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Summer is The Time for Fools, A Downton Favorite


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Summer is almost here in the UK as Azeleas bloom at Highclere

It never ceases to amaze me how Spring weather transitions into Summer in a matter of days.  Granted we are annually tortured for about of month of hot then cold weather, making wardrobe decisions very challenging.  But then one day it arrives in your part of the world.  Sadly, this week my parents had snow in Calgary while we enjoyed 80+ heat, but their time will come soon. I hope so, the family fishing trip up to Alaska is coming up quick, followed by booth duty at the  Calgary Stampede’s Horse Haven.  Plus I am almost finished transitioning my wardrobe and focusing on my golf game.

When it’s hot outside the last thing we want to do is heat up our kitchens.  Time to simplify our cooking methods.  Desserts should be easy and refreshing and it is no wonder that we keep coming back to time honored traditions.  I have yet another rhubarb recipe to share this week, rhubarb fool, a traditional British favorite.

Enjoy your summer and I will pop in from time to time to update you with new recipes.  In the meantime, there are around 200 recipes in the Recipe Index to keep you company.

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Ease into Summer with Grilled Salmon & Boozy Rhubarb Sauce


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Time to kick back and relax

Even Mr. Bates takes time to kick back and relax

Now that the US, UK and Canada have enjoyed long weekends this month (and other countries in hot pursuit) we can all in the mood for taking it a little easier at work and enjoying life outdoors. Less time looking for missing files, more time searching for gardening tools.  Your accounting skills now are put to use calculating your golf index and how much food to buy per person for the camping trip. Organizational talents range from BBQ grill management to pulling together details for your neighborhood street party.  Forecasting is all about looking up at the clouds. And then there is freezer inventory.

Our annual family”Fishing Like A Crawley” fishing trip is a month away.  We still have salmon and a bit of ling cod left in our freezer from last year (thanks to vacuum packing) so we have been gifting to friends and colleagues what we can’t eat ourselves.  In keeping with my rhubarb series, today we are making Grilled Salmon with Sherry Rhubarb Sauce using rhubarb in a main course dish, in a wonderful boozy sherry sauce.

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Easing into Summer on Victoria Day with Healthy Rhubarb Crumble


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QueenVictoriaThis is the weekend that all Canadians look forward to: Victoria Day, celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria, our first sovereign queen.  May 24th marks her official birthday, but the holiday falls on the last Monday before May 25.  While still proud of our English heritage, this holiday takes on a special meaning marking the changing of the seasons.  The fear of frost has almost passed so many will be planting their gardens–which is what I will be doing–and city dwellers will be fighting horrific traffic to enjoy Canada’s beautiful lakes, mountains and forests.  Also known as the May Two-Four, the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a “two-four”), a drink popular during the long weekend.

It is time for us to turn to summer foods with fresh fruit and less time in the kitchen.   My rhubarb is growing like weeds with all the rain we are having in this area.  A healthier rhubarb crumble is just the meal to slide into a slower summer pace.

Downton Dish

our favorite Victorian

our favorite Victorian

We will have to get used to Downton Downtime.  We do know that Season 5 is coming eventually (Sept on ITV,  Jan on PBS), so we will see press about new casting, and perhaps a plot spoiler or two in the next 8 months.  However, the popularity of the show does provide us with crumbs to keep us going:

Abbey Cooks Entertain: Only $7.95

Just because S4 is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to share the love of this period of history in food with family and friends.

With 220 traditional Downton era recipes with a modern twist, this is a great book to create some simple or complex dishes for your Mary or Anna.   This 432 page ebook sells for $7.95. Book sales help offset my costs in food, equipment and time to keep bringing you new dishes each week.

While the book is available on Amazon, you can only get a signed copy here on my site.

If you don’t have an eReader I would suggest the PDF version which allows you to print recipes as you go, if you wish. Buy one for yourself, gift to another.  All you have to do is email the download link to your loved ones.

My Favorite Rhubarb Recipes


Rhubarb crop already this year

We continue our salute to rhubarb.  I have already enjoyed a stalk or two from the plants in my own garden and will keep producing all summer long.  These are some of my favorite rhubarb recipes we have shared so far and the meals to enjoy them.  It really is a versatile vegetable.

Healthier Rhubarb Crumble

rhubarb crumbleThis is a healthier version of crumble with much less sugar, and almost no butter contained in other versions. Most rhubarb crumbles will contain strawberries or other berries, but if you don’t have around and they aren’t quite ready on the fields, rhubarb is great on it’s own.

Serves 6 – 8



  • 8 cups fruit – all rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or mix of 1/2 rhubarb and half berries of your choice
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup granulated sugar (or sugar substitute like Stevia)
  • 2 tbsp. unbleached  all-purpose flour


  • 1 cup large rolled oats
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple juice (or more as required)


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Toss together the fruit, sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl. Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish.
  • Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, butter and oil in a bowl; work the ingredients together with a fork or your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the juice until the mixture is evenly moistened.
  • Distribute the topping mixture evenly over the fruit.
  • Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Serve with non fat strained plain yoghurt with a little honey drizzle, or frozen vanilla yoghurt.


Mother’s Day Tea is Always a Great Last Minute Idea


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A simple cream tea

A simple cream tea makes a great gift.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow in the US and Canada.  Are you ready?  My mom lives across the country so I have my card in the post, with  a gift card for her favorite local restaurant, and a promise to Skype tomorrow.

For those of you blessed to have your Mother living within driving distance, it can be a struggle to decide how to celebrate the day with her.  If you missed out on brunch reservations, might I suggest that you try a tea party.  Your heritage might be linked to the British Empire, but I think I am safe in saying that Moms generally appreciate any meal they don’t have to cook, particularly if sweets are involved.  If you have siblings with little girls, you can gather the whole troop together, and let the kids experience a fun version of tea.

Today we recap tea ideas and continue our series on rhubarb with rhubarb ginger jam, a lovely mix of flavours.

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Spring Means Rhubarb Season is Almost Upon us


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Rose up on her Irish slang

After a long cold winter, Spring has finally arrived, what great craic! Craic is an Irish word for fun and enjoyment, typically mixed in with alcohol and music, but still an expression of delight that we can shed our winter clothes and enjoy sun, and a new growing season.  I was particularly delighted to see my rhubarb plants already growing and I can’t wait to dig into a fresh stalk of tart delight.  Then again I have always preferred sour over sweet.

In any event, rhubarb is one of my favorite vegetables, not least of which is that is likely the easiest plant to take care of.  Edwardians simply adored rhubarb, and while I have already shared a few rhubarb recipes (see below) in the next few posts, we will explore more recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Today we start the day off right with healthy rhubarb oatmeal gems (muffins).

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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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