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Downton Downtime: Celebrating Summer’s Bounty and S6 Launch Date

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So many stories to wrap up in Season 6

It is summer here in the colonies, and gardens are starting to burst with bounty.  While grocers can now ship produce to us year-round, the best taste still comes from the local harvest. So like Mrs. Patmore smart cooks prepare what is in season for the best taste.

And speaking of our favorite cook, PBS has finally announced the launch date of Season 6 of Downton Abbey, and yes, this will be the last season of this wonderful show. If you have not been following along, Julian Fellowes, who writes the show, has signed a deal to write an American version called The Gilded Age. Since he cannot write two shows at once, it was finally decided that this will be the final season of Downton.  We will have to say goodbye, and let our favorite characters live out the rest of their fictional lives off camera.

There are still many months before the launch (The UK will likely see a Sept. launch date), and we should not let the summer harvest pass us by. I visited our family estate (farm) in July and remembererd just how sweet peas are, so today we will be making a simple classic dish of Peas in Béchamel. It can be served upstairs as a side dish or downstairs as Creamed Peas on Toast. 

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Downton S5 Christmas Special: Nothing Heals Like a Restorative Broth

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Caroling by the Christmas tree (ITV)

What a marvelous end to Downton Season 5.  The Christmas Special was like a perfectly laid out buffet with something for everyone.  There were love stories, great injustice, selfless acts, grouse hunting, secret plots, reunions, touching farewells and Christmas carols.

It was a wonderful season, over for us in North America, but yet to be discovered in other parts of the world. Do come back and visit here from time to time as I continue to share the love of food from Downton era. Together we can get through Downton downtime together. I will be regularly sharing new recipes here, but you will find me more active on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

I was particularly delighted that one of the sub plot lines this episode featured “the challenge of the wooden spoon”. Dowager mentions the words of a previous maid ‘every good lady’s maid should know how to make a restorative broth.” When Miss Denker suggested that those days had not gone, Sprat pressed her to produce her own chicken broth. Seems fitting then that this week’s recipe is chicken broth.

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The Downton Abbey Wedding Curse

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Atticus & Rose marry, but will it be happily ever after? (ITV)

It was a challenging two screen night again this week as Downton and The Academy Awards competed for our attention. No Downton cast members up for awards this week, but perhaps one day there will be a Downton movie of the like of Gosford Park. On a side note I was gratified that the only premier screening Lord D and I caught Toronto Film Festival this year was Still Alice. Julianne Moore was as striking as she was passionate about Alzheimer’s in her opening remarks at the Gala.

In this week’s episode the Crawleys spent most of their time in London. Not much “food name” dropping, although we do see Daisy finishing the wedding cake. A whirlwind of events (the parents of the Groom entertaining, how odd) during the week, Mrs. Patmore suggests she could whip up some soup for a buffet for guests staying at Downton House. So this week’s dish is Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil. A simple, yet elegant soup to serve to the most discerning guest on a moment’s notice.

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Things Heat up on Downton, Hot and Bubbly Like Croque Monsieur

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Young love is in the air at Downton.

Emotions were heating up the small screen on Downton Abbey this past week. Good thing because it is frigidly cold in many parts of the country, and a cuppa Downton is just what we need. Secrets are revealed, servants are at odds, suitors are spurned,  engagements delayed, and a young romance blooming against the odds. We all look forward to celebrating another Downton Wedding.

While there was much drama bubbling this episode, there was not much food of note seen on camera. We do see Mrs. Patmore and Daisy discuss the Labour Government as they prepare a plate of appetizers for a big dinner, so this week we will be making Croque Monsieur, a french comfort food. It is a perfect hot sandwich for lunch or brunch, but this week we will be preparing it as an appetizer fit for the Queen.

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Valentine’s Day Love at Downton Abbey is Served with Victoria Sandwich

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Downton’s latest couple: Rose and Atticus (ITV)

Love is in the air as we count down the days until Valentine’s Day. This season of Downton Abbey is certainly filled with love connections, some in the most unexpected places. While we see sparks fly between Rose and Atticus, it is lovely to see Isobel and Lord Merton find new love in their golden years.  And who knew that the prim and proper Violet had a secret past with a dashing Russian Prince?  While she might be tempted to run off with Prince Kuragin, she does make a good point that there is no one run from. Mabel Lane Fox is certainly trying to rekindle her love with Tony with Charles’ help. And Mary is just happy being Mary.

