Millions of meals
In the first ten years of QE2's life at sea, Executive Chef Bainbridge and his kitchen teams produced at least twenty one million meals for passengers alone and about nine and a half million for the crew, averaging 2,100,000 meals a year.
The shopping list for a world cruise makes famine relief schemes look mean. But with no handy supermarket floating in the midst of oceans and many ports of call where little, if any, suitable produce can be bought, the chef starts planning a good six months ahead, making his orders, and deciding which ports of call are to be the ones where supplies are picked up.
Capetown, known for its good quality products, but when not being visited, alternatives must be found. Los Angeles and Hong Kong are always good food sources. On the 1975 cruise, melons, avocados, and celery were flown from California to Hong Kong since this was considered the best source in the world at that time of year.
Nothing can be left to chance. The local market may look full of luscious fruits, fish or vegetables but so much of each item is needed that it is unlikely that markets can supply enough to provide each passenger with at least one serving and that means a minimum of 1500 avocados. Soft fruits are the biggest supply headache on a world cruise. Mangos and guavas bought in the 100 degree heat of India or Africa have to be served immediately. But the chefs have noticed a remarkable improvement in food packing and presentation in Asia and green grapes flown from Thailand to the ship in Singapore in 1975 were superb.
Soft fruit is used a lot on the ship particularly in flambe dishes or in curries and pineapple is one of the fruits most liked. When the ship first called at Mahe in the Seychelles, the executive chef invented this Pineapple Seychelles:
The pineapple is cut in half lengthways but the green crown left intact. The fruit is scooped out, cut in chunks, and laced with rum - what else would a seafarer use - and spiced lightly with cinnamon. This is spooned back into the shell, covered with meringue and browned in the oven.
ln the United States of America, much of the meat will be taken on the ship for the cruise. This includes 180,000 lbs of beef; forequarter meat needed for the Kosher kitchen on board, and loin for steak; prime rib and rump for pot roasts, stews and hamburgers. During a previous world cruise, the ship consumed 2850 tins of Portuguese sardines, 11,000 lbs of salt; 15,000 gallons of milk, 15,500 lbs of turkey, 25,000 lbs of butter and 95,000 lbs of tomatoes.
When QE2 was built, the raising of her kitchens to a high quarter deck level was considered revolutionary. Studies of what was needed in the kitchen and work flow patterns were made not only in the other Queens and various ships, but also ashore in hotels in the United States, Canada and Britain. Originally there was only one main kitchen to serve all restaurants; a pressure place with one restaurant alone requiring 1600 meals in three hours. Now there are separate kitchens for the Tables of the World and Queen's Grill.
The open plan stainless steel kitchen with its blue and white non slip tile floor was built to the highest hygiene regulations on both sides of the Atlantic. Pan sterilisers were installed and certain areas have ultra violet fittings. Now Cunard claims to be the first cruise company to appoint a permanent sea going hygiene officer. In her tenth year, the Port of Southampton health authority presented the ship with a plaque in recognition of the high quality of hygiene on board.
There is a bakery and confectionary kitchen within the main kitchen, a Kosher kitchen, electric grills for steaks (as charcoal was considered a fire hazard), waste disposal units in the working areas as well as large scale garbage disposal units. Because one of the traditional favourites of the Queen liners was souffles, a special souffle oven was installed custom built for QE2 which will prepare 2OO individual souffles at once. Souffles are one of the most favoured lunch time dishes particularly by dieters. This is the ship's recipe for cheese souffle, delicious served with a Caesar's Salad.
Boil 1 pint milk together with 1/2 lb butter and stir in 4oz. parmesan cheese, 6oz. flour and pepper and salt until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan cleanly. Separate 16 eggs, stir yolks into mixture. Beat whites till stiff add half whites to the mixture until smooth and fold in rest. Place mould in a bain marie and cook at 320F for about 30 minutes.
In the old days ship's kitchens were littered with odd lock up and food storage areas. QE2 streamlined this and placed principal working areas close to the elevator shafts which go down to stores eight decks below where a butchery shop and fish preparation area are also sited.
As the ship was to double for transatlantic and cruising routes, her food storage facilities had to be very flexible most of all for world cruises when, as we have seen, storage needs are great indeed.
