Princess Diana’s Favorite Bread and Butter Pudding – Celebrate Diana with her favorite treat, a cross between bread pudding and creme brûlée.
I remember when I first heard the news that Princess Diana had been killed. It was my first or second week of college, and everything in my personal realm had changed overnight– I had a roommate, a meal plan and my first taste of independence. It was a weird time of transition.
On that grim day, a fellow student popped their head inside my dorm room to announce the news:
“Princess Diana was in a car crash. She’s gone.”
I still remember the sickening sadness I felt in the pit of my stomach. Like many young women of my generation, I’d grown up loving and admiring Princess Diana. I looked up to her for her strength, her philanthropy and her gentle nature. She was beautiful in the most natural, unassuming way. It rattled me greatly, probably even more so because I was on my own for the first time. Back home I would have run to my mother and we would have watched the news together, sharing our grief. School had only just started and the other students were still strangers to me. I felt alone.
I wasn’t the only one. Soon classmates began to gather together on our floor, finding comfort in connecting and sharing their memories of the Princess. A few of us piled into a car and drove to a touristy Western restaurant, where we toasted Diana and watched the news from TV screens broadcasting from over the bar.
Late in the evening, I found some loose change at the bottom of my bag and searched for a payphone (yes, I am that old). I dialed my high school friend, Becky, who had always been particularly drawn to Diana. Her quivering voice greeted me.
“Why?” she sobbed. “I don’t understand why?”
There, in the middle of a Western-themed tourist trap through a scratchy-sounding pay phone, Becky and I shared our grief over the late Princess. It was a strange, sad day that I’ll always remember.
Diana, Princess of Wales while at The Leonardo Prize ceremony in 1995. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Today, on what would be Princess Diana’s 54th birthday, I’m warmed by memories of the beautiful, kind hearted princess. As a food blogger with a keen interest in history, I like to honor the memory of people I admire through food. I want to briefly talk about Diana and her personal chef, Darren McGrady. Having cooked for the royal family for 15 years, Chef McGrady was close to Diana and her kin. Recently he revealed a cute story to the Daily Mail in which the princes William and Harry attempted to forge a note from their nanny asking him to make them pizza. Unfortunately their childlike handwriting gave them away immediately and they were served roast chicken instead.
After her divorce from Prince Charles, Diana asked Chef McGrady to leave Buckingham Palace to join her and the young princes at Kensington Palace. He happily agreed and began a new career without all of the royal formalities. According to McGrady, Diana preferred to have dinner at a round table that seated 10, rather than a large banquet style table. During solo lunches, she would join McGrady in the kitchen and eat at the countertop, happily chatting with him while he tidied up. She was also respectful of his time, offering to make her own coffee when he was busy working on something else and even using the microwave to cook the premade meals he left for her. This casual behavior was unheard of during his time with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
After overcoming an eating disorder, Diana looked to Chef McGrady for ways to stay healthy. For the most part she stuck to a fat free diet, lots of stuffed vegetables like eggplant and peppers, and healthier versions of traditional British fare. She preferred poached chicken and baked potatoes to heavier roasted chicken and oil-roasted potatoes. McGrady also revealed an incident in which he cooked lunch for Diana and Oprah Winfrey. After tasting his tomato mousse, Oprah inquired as to how Diana could possibly stay so slim while eating such rich food. Little did she know, McGrady had made a special, fat-free version just for Diana, who chalked her health up to small portions and exercise. I’m willing to bet that both versions tasted fantastic.
For Diana’s birthday, I’ll be celebrating with a big piece of bread and butter pudding. This recipe of Chef McGrady’s was one of Diana’s favorites, a rare indulgence in her otherwise generally healthy diet. It’s something of a cross between crème brûlée and traditional bread pudding, topped with raisins, slivered almonds and a dusting of powdered sugar. It’s a lovely concoction fit for a princess.
If you’re interested in hearing more on Chef McGrady’s time with the late princess and her family, I suggest taking a look at his book Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen.
- 12 slices white bread
- 4 oz unsalted butter, softened
- 9 egg yolks
- 6 oz caster sugar (fine sugar), divided
- 1 vanilla bean
- 5 fl oz whole milk
- 15 fl oz double cream (can sub heavy cream, look for one with the highest fat content)
- 3 oz golden raisins
- 3 oz slivered almonds, toasted
- 4 tbsp Amaretto or Cointreau
- 1 tsp powdered sugar
- fresh summer berries
- vanilla ice cream
- whipped cream
You will also need
- Mixing bowls, 3 pint baking dish, small saucepan, roasting pan, nonstick cooking spray (optional), cooking torch (optional)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the raisins with the Amaretto or Cointreau and cover. Leave at room temperature for at least 8 hours, overnight is preferred.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Generously butter the bread and remove crusts.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 5 oz of caster sugar.
- Split the vanilla bean and place in a pan with the milk and cream.
- Bring to a simmer and pour over the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Remove the vanilla bean, scraping the seeds into the custard mixture. The bean can be discarded or used to make vanilla sugar.
- Cut 3 slices of the bread into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the bottom of the dish. Top with the raisin and Amaretto mixture.
- Cut the remaining slices of bread into triangles and arrange over the top.
- Pour the egg mixture over the bread, making sure all of the bread is evenly coated. Allow to soak into the bread for 20 minutes. Fill a roasting pan, about ¾ of the way up the sides of the baking dish, with hot water and place the baking dish into the pan. Be careful not to splash any water into the baking dish.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling has set like a custard, similar to crème brûlée. Remove from the oven and roasting tray and sprinkle with the remaining 1 oz of caster sugar. Use a torch or broiler to caramelize the sugar topping.
- Sprinkle with the toasted slivered almonds and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and fresh berries, if desired.