A Banquet in a Castle

Long, long ago, in the kingdom of Dunbroch, a King and Queen hosted a banquet…


The preparations went on for days – decorating the castle, making silver “goblets”, writing the “mennyou” (menu), cooking the food, weighing ingredients, researching the decor, food and entertainment – this was a “worth the effort” activity rather than falling into the “quick and easy for busy mums” category, but was really, really worth it, and our banquet really was fit for a king (and queen!).



This was an extension of our playtimes based on Disney’s “Brave”, which L and N are showing no signs of getting tired of – they have heard the story every day for weeks on end now!  It was also a bit of a history lesson and hopefully preparation for visiting a real castle one day soon.

L did the research – we have several books about castles and knights, and he loves an excuse to look things up on the computer.  N joined in with researching this much more than i thought she would be able to without actually reading – the books are illustrated in lovely detail, so she was full of ideas, and if she wanted to read something she simply asked L to read it to her!

Then we wrote the menu

L's Menu, with "Thunderstorm Knight" crest design

L’s Menu, with “Thunderstorm Knight” crest design

N's sparkly Princess Menu, and first proper writing!

N’s sparkly Princess Menu, and first proper writing!

L could do this by himself – he is going through a stage of not wanting to write, and complaining that it is boring – so rather than push him and put him off we are taking a little and often approach, and trying to do something every day involving writing single words, hoping to develop his fluency so that he finds sentences less taxing.  I can understand why it is boring for him – he isn’t yet at a stage where he can express himself in writing.  Hopefully when he is, he will be enthusiastic again.  This is working well for him anyway because he seemed to enjoy writing “cheez” and “meet” etc, and I found it so so cute!

N managed to write “menu” all by herself, when I told her one at once which letters she needed to write, and she was so pleased with herself.  She then filled the menu with what seemed like random letters, but when she talked me through it, she definitely had a plan for the meal, and the letters were in fact featured in the words she wanted to use – “I’ve done an a and a p because we’re going to have apples”.

We made goblets to drink from.  We did this by covering plastic champagne flutes with foil, and decorating them with plastic gems. Half the fun of this was getting L and N to think about how we could make the goblets, and use some problem solving and creative thinking skills.  I think it also added to their pride in the activity, having designed and made things for themselves. We used silver foil platters to serve the food.  I thoroughly washed out a wine bottle and filled it with blackcurrant squash, and they found it very exciting to have “wine” – as well as learning that in Medieval times the water was often unsafe to drink.

"Silver" Goblet Encrusted With "Jewels"

“Silver” Goblet Encrusted With “Jewels”

Our feast started with “broth” (we made  root vegetable soup – recipe here in our Autumn themed meal) – the king and queen very kindly helped the servant in the kitchen!

Princess Merida peels carrots

Princess Merida peels carrots

We arranged rings of onion into size order!

We arranged rings of onion into size order!

It turned out to be challenging to prepare a vegetarian banquet, but we used quorn ham slices and glamorgan sausages for the roasted peacock, alongside slices of cheese, grapes, a platter of dried fruit, and a trencher of foccacia bread.  The children liked the idea of using the bread as a plate, but L in particular enjoyed being allowed to eat with his hands.  I was quite glad he had missed the bit about throwing the bones on the floor!


Eating With Hands - Business As Usual for F!

Eating With Hands – Business As Usual for F!

We turned out the lights and used real candles, and put on a CD of chamber music.   An extra bonus was getting L and N to arrange the dried fruit on a plate – sorting by colour, and arranging in patterns.


Between courses L and N acted as jesters (with juggling balls and jokes), conjurors (with the magic set L got for Christmas), and musicians (we got out our box of instruments and keyboard and arranged them all in the lounge).  F could join in with this part, with her own contribution to the music.


Our last course was poached pears and custard, giving us the chance to talk about the fact that fruit was usually cooked, or dried to preserve it.  We also served a butterfly-shaped jelly, and “Princess Merida’s Magic Cakes” – which would work equally well as Valentine’s Day cakes, as they have a secret heart hidden inside them!

We made these using a basic sponge mixture, taking a little bit out into a separate bowl, and adding red food colouring.

We baked the red mixture in a silicone heart-shaped ice cube tray we happened to have, but it would also work if you baked a shallow sheet cake and cut out the hearts with  a cutter or template.  We baked these first in the oven.


We used a castle shaped silicone cupcake mould (yes, I really did just happen to have these things!).  We filled the cases halfway, put our ready baked hearts inside, then covered the heart with more batter.  We baked the cupcakes, and L and N decorated them with grey buttercream icing.  I tried very hard not to be precious about my cakes and let L and N do the decorating, and they did a great job, choosing jellied shapes for windows and doors, and silver balls to decorate.


When we cut the cakes, we unleashed the “magic” – and pretended to turn into bears (as in the film) – the hearts worked really well, as long as we remembered to cut the cakes in the right direction.


After dinner we danced to the music, and had our own “highland games”, where we tried to throw plastic “rocks” (from a dinosaur collection originally) into a yoghurt pot.


The children got right into this and it was a game that lasted all day.

We really did have so much fun – and learnt so much too:

  • I learnt more history than I ever did at school.  I think this will have made some facts about castles really memorable for the children, and for me too!
  • Baking and cooking involved maths (weighing, measuring), creativity, practical skills
  • Our Highland Games involved Gross Motor skills, and there was plenty of fine motor skills practice throughout the day, with crafts and decorating cakes.
  • Creativity, thinking about how to decorate the house, how to improvise.
  • Research skills, in using books and the computer to find out what we needed to know
  • We practised reading and writing.
  • We worked out how many of each item we needed for the number of people.
  • Role play
  • Working together, sharing and co-operating
  • Even F (10 months) could benefit, by investigating and playing with different objects, dancing to music, playing with basic instruments, and experiencing new tastes.
  • I’m sure I could add to this list, but it was certainly a very happy day that we will all remember for a long time, and so much fun all round.

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