Sadly there is no dish which gets on-air mention in this week’s episode (unless you count ice cream, but it is not really the season for it), but we do see Daisy putting the finishing touches on a Victoria Sandwich.  If you notice this season (see below) it is the favorite tea cake of choice at Downton, a regular cast member often sitting demurely on camera. So for the love of a good cake…

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Cocktails at Downton? Perhaps the End is Near

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Cocktailparties It is finally February and a busy TV Sunday as many households as Downton Abbey competed once again with Super Bowl. While we could never hope to outshine football, in 2014 PBS reported that for the third year in a row, Downton Abbey “was the #2 rated 9pm show to the Super Bowl with a 4.9 overnight rating (Nielsen Overnight Metered Markets).” Sounds like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day (which is also today), repeating itself.The social media buzz this week concerns Julian Fellows’ new NBC project Guilded Age, taking place in New York in the 1880s. Julian can’t write both shows equally well (his Titanic mini-series bombed), so the birth of Guilded Age means the death of Downton. Perhaps it is time as the Dowager can’t live forever. I know in my heart that we will be able to love again.On the show this week Downton finally catches up with the times as the Crawley family hosted a cocktail party. To help you host your own party I provide some period food and drink suggestions, and this week’s recipe is Parmesan Straws, a wonderful recipe from Jessica Fellowe’s new book  A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes. Continue reading »

Downton Soup Kitchens Serve Borscht to Russian Refugees

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Downton wins NTA and SAG awards this week.

January is almost behind us but we have had plenty of distractions to keep our mind off the short days and long winter nights.  Not only did Downton Abbey won Best Drama at Britain’s National Television Awards last week, they picked up the Drama Ensemble Award at last night’s SAG awards.  Joanne Froggatt was so kind to specifically thank us viewers for our support.  You can view the “ensemble” acceptance speech below in the Downton Dish section.

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, Scots around the world celebrated poet Rabbie Burns this weekend (more below).

In tribute to the Russian refugees who Rose adopted and whom Violet has a connection with, this week’s dish is Beef Beet Borscht, a traditional Russian dish.  It is hearty healthy and inexpensive soup, perfect to feed your own army during the cold winter months.

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Care for Some Spotted Dick With Your Downton Abbey?

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Spotted Dick It’s Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year.  It is a British thing.  While Americans celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King on the third Monday of January, a 2005 promotional campaign for Sky Travel decided we needed to be reminded just how long and bleak winter can feel after the holidays are over, the credit card bills have come in and Spring is far off. It has been scientifically disproven as nonsense, but still lingers.  When I lived in Atlanta I was at ground zero for Martin Luther Day, but I should think we should all spend our time today focussing on how we can influence positive outcomes that Dr. King was so passionate about.

And to add more levity to your day, I suppose Julian Fellowes couldn’t hold out any longer. It was finally time to bring out the spotted dick, a classic English pudding served this week on S5E3.  Mrs. Patmore delivered the line so quickly there wasn’t much time for snickering.  Considering how this episode opens (with Mary in bed with Tony) a little sexual innuendo is not out of place.

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Downton Abbey Season 5: As Satisfying as a Good Pudding…or Golden Globe

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A well deserved win for Joanne Froggatt who plays Anna

It was a great night for American Downton Abbey fans. We had prepared ourselves to watch another great episode of Season 5, but were so thrilled to share in the joy of Joanne Froggatt’s win at the Golden Globes. She won for best supporting actress in a TV series. In her powerful acceptance speech she addressed her controversial storyline in Season 4.  “After this storyline aired I received a small number of letters from survivors of rape and one woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she’d written, but she just felt in some way she wanted to be heard,” she said. Her acceptance speech can be viewed here.

This week’s Downton Dish is pudding. In this week’s episode, the Downton kitchen prepared a Charlotte Russe for the Crawley family, so we will be making a Chocolate Charlotte Russe. A french dessert, it is my small act of solidarity with the French people in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week. On a lighter note, why not serve this dish to your Valentine this year.  Lord D loves anything chocolate.

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Celebrate Return of Downton Days With Classic Cherries Jubilee

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My favorite word of the Season: Donk

Downton Days are here again on PBS. A brand new year with a brand new glorious commercial free season of Downton, just the way we like it. I was particularly thrilled that the great chefs at PBS didn’t mess with the UK version or  feed us extra portions; in past years they would edit the shows and serve E1 and E2 together, which is ever so delicious, but makes the season so much shorter. Season 5 promises to be a great season, full of secrets and love in the most unexpected places. Lord D particularly enjoyed the  Manners of Downton Abbey special which followed Episode 1.

Over the past few weeks, many fans approached me for food pairing ideas to celebrate the launch of Season 5.  My Online Guide to Hosting a Downton Abbey Party has plenty of ideas. When pressed for a specific dish for this episode, I suggested a flambé (but not disclosing Edith’s bedroom fire), since any time you set fire to food, it is a special occasion.  I chose Cherries Jubilee for its simplicity, grand effect, and the connection of its creator, Auguste Escoffier, to Downton Abbey.

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