Royal recipes from Norwich chef who has cooked for the Queen

The Assembly House Norwich's Mark Mitson

The Assembly House in Norwich's head of pastry Mark Mitson, wearing a pastry crown - Credit: The Assembly House Norwich

He’s cooked for the Queen, Prince Phillip, the Queen Mother, Princess Diana and other Royals, and works at the Norwich venue chosen by Princess Elizabeth for her first official visit to the city.

Mark Mitson, head of pastry at The Assembly House, is royalty in his own field, a multi-award-winning chef who once headed the pastry kitchen at Claridge’s hotel, has many years of West End experience and has catered for a host of celebrity clients.

Head of pastry, Mark Mitson, with the chocolate biscuit cakes at the Assembly House.

Head of pastry, Mark Mitson, with the chocolate biscuit cakes at the Assembly House. - Credit: Archant 2022

Classically-trained, he has worked for the late Albert Roux, catered for Joan Collins’ wedding, was invited to watch Madonna in concert after cooking for her children and his recipes have been used in Delia Smith’s books.

He also created an extravagant pink dessert for Dame Barbara Cartland, the queen of romantic fiction, but one of his proudest moments was cooking for the Queen of Hearts.

The Queen's Teatime Afternoon Tea at The Assembly House until June 30

The Queen's Teatime Afternoon Tea at The Assembly House until June 30 - Credit: The Assembly House Norwich

“Cooking for Princess Diana was amazing,” said Mark, “everyone in the kitchen at Hilton Park Lane where I was at the time kept trying to peek round the banquet room doors for a glimpse of her. There’s a special thrill when you know what you’re making will be eaten by one of the most famous women in the world.

“When you cook for royalty, the protocol is off the scale. Everything is overseen by the executive chef, by the general manager, by the food and drink director and it has to be completely perfect. It’s nerve-wracking, but it was the job.

“It makes me proud to know that my food has been eaten by the Queen and her family and it will always be something special for me.”

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Mark, who moved to Norfolk with his partner to be closer to family, has been at The Assembly House since 2014 and serves up to 350 afternoon teas a day, a feat that sees him cook almost 200,000 scones a year.

The Queen's Teatime Afternoon Tea at The Assembly House in Norwich

The Queen's Teatime Afternoon Tea at The Assembly House in Norwich - Credit: The Assembly House Norwich

Currently, the afternoon tea being served at the Theatre Street venue is The Queen’s Teatime Tea, which has a nod to Her Majesty.

“The Queen enjoys a slice of chocolate biscuit cake regularly at high tea at Buckingham Palace and Prince William chose it as one of his wedding cakes,” said Mark.

“We use the recipe that the Queen prefers and the rest of the tea is also inspired by biscuits.”

The Queen is also said to be partial to Lemon Drizzle Cake, according to former Royal chef Darren McGrady, who worked at Buckingham Palace for 11 years.

Mark’s version of the sticky citrus sponge favourite has been on his menus for decades.

“Lemon drizzle is a huge customer favourite and so I’m not surprised the Queen loves it – nearly everyone does!” he laughed, “add the glaze while the cake is still warm and it will be perfect.”

Teas and Scones at the Assembly House November 1st 2019. Photo : Steve Adams

Teas and Scones at the Assembly House - the Queen and Mark would be horrified that the cream has been spread first! - Credit: The Assembly House Norwich

The Queen also enjoys scones, fruit or plain, and she and Mark agree on one issue that divides a nation: they both spread the jam on first, and then add the cream.

“I’ve always said that it’s the right way, and now it’s OFFICIALLY the right way!” he laughed.

The Queen’s Teatime Afternoon Tea is at The Assembly House until June 30 assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk.

The Queen's favourite chocolate biscuit cake made to her chef's recipe

The Queen's favourite chocolate biscuit cake made to her chef's recipe at The Assembly House in Norwich - Credit: The Assembly House Norwich

The Queen’s Favourite Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon butter, for greasing the pan

225g Rich Tea biscuits

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g granulated sugar

100g dark chocolate

1 egg (optional, as raw)

225g dark chocolate, for coating

Method

Lightly grease a 6ins by 2.5ins cake ring with the butter and place on a tray on a sheet of parchment paper. Break each of the biscuits into small pieces by hand and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar until the mixture starts to lighten.

Melt the 100g of the dark chocolate and add to the butter mixture, stirring constantly. Add the egg and beat to combine. Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake ring. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least three hours. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it stand. Meanwhile, melt the 225g of dark chocolate in a double boiler or saucepan on the stove top over low heat. Slide the ring off the cake and turn it upside down onto a cake wire.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and smooth the top and sides using a palette knife. Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature. At The Assembly House, we add an icing decoration.

Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where the chocolate has stuck it to the cake wire and lift it onto a tea plate. We add a flake of gold leaf to gild the lily!

Head of pastry, Mark Mitson, with the lemon drizzle cake at the Assembly House.

Head of pastry, Mark Mitson, with the lemon drizzle cake at the Assembly House. - Credit: Archant 2022

Lemon Drizzle Cake (makes two loaf cakes)

Ingredients

250g unsalted butter

250g caster sugar

Zest of two lemons

Five eggs

250g plain flour

Two teaspoons of baking powder

A pinch of salt

Glaze:

200ml lemon juice

200g icing sugar

Method

Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. Divide between two 1lb loaf tins and bake at 160C for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave in the tins to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice and icing sugar together. Insert a skewer gently into the turned-out cakes all over and pour the drizzle over so that it soaks them and covers them.

Teas and Scones at the Assembly House November 1st 2019. Photo : Steve Adams

Teas and Scones at the Assembly House - the Queen and Mark would be horrified that the cream has been spread first! - Credit: The Assembly House Norwich

Mark’s Famous Assembly House Fruit Scones

Ingredients

8oz/225g plain flour

2oz/55g butter

2oz/55g caster sugar

1/2 tbsp baking powder

Handful of sultanas

100 ml (+/-) milk

Egg wash

Method

Place all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add butter and rub in so as to resemble a fine crumble. Add sultanas. Add milk slowly to form a soft but not sticky dough

Turn out onto lightly floured work top, and gently knead until smooth. Roll out to 1ins thickness, cut out rounds with a 2.5ins round cutter. Place onto a lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake at 180C/350F/160 fan, for 12 to 15 minutes.

Eat with jam and clotted cream.