On North Atlantic routes the ship can carry about seventy cars, but this space is not needed on world cruises. One of the holds for cars is insulated, fitted with movable divisions, and then refrigerated to 4OF. All the domestic storerooms are on seven and eight decks forward and directly below the kitchen occupying nearly all of the three hundred feet of the forward end of the ship. There are five elevators and one chute for loading stores always available to the chefs. The forward hatch and car lifts can also be used.
It may have seemed simpler in the nineteenth century when a live cow was kept in a wooden hut on deck for fresh milk and vegetables were stored in the life boats, but now a number of the refrigerated store rooms are designed to operate at varying temperatures to suit the differing needs of transatlantic runs and cruising. For example, there are storerooms operating at 36F to 40F which can be lowered to 15F and used for the chef's additional stores when cruising. The bar stock is then carried in the car hold. The fresh fish storeroom can also be used to carry frozen fish when necessary. In all there are twenty one refrigerated storerooms. Other store space includes air cooled flour/ cereal stores of about 3000 cubic feet and a centralised bulk grocery store of dry provisions of about 16,000 cubic feet. Draught beer is kept in twenty seven stainless steel tanks with a capacity of about 13,500 gallons. These tanks are in a refrigerated room from where the beer is piped direct to certain bars.
Hygiene is assisted by smooth plastic sheet finish on walls, doors and ceilings in the store rooms. All shelving is in stainless steel and portable for ease of cleaning. The refrigerated storerooms are linked to the ship's data logging computer and temperatures are recorded every four hours. Any room can be monitored at any time from the engineer's control centre where a visual temperature display at sixty second intervals is available on selection.
In the old Cunarders, food was so lavish that those eating at the captain's table had to have their clothes let out mid voyage. Prawn appeared on Queen Mary's breakfast menu as late as 1967 and elaborate private party dishes were produced like Caramel Empress Louise, a sun-like caramel surrounded by mounds of icecreams, pears poached in wine, strawberries and cherries and a veil of spun sugar placed round the fruit. Crushed violets were scattered on top. Sailing day buffets were pictorial displays of decorated hams, and salmon, carved potatoes, spun sugar edifices and icing work.
When QE2 first came into service, it was felt that modem travelers would not want such mammoth amounts of food and her menus, like the ship, were slimmed down. Gradually, however, she has moved towards the 'open handed generosity' as one early Cunard traveller called it.
QE2 has one of the world's largest al la carte restaurants and the chefs have not yet been known to be stumped for a dish requested on board. They keep a range of international cook books in the kitchens to help with requests from the many nationalities on world cruises. Woks are part of the kitchen equipment and there is a big file of ship's Chinese and Oriental recipes including the following:
Braised Spareribs with pineapple
Serves 6. Cut 2 lbs ribs apart, chop each, bone and all, in 2 inch sections. Add 1/4 cup soy sauce and toss. Leave to stand for 45 minutes turning occasionally. Drain, discarding sauce. Drain canned pineapple reserving juice. Combine 1 cup pineapple juice with 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup water. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy pan. Add ribs and stir till brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in I tablespoon flour and pineapple juice mixture. Heat quickly, then simmer covered till ribs are tender, about 45 minutes.
Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup canned pineapple chunks, stirring in gently to heat through. Blend 1 table spoon cornstarch with 3 tablespoons cold water to a paste and stir in with meat to thicken.
Bombay is a regular world cruise port of call and curries appear on the menus. The ship carries a list of thirty eight different types of curry including some variations little seen ashore. For example, Agra is made with Jerusalem artichokes, Bombay with beef and diced potatoes, Calavance is made with Boston beans, Canton is chicken and ginger, and there is even an Ireland curry with sweetbreads and butter beans. Lord Clive gave his name to a beef, apple and ginger mix, Pasha is comed beef mince, Singapore is an all fruit curry, Singalese is made with beef, onions and ginger and Zanzibar is sheep's head with peas; Country Captain mixes game and fruit.
