Consommé à la Regence
Game soup with barley garnished with small cubes of egg-yolk
Croustade de macaroni à la Prince de Naples
Fried macaroni cases filled with ham and mushrooms bound in a mozzarella sauce
Poisson à la Victoria
Scallop shells filled with a mixture of salmon, mushrooms and truffles dressed in a white wine sauce bound with lobster meat and truffle slices
Noix de veau à la Comerani
Roast veal knuckle
Dindonneaux à la Providance
Young turkeys dressed in a red wine ragout of truffles, mushrooms and goose-livers
Petits mousselines à l’Americaine
Small mousses made from lobster, tomato, white wine, tarragon cayenne and shallots; garnished with sautéed lobster coral and liver and chopped parley
Punch à la romaine
Sorbet made from Champagne, lemon and meringue over which a glass of rum is poured before serving
Paon rôti - Salade à la Normande
Roast peacock served with a salad of French beans in a cream dressing
Asperges sauce maltoise
Asparagus spears dressed in Hollandaise sauce mixed with blood orange juice
Charlotte à la Varsowienne
A mould of lady-fingers encasing a custard mixed with pear and pineapple segments
Pouding glacé à la Marguerite
Frozen custard with raisins, crystalised ginger and lemon-peel
inner at the Royal Palace of Ajuda hosted by Her Majesty the Dowager Queen Maria Pia of Portugal.
In the end she was a pitiful lady; living in exile as a “mental wreck” reported the New York Times. But in happier days, before a particularly nasty regicide took her son and grandson almost simultaneously, Queen Maria Pia of Portugal was renowned for her vivacious personality, masquerade balls, exquisite dinners and elaborate costumes.
In the early 1900s, always the Belle of the Ball, her merry-go-round of lavish entertaining had left a “leading Lisbon draper”, $US20,000 out of pocket for some truly splendid ballgowns. As a member of the royal family, contended her lawyers, Maria Pia could not be “sued personally” when the unpaid bills found their way to court, and into newspapers.
At this dinner in 1899, Maria Pia was now the Dowager Queen. Her husband, King Luís I, had died ten years earlier, but Maria Pia continued to play a leading role at the Royal Court of her son, King Carlos I.
Pia’s father had been King of Sardinia before becoming the first King of a unified Italy. Her royal Italian roots help explain two dishes on the menu named after the then heir to Italian throne (Croustade de Macaroni à la Prince de Naples) and the Queen of Italy (Pouding glacé à la Marguerite). It is likely this dinner was in honour of her visiting relatives.
But the dish that would have attracted most attention was the roast peacocks (Paon rôti), that similarly made an appearance six months later on the New Year’s Day menu of Maria Pia’s brother, King Umberto I of Italy.
Twenty-five years earlier Alexandre Dumas penned Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, where he confided to readers “I only ate peacock once in my life”.
“Except in a few countries, the habit is lost of serving peacocks as an ordinary roast”, wrote Dumas before recounting how it was magnificently served to him at a Mayoral banquet outside San Tropez. In the middle of the table was “a roast peacock with all its feathers preserved, displayed with its fanned tail and [head] raised upon her sapphire neck”.
Another cookery book of the era helps explain that peacock meat “is very white and of exceedingly fine and close grain, and has the true game flavour, with none of the stringiness of the common turkey”.
During the reign of her husband, Queen Maria Pia had extensively redecorated the Palace of Ajuda (Palácio da Ajud) and made it the royal family’s principal residence. When her son became King in 1889, Maria Pia remained at Ajuda where she hosted this dinner.
Her life, however, would end in exile and great family grief. Pia's brother, the King of Italy, would be assassinated in 1900 before her own son King Carlos I along with her grandson and heir to the throne, Prince Luís Filipe, were assassinated together in 1908, in what became known as the Lisbon Regicide.
And then two years later, as revolutionary forces encircled and bombarded the royal palaces, and in full view of hundreds of curious onlookers, the Dowager Queen Maria Pia found herself scrambling into a fishing boat to hastily reach the royal yacht, Amélia IV, which would whisk what remained of the Braganza royal family into exile.
Royal Palace of Ajuda
Lady MacDonnell, wife of the British Ambassador, recounted a banquet she had attended at the Ajuda Palace while home to the Dowager Queen, Maria Pia.
“… Their Majesties gave a banquet to 300 guests at the Palace of the Ajuda. The plate was extraordinarily fine, especially the candelabra and silver- gilt fruit-baskets, which were quite beautiful. The salt-cellars were real works of art, representing two large poppy heads on a stem held up by two beautifully modelled Cupids. These were the work of the celebrated Germaine, silversmith to Louis XV of France. There were also twelve figures about 14 inches high, modelled as delicately as Dresden china flower-girls and shepherds ; they represented the costumes of the Low Countries, and were part of the dowry of the Archduchess Marianna of Austria, consort of King John V".