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Hot Cross Buns are Still a Good Friday Tradition

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MakeTime for Easter Tea

MakeTime for Easter Tea

This coming week Christians around the world are celebrating Easter.  A moveable feast, Easter occurs the First Sunday after the Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is late this year, just like Spring.

Marking the end of Lent, Holy Week leads to Good Friday which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross.  On Easter Sunday we celebrate His resurrection.  Easter is also linked to the Jewish Passover by symbolism and where it falls on the calendar.  Easter customs vary across the Christian world, but decorating Easter eggs is a common motif.

In the Western world, Easter takes on secular customs, such as egg hunts and the Easter Bunny.  The English tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter would have been gleefully followed by the women of Downton Abbey, although I am not so sure about the Dowager.  The Easter Bonnet, made famous by Judy Garland in Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade is the part of this tradition, which was to keep in harmony with the renewal of the year and the promise of spiritual renewal and redemption.  Any excuse to shop.

This week’s treat is a special one as I finally share one of  my most precious recipes:  my Granny’s sweet bun recipe which makes lovely light hot cross buns.

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Potato Farls, a Great Post St. Patrick’s Day Dish

St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland

St. Patrick brought   Christianity to Ireland

Yesterday, March 17, was Saint Patrick’s Day (aka St. Patrick’s Day, St. Paddy’s Day, St. Patty’s Day), a cultural and religious holiday which celebrates the life of Saint Patrick, who died on that date way back in the fifth century.  Patrick has endured as the most commonly recognized patron saint of Ireland, credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century, and continues to have religious significance.  It has also gradually become a secular celebration of Irish culture, where people line up for hours for the privilege of cramming into a pub to drink green beer or Guinness.  I still ensure that I wear lots of green on St. Patrick’s day since I never recovered from the childhood trauma of vicious classmates pinching  those who did not wear green that day.  They weren’t even Irish.

The big day now past and the green food coloring put away for the season.  Traditionalists would have made UK favorites such as my recipes for Irish Stew, colcannon, mince & tatties, and barnbrack for tea. Left over potatoes are made over into today’s dish, potato farls.  Quick and easy breakfast dish, comforting carbs to help your system deal with the morning after.

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Bringing Downton Costumes to Toronto was a Peachy Idea

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NellieMelbaThe closer we get to Spring on the calendar, the farther away it seems in some parts of the country.  It is my dad’s birthday today, (see my past tribute) and in his part of the country kids are walking outside in their shorts, while in Toronto we are weathering yet another winter storm.  Such is life in Canada’s largest city.  On the plus side, Downton Abbey fans are happy to have a bit of Downton here for a visit.

Since I only publish one dish a week, today’s dish is a catch up recipe from Season 4.  Peach Melba is a classic and simple dessert made of poached peaches, raspberry puree, and served on vanilla ice cream.  On the other end of the scale, Melba toast is also named in her honor.  Dieters are familiar with the thin baked toast, created for the opera singer to help when she gained weight later in her career.

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Carry on Birthday Traditions Despite Downton Downtime

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Mrs. Patmore Birthday card on Etsy

While the cold weather is not helping to boost our collective spirits after the end of Downton’s Season 4, at least I have my birthday month celebrations to look forward to.  My birthday was yesterday but it has become a tradition for me to reach out to friends and colleagues I haven’t socialized with for some time to gather to collectively grumble about how long winter has lasted.  This year we really mean it.

In Season 3 The Dowager famously scolded Martha about the need to “understand the importance of tradition”.  Birthdays are a great time to enjoy traditions, like our favorite foods. Sadly, we never learned this season Robert’s favorite food which was served birthday, but mine is fish and seafood.  We have made a number of fish dishes here (many from fish I caught myself), but this week we travel to the Continent for Italian.  This week’s dish is Angel Hair Pasta with Lobster, a dish Lord D introduced to me.  The Granthams might have travelled to Italy for such birthday delights, but we can quickly and easily make this own dish in our kitchens for special occasions.

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Downton Season S4 Finale Deserves Crowning Roast of Lamb

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S4American4helloAlas another season of Downton Abbey has come to an end. The timing of the finale was the perfect ending of a great weekend for Canadians who beamed with national pride as we beat the Swedes for Gold in men’s hockey.  Like the Dowager we took some pleasure poking fun at the Americans.  Luckily, there always seems to be a Martha Levinson around to defend the American honor.

I don’t particularly mind that the season is over, because now I am free to go back prepare other dishes from Season 4 and explore other culinary delights that Downton inspires.  Let Downton Downtime begin!