QE2 Curry Sauce
The recipe for a dinner party sized amount is to dice finely 3 onions, carrots, apples and bananas, add 4 oz butter and fry all together lightly. Add 1/2 tablespoon flour, 3 tablespoons curry powder (QEZ uses Sherwood's mild Vencat powder) to make a basic roux. Add 2 pints chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add juice of 2 limes or lemons, 2 tablespoons chutney, 1 crushed clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon tomato puree and simmer for 2 hours. Adjust thickening and finally add 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut.
Dishes have evolved to suit the ports of call that the QE2 makes. One may eat ratatouille while cruising off Cannes, drink Turkish coffee after the meal and a day out in lnstanbul. This Acapulco Delight comes from an earlier world cruise:
For 4 servings, remove pulp from 3 ripe avocados and reserve the shells. Sieve pulp and beat well with juice of 1 lemon, black pepper, salt, 1 crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of chili powder. Add 2 oz finely diced spring onions and 1 oz finely diced green pepper. Line the inside of four pear shells with 6 oz cooked small shrimps and spoon mixture back into the shells. Decorate top with sliced stuffed olives and shrimps.
All the excellent food on the ship is married with what has been described as one of 'the best small wine lists in the world'. ls it that small, however, with a choice of 120 wines on board from countries such as France, ltaly, Germany and Portugal and an increasing number from California?
In the mid 1970's Cunard sent a representative to California to make a choice of some of the best wines which are rarely found outside of that state. Most wines are selected in their countries of origin on regular visits and finally chosen by blind tastings.
Champagne is of course a prime requirement on any cruise and QE2 carries nineteen French Champagnes from five Champagne houses, and two California champagnes. Special to the ship is the French made Ritz champagne which is produced for Cunard and the Ritz hotel in London.
The world cruise order list that has gradually built up on the ship over the 4 - 5 months is an imbiber's paradise; there are 10,000 bottles of champagne, 27,000 bottles of still wine, 16,500 bottles of spirits, 5,OOO bottles of port, sherry and liqueurs and 45,OOO cans and bottles of beer. And for the smokers, 2 million cigarettes.
The wines are chosen to suit all pockets and occasions and range in price from 5.50 dollars to 65 dollars a bottle, the latter for first growth Bordeaux wines. The wines are loaded for the world cruise at Southampton into special, temperature controlled cellars on eight deck. Being so low down in the centre of the ship even a rough sea cannot shake them up. The extensive stores, which for cruises includes one of the car decks, are regulated to keep white wine cool and make sure red wines do not rise above 68F.
The QE2 takes good care of the wines and many of the wine stewards have seen decades of service with the company so that they can advise on what goes with the ship's menus. When choosing wine, particularly a good claret, it is advisable to order at lunchtime so that the cork can be drawn well ahead of drinking in order- to allow the wine to breathe. And after a meal with good wine, a little digestif could well be the single twelve year old malt whisky specially bottled for the ship. The QE2 malt is also a good take home souvenir in a stone crock or miniatures in a presentation box with two hand blown Caithness glasses.
QE2 Anniversary Cocktail
To toast her tenth anniversary QE2 has an anniversary cocktail made by mixing 2/3 bourbon with 1/3 peach brandy and flavouring with lemon juice, grenadine and a clash of Angostura bitters, served on the rocks.
The bar list too reflects ports of call strongly. There is a choice for nearly everywhere from Seychelles Shaker, Kandy Cooler, Hong Kong Gimblet, and Japanese fizz to Everglades Sling and Los Angeles cocktail. While mixed cocktails are very popular, one can also sip sherries from Spain or ports from Portugal in any of the bars. Or the QE2 single malt whisky, over twelve years old.
Whisky drinkers have choices of blended, single Scotches, Irish, rye, bourbon, and, to toast trips to Yalta or ashore in China, vodkas are carried. The liqueur list covers all tastes from Amaretto to Sambuca Romana and beer drinkers can choose from US or UK styles, Continental lagers or Guinness. And of course there is the original QE2 cocktail to toast her ten years, a blend of brandy, sweet vermouth, grenadine, and lemon juice.
