Sir Winston and Lady Churchill
LADY CHURCHILL’S COFFEE CREAM
In the 1930s Mrs. Landemare was one of the most sought after cooks in Britain. She had cooked for Sir Winston and Lady Churchill from the early twenties doing temporary work—Scotland in the autumn, Newmarket in racing week, ball suppers, Chartwell weekend parties—but in 1939 she offered Lady Churchill her full-time services. Lady Churchill knew she would be able to make the best out of rations and that everyone in the household would be happy. She worked tirelessly throughout the war, leaving the kitchen after midnight and returning shortly after to start breakfast. She noted the difficulties in preparing decent food during the Blitz. On VE night, however, Churchill told her that he could not have managed through the war without her. Mrs. Landemare remained for fifteen years, retiring in 1954.
The domestic suite in the Cabinet War Rooms below Westminster includes a tiny, windowless bunker kitchen where Mrs. Landemare was ready to fricassée a chicken, even with the Nazis at the door. Luckily they never arrived; instead she cooked for the Churchills in their flat above the Cabinet War Rooms, known as the No 10 annexe, or at No 10 itself, a quarter of a mile away. “One thing that tested her a lot,” recalls Churchill’s daughter, Mary Soames, “was when my father, to show that it was ‘business as usual,’ sometimes decided to use the dining room at No 10 instead of the annexe. So Mrs. Landemare would have to transfer from one kitchen to another and be driven round in the duty car with the covered dishes wrapped in shawls to keep them warm, clasped tightly on her lap.”
The night of October 14, 1940, was even worse. During an air raid, Churchill chivvied Mrs. Landemare out of the No 10 kitchen and into an air-raid shelter. Three minutes later the kitchen was, Churchill wrote, “a heap of black dust and rubble.”
On view to the public, the bunker kitchen at the Cabinet War Rooms contains waffle irons, pastry cutters, jelly moulds, and copper saucepans but no mechanical whisks or gadgetry, because Mrs. Landemare scorned such “modern” devices.
Churchill’s domestic suite with the bunker kitchen is at the Cabinet War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1 (020-7930 6961); open daily 9.30am-6pm.
In 1958, she published “Recipes from No. 10: Some Practical Recipes for Discerning Cooks,” with a foreword by Clementine Churchill: “Mrs. Landemare’s food was delicious. She is an inspired and intuitive cook, and it is I who encouraged her to write this book.” So she got as near to the kitchen as her desk and pen.
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons strong black coffee
1 packet gelatine
Shredded, toasted almonds
Dissolve gelatine in coffee in a glass jug standing in saucepan of hot water.
Beat yolks with sugar in a basin standing in hot water until creamy and thick. Add gelatine and coffee mixture. Remove bowl from water and continue beating until cold. Whip whites of eggs. Whip cream. Add alternately to cooled mixture.
Turn out into cut-glass serving dish. Chill. Before serving, sprinkle with toasted almonds.
Don’t forget to toast Mrs. Landemare.