In celebration of the finale, I chose Crown Roast of Lamb as this week’s dish.  We see Mrs. Patmore preparing this simple, but elegant dish.  It is fitting since the Crawley family finds themselves at Buckingham Palace.  It is simple and elegant, the perfect dish to have in your repertoire to serve on special occasions.

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Downton Abbey Promotes Swiss Tourism, Renewing our Love for Fondue

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S4SeriousProblems

With only one episode left in Season 4 of Downton Abbey, I am at once excited about the finale, but at the same time sad that when the season ends, many fans will turn to other shows with their bright shiny new episodes.  Never fear, I will continue to faithfully blog regularly with a new recipe from that wonderful period of time inhabited by our favorite characters who live in and around Downton Abbey.

This was a challenging week to find a dish on camera to write about.  Mrs. Patmore was too busy making sandwiches and beer for the villagers to give us a close up on an upstairs dish.  I do have a wonderful recipe for ginger beer, but we will save that for garden party season.  But, it was all the talk about Switzerland which had me dreaming about a nice pot of gooey swiss fondue to share with friends trying to keep warm this winter.

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Dating Downton With Ham and Eggs

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Who knew she could cook

Who knew she could cook?

Love is in the air this week as the clock counts down to Valentine’s Day.  This is the day when many men make an Olympic sport of timing a visit to floral shops just before closing.  Thankfully, like John Bates, my Lord D showers me with romantic gestures throughout the year so the roses have already been hand selected and delivered with a cake from the baker who prepared our wedding cake.

This week on Downton Abbey (S4E6 or E7 by ITV count) a few of Cupid’s arrows fly.  Ivy now sees Alfred in a new light, and Lady Mary attracts the attention of Charles Blake as she rolls up her sleeves to help water the dehydrated pigs.  As a horse woman, she would know her way around livestock, but cooking, that is a skill we haven’t seen before.  However does she make it look so glamourous?

Since we have already made creamy scrambled eggs, this week’s dish is eggs en cocotte,  in honor of Mary and Charles’ late night with the pigs and early morning in the kitchen.  This is a simple baked egg dish; this version is made with every man’s favorite food, bacon.

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Super Bowl vs. Downton Abbey: The Secret is in the Sauce

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Super Bowl angst

Downton placed 2nd after Super Bowl in ratings

This past weekend marked the annual battle for the remote between Super Bowl and Downton Abbey fans.  Downton confidently secured 2nd place in TV ratings, topping all other non-football shows.

Sadly for football fans, it appears that the curse of the one-sided bowl game appears to be back after a few years of great games. However as a Downton foodie fan, I also felt a little let down.  Downton had an amazing half time show with the introduction of a jazz band playing for Robert’s party (do they know what they know the other is playing?), but we never did learn what his favorite food was.
Today’s dish is Anchovy Sauce, a simple sauce Daisy was preparing for the fish soufflé early in the episode (S4E5), hoping that Alfred would take an interest

A New Fridge at Downton Would Keep Vichyssoise Conveniently Cold

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Vichysoisse

How would your soup stand up to the challenge?

Winter continues to have a firm grip on many parts of the country. How well do you cope with change  in the weather, or change in general?  At Downton, it is Mrs. Patmore who appears to have a particular challenge of embracing new technology. First a mixer and now a refrigerator will be coming to Downton this season.  Other than her corset, she clings to the comfort of  the familiar.

Change can be a bit daunting.  Lord D and I have recently brought home a new fridge.  It can be a bit of a learning curve and while the young (like Daisy and Ivy) jump in with both feet to explore their new world, the rest of us grumble as we try to figure out how to turn on the ice maker or why the fridge keeps chiming at us.  Lord D comforts himself by sitting in front of the Whirlpool to watch the pretty lights late at night.

Today’s dish is Vichyssoise, one of the four dishes Alfred is tested on at the Ritz. Not a hard dish to make, but a great test of basic cooking skills.

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Dream of Spring with Ivy’s Simple Asparagus Feuilletés

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Ivy goes solo (Carnival)

Ivy goes solo (Carnival)

Another dreary Winter’s day and Spring is still far on the horizon.  This is good weather to be snuggled up in front of the TV to catch another new episode of Season 4 of Downton on PBS and dream of brighter and warmer days ahead.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” (Charles Swindoll).  Many characters in S4E4 have tough choices to make and Anna is top of mind as she struggles to keep her attack a secret, afraid of how Mr. Bates will react.

There are happier plot lines this season, my favorite is Alfred’s journey to realize his dream of chef.  On that note, this week’s dish is Asparagus Feuilletés, a great first course or appetizer for beginners, which Ivy is trusted to make for the family.