Among some of the more unusual dishes available on QE2 are the following: Imperial Chop Suey, diced pork and duckling with julienne vegetables seasoned and cooked with molasses served with Chinese rice and crisp noodles; this dish was served for dinner on the bitter-sweet occasion of the Queen Mary's one thousandth crossing of the Atlantic and her last westbound and the QE2's launch on September 20 1967. Then there's pigeon en cocotte Hiawatha, stuffed with wild rice cooked on vegetables and served with sweet corn kernels and a wine sauce; turban of chicken livers orientale are served in a ring of savoury risotto containing almonds and raisins; crustade of sweetbreads royale- diced sweetbreads cooked in sherry, cream, and egg yolks with sliced mushrooms and served in a pastry case. Crabmeat manchebo has crabmeat with chives, shallots, red and green peppers masked with a creamy cheddar cheese sauce and baked. If you prefer to stick to steak, there's carpet bag steak, a pocket cut in a thick tenderloin, grilled, and the pocket then filled with golden fried oysters and the whole served with Bernaise sauce.
Simpler, but succulent, dishes are listed by the chef for special orders for each voyage according to season which the head waiter can suggest to those who do not want to make decisions on what to eat. These include roast duckling, chateaubriand, rack of lamb, crayfish tails thermidor, London mixed grill, fried jumbo shrimps with tartare sauce, turbot Normande, chicken Maryland and this recipe for:
Escalop of Veal Marsala
For 4 servings, pound 1 1/2 pounds of boneless veal steak till thin. Cut into two inch squares and dredge with flour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet and brown meat on all sides. Transfer to a casserole. Add 1/2 lb thinly sliced mushrooms and 1 finely minced garlic clove to the skillet and cook briefly.
Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsly, 1 teaspoon dried basil, l cup peeled and chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup marsala to the skillet and pour mixture over veal. Cover and bake at 35OF for 45 minutes.
Up In Flames
For both savoury and desserts, Cunard are famous for their flambe work in the restaurants. Each restaurant manager has his own specialities and is happy to prepare them for passengers. This savoury dish was created for QE2's first world cruise and named for her predecessors:
Escalope of Veal Elizabeth Marie
For each serving, rub a pan with a small cut garlic clove, add butter and 1 1/2 oz chopped onion and season to taste. Cook onion till brown. Place veal escalope in pan and pour over 2 oz sweet sherry and cook till liqueur has been reduced. Flambe with 1 oz Bacardi and extinguish flame with 1/8 pint cream. Garnish with hot asparagus tips.
On the sweet side, there is lavish use of liqueurs for flaming fruits, exotic concoctions with Ice creams, and baked alaska variations. Bombe Vesuvius, ideal for that Naples port of call, is an old favourite. It is a baked alaska mixture in the shape of a mountain with the cone filled with a half egg shell of sugar and flaming spirits to pour down the 'volcano' side. Inside the meringue is vanilla ice cream round a cake and cherry centre.
Crepes are popular and Crepes QE2 has cigar thick vanilla ice cream folded into a crepe which is then frozen till very hard. It is flamed in liqueur as for crepes suzette and served with flaked almonds, chocolate shavings, and whipped cream. Other delicious meal enders that call on the waiter's flambe skill are:
For six servings, brush 6 ripe bananas Hced on the bias with lemon juice. Melt 1 cup light brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter in a flat chafing dish. Add bananas and cook till just tender. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Warm 1/4 cup cognac and add. Flame and pour the mixture still flaming over a ball of vanilla ice cream.
A simple recipe is:
3 Fruits de Jungle:
Pineapple rings fried in butter and a caramel formed by adding brown sugar and flaming with Tia Maria. Serve with coffee ice cream and garnish with chopped walnuts.
The ship loves celebrating a special night from St Patrick's to Christmas with an appropriate menu. lf there is no suitable date in the calendar they invent Caribbean nights, Roaring Twenties, Captain's dinner all with special menu card. For the Jubilee World Cruise in 1977 Potage Elizabeth Jubilee was served on QE2:
Potage Elizabeth Jubilee
To make ten servings, prepare a good chicken stock base using leeks instead of onion. Dice white section of 6 large leeks and slowly cook in butter without browning. Stir in about 4 tablespoons flour and cook slowly, remove from heat and add 1 1/4 quarts chicken stock, bring to the boil stirring constantly, and allow to simmer for one hour. Allow to cool and pass through a fine sieve; add 1/2 pint light cream and season. Garnish with diced 2 oz white chicken meat, 1 oz York ham, 2 oz asparagus tips and 1 oz cooked julienne of leek.
