher

The lemon cream is a recipe created by chance, as so many of the recipes that have become famous over the centuries are - often at European courts. This simple dessert, prepared by Derflingher, makes a virtue of necessity. "Along with many other dishes, it is linked to a beautiful anecdote: with Charles III, then Prince Of Wales, I was on an island in the Shetland archipelago, inside a lighthouse used as a home," he recalls. "There, he loved to retire to paint and make watercolours: of landscapes and nature, from the famous local sheep to the fjords."

royal table Derflingher

"We only had to stay three days, but, due to the stormy sea, we stayed longer on the island. In the kitchen, after a few days, I was running out of supplies. And so, I came up with a simple dessert, prepared with only three ingredients: milk from local sheep, lemons from Amalfi and sugar ”. And here is the lemon cream, garnished with a biscuit, to give crunchiness,” he explains.

Did Charles like it? “A lot, to the point that he asked me to cook it for an official lunch at Kensington Palace and for a state dinner in Windsor shortly after.” It's a dessert that became part of the court's gastronomic routine, so much so that Derflingher used to prepare it often, especially at events and banquets. "I must have cooked it two hundred times. It is easy to prepare and also convenient to serve. It is a spoon dessert that is also suitable for parties," he adds.

The royal family told through food: the memories of chef Derflingher

Derflingher Royal Memories

"When they ate something good, the royals left me the notes with the words: 'I liked it very much, can you cook it for me another time?' I saw them often, the kitchens are near the service doors. At Kensington Palace, in particular, I met them several times a day, but also in other estates, where they were increasingly informal,” says Derflingher.

What was your most vivid memory linked to King Charles III, then Prince of Wales?

“When we went hunting and fishing outside the city, on the estates, on his return, I cooked the products he hunted and fished himself. He was always very enthusiastic. Among the dishes I used to prepare for him was risotto cooked with red wine and served with stuffed partridge legs,” says the chef. “I cooked partridge legs in the oven, then browned them with wine, then stewed them and cut them into small pieces, some I put halfway through cooking in the risotto.”

Derflingher Royal Memories

What did Queen Elizabeth II like to eat the most?

"She was very fond of fish, especially the excellent wild salmon from Scotland because it was caught on their estates, sometimes by Charles himself. I usually smoked salmon at home and served it with salads,” recalls Derflingher. “Sometimes, even the Queen went fishing on their estates: just think that Balmoral alone, the Scottish royal estate, occupies 20,000 hectares, it is really very large."

How were Queen Elizabeth II's meals marked?

“At midday, I usually made dishes like sole or chicken breast. The five o'clock tea ritual is a must, with muffins, scones, and salmon or cucumber sandwiches. In the evenings I usually cooked meat from their estates, I always prepared tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and cream slightly blended with whiskey. Queen Elizabeth always drank half a gin and tonic as an aperitif and at dinner she finished with a whiskey from their estates.”

Derflingher Royal Memories

And what were the gastronomic habits of King Charles III, then Prince of Wales?

“I think I can safely say that he was the creator of kilometre zero: behind every castle in the Royal Family he had a vegetable garden cultivated with organic and biodynamic products. King Charles III was a pioneer of environmental issues, already 30 years ago he was thinking of self-production: the Windsors eat well, that's why they live so long. The practices he wanted were sustainable even then: everything was fertilised with the manure of the goats and sheep he owned. Charles III has always had a great green attitude, he talked to the plants, he often explained to us what to do in the gardens. More than zero kilometers, one could speak of zero meters: all avant-garde for the time."

Derflingher Royal Memories

What were the favourite dishes of Charles III?

"He is a great lover of Italy, he loved our cuisine, I brought him many of our products such as extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar of Modena, Parmigiano Reggiano aged 24 months, organic carnaroli rice, pasta: all products that before my arrival did not exist at court, because before they made a traditional cuisine based on the (excellent) self-produced butter of their cows. It was Charles who gave a twist of modernity to the cuisine of the royals, because this approach has remained: a cuisine based on herbs, on Mediterranean scents. When I cooked for him, Charles was very fond of tomatoes from Puglia and Campania, but also basil from Albenga."


Do you have memories of Princess Diana?

"She was an exquisite person, I lived with them in Kensington Palace, I saw her 3-4 times a day. With her I wrote the weekly menu on the Royal Book, we decided on a regular basis of seven days what to eat. She was very easy going and informal, while for the Queen there was a much more precise protocol. Among Diana's favourite dishes: stuffed pasta: cannelloni, lasagna, tortelli. Charles, on the other hand, was more for durum wheat semolina pasta: rigatoni, maltagliati, trofie, linguine, spaghetti.”

Derflingher Royal Memories

What did the brothers William and Harry eat?

"For them, I often prepared tagliatelle al ragù, amatriciana, carbonara and desserts, which they particularly adored, like all children: ice cream cakes, sorbets, puddings, crème caramel and fruit tarts. In addition to the chocolate-filled puffs, their favourites.”

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