QE2 is usually cruising in warm waters at Christmas but none of the traditional turkey and plum pudding celebration feasting is missed. Most housewives these days fuss at having to make one christmas cake or one pudding. The Chefs are not ruffled by the prospect of making enough to serve 2500 people as on one recent Christmas cruise.
The ingredients list for the cake and pudding are gargantuan. For the pudding mix 90 lb currants, 60 lbs sultanas, 60 lb raisins, 30 lb mixed peel, 60 lb chopped suet, 24 lb apples, 48 lb bread crumbs, 48 lb sugar, 48 lb flour, 7 1/2 lbs ground almonds, 240 eggs, juice of 80 oranges and lemons, 4 lb mixed spice and 4 bottles rum and brandy. The cake includes 3 bottles of sherry 80 lb currants and 60 lb sultanas with 60 lb butter and sugar and the decoration alone calls for 90 lb of marzipan 35 lb icing sugar and 105 egg whites.
In September 1977, the ship was honoured by a crossing made by fifty eight members of the lntemational Wine and Food Society. They dined in the Princess Grill and a plaque hung there records their appreciation of the good food and wine they received during the voyage. For their Andre Simon Centennial Crossing one of their dinner menu was Avocado Elizabeth, Dover sole fillet Boistelle, rack of lamb with rosemary, with fresh asparagus Hollandaise, haricots verts, Arlie potatoes, baked alaska with Black Bing cherries and Canape Mauretania.
Baking the Ship's Biscuits
One thing is certain no one will go hungry on the QE2 during any day's cruising. One can choose among the lengthy menus, lighter diet conscious foods, and the chef will make dishes for special diets. But with so much good food around it is a pity to pass up the chance to try it fully at least on some days. The following shows the typical pattern of a day's menus and food and includes some more of the ship's recipes to try at home.
Deck joggers can start early in the moming with coffee and buns on deck, while some passengers will have a lightish breakfast in their rooms. The hearty eater can get some sea air in his lungs before tackling one of the most substantial breakfast menus served anywhere in the world. Fruit juices, fruits, and cereals including hominy grits and porridge are for starters, then there is French onion soup, very comforting on "momings after". Eggs any way, with a variety of bacons or kippers or poached finnan haddock, grilled lamb cutlets, with sauteed Idaho potatoes, and then into the cold buffet which can include baked ham, roast turkey, chicken, fillet of herring with sour cream, swiss or Philadelphia cheeses and salads. Then griddle or buckwheat cakes with syrup, freshly baked pastries, croissants, brioches, Scotch baps, white and Graham rolls, toast and preserves and to wash it all down, a choice of Coffee - roast, instant and no Caffein, Ceylon and China teas, milk, hot chocolate, and Horlicks.
Sausages are often made on board but skins are not carried and this QE2 Savoury Sausage mix is a good day opener.
QE2 Savoury Sausage
Finely mince 1 1/2 lb pork loin and 1/2 veal, removing all skin and gristle. Mix in 6 oz breadcrumbs or rusk meal, 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed herbs, seasoning and 1 egg. Mould into cakes on a floured board and fry over a slow heat till browned and well cooked through.
Mid morning there is bouillon available on deck, a relic of those chilly Atlantic days, morning coffee is served in the Queen's and Double rooms and then cocktails before lunch. Lunch perhaps should be a lighter meal with time to discuss the evening menu with the restaurant manager. This chilled Cream of Cucumber soup is ideal on a hot day:
Chilled Cream of Cucumber Soup
For 4 servings, peel 2 cucumbers and dice finely. Cook with 1 diced onion in a little butter but do not allow to brown. Add 1/2 oz flour, stir for a few minutes, remove from heat and add 14 oz hot chicken stock. Season and gently cook for 45 minutes. Cool and pass through a sieve or blend and add 7 oz single cream and juice of 1 lemon. Garnish with a little chopped mint and serve chilled.
Lunch is also a good time to try many traditionally British recipes or curries. One can have simple things like tripe and onions or bangers and mash (sausages and creamed potatoes) that Noel Coward adored on the Queens. Scouse is a rather unlovely name for a beef stew originating, like so many of the ship's crew, from Liverpool and cooked with plenty of vegetables and is good on a cool day. One can finish with a chocolate souffle made 'allright' for dieters by using Sweet 'n Low as its sweetening or this nursery favourite Rusk Custard Pudding long served on QE2 and Queen Elizabeth before her.
Rusk Custard Pudding
Crack 6 eggs into a basin and add 4 oz sugar and vanilla essence to taste. Beat together and add 2 pints fresh milk. Place 6 rusk biscuits and a sprinkling of sultanas in an oven dish. Pour over egg custard and poach in a pre-heated oven at 4OOF for 30 minutes or until firm. Serves 6.
In mid aftemoon, because she's a British lady, QE2 sets out afternoon tea and cakes in the public rooms and its time to meet friends and chat. There is Victoria sandwich, named for another queen, a light jam filled sponge, chocolate layer cake or this Walnut Cake:
Cream l lb butter with 1 lb caster sugar and 8 eggs till smooth. Fold in 1 lb flour, 1 lb com syrup, 1/4 lb milk powder, 1/4 lb chopped walnuts, 1 lb caster sugar and 1/4 pint water and mix well, with a little vanilla essence. Bake for about 45 minutes at 35OF. Makes 2 x 2 lb cakes.
A little deck walking might be a good idea before it's cocktail time again and lots of tempting canapes particularly at private parties where the chef has dreamed up a new dip. ln the Queen's Grill bar, the chef likes to serve hot miniature savouries. There are little Chinese style egg rolls and these easier to make hot shrimp canapes:
Hot Shrimp Canapes
For about 12, finely chop 1 lb peeled shnmps and stir in 2 minced spring onions. Blend in enough mayonnaise to make a thick mixture. Spread on small circles of toast, piling it up in the centre. Sprinkle with paprika and toast under a hot grill till sizzling.
And then comes the most glamorous meal of the day, all dressed up and an abundant dinner menu to pick and choose from. Maybe a soup to start with. Turtle soup was served for the launching dinner of the ship and its often given a party dress as Lady Curzon soup with a topping of lightly whipped cream sprinkled with a little curry powder and browned under the grill. Turtle soup is also used in another ship's favourite, Boula Boula in which turtle soup is floated on top of chilled green pea soup.
As a main course perhaps steak au poivre cooked in cream, chicken in casserole souvaroff stuffed with foie gras, mushrooms, shallots and cognac. Or in the Princess grill you might have this Crayfish Tail Princesse:
Crayfish Tail Princess
Simmer together, 4 cloves garlic, 2 oz chopped onion, 2 oz chopped celery, 2 oz green pepper, (chopped), 2 oz chopped red pepper, 4 oz chopped peeled tomatoes, 1 cup chopped parsley in 2 oz butter and cook without browning. Add 4 oz white wine, bring to the boil, and thicken with a teaspoon of arrowroot or cornflour. Season to taste. Dice 1 lb cooked crayfish tails and add to the vegetable mixture and serve with cooked rice.
And for dessert an irresistible Pecan Maple Pie - the ship's kitchen is a crossroads for International recipes - or something lighter in fruit:
Pecan Maple Pie
To serve 6, beat together 4 eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup melted, unsalted butter, and 1 cup maple syrup. Mix in 1 cup pecan halves and pour into a chilled pie shell, 9 inches in size. Bake for 20 minutes at 37OF and reduce heat to 35OF for a further 2O minutes or until the filling is set and pastry browned.
To serve 6-8, mix 3 cups sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup Grand Marnier. Beat lightly until blended and pour into a 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle with 1 cup brown sugar and place under the grill until sugar caramelises but do not allow to burn. Chill and serve with 2 cups peach slices sweetened to taste and flavoured with Grand Mamier.
Dancing after dinner will soon work this off and then you will be able to partake of the midnight buffet. And if you should wake in the middle of the night with hunger pains, the steward can prepare a cup of tea and a snack!