Shocking photos and videos circulating in mainstream and online media of the January 13th grounding of the “unsinkable” Costa Concordia. More than 4,000 people were on board when the ship hit rocks off the shores of the island of Giglio, Italy. Given the size of this passenger ship, we can’t help but think back to the sinking of the Titantic.
Downton Abbey fans recall the series opening shot of the tapping telegraph which carried news of the Titantic which directly impacted the Crawley family. The unsinkable ship had sunk. As Lord Grantham observed: “Every mountain is unclimbable until someone climbs it, so the ship is unsinkable until it sinks.” It also would appear that every fortune is safe until it is not. Unbeknowst to the family, Robert’s cousin James Crawley and his son Patrick were passengers on that ship. The unthinkable happened: two heirs were lost at sea. That the news would be relayed to them so quickly (well as quickly as a telegrams and a bicycle) by the family solicitors would make my father (the lawyer) proud.
If you are a cynic you will roll your eyes at the convenient timing of events, but the rest of us love the story line. We are given a definitive point in history which we can comprehend, and are off on an excellent adventure with the Grantham family.
The new Titanic series
There is another connection between Downton Abbey and the Titanic. It is more widely known in the UK that the creators of Downton Abbey will be launching a new 4 part mini-series about Titanic called Titanic 2012 in the Spring. This will conveniently tie in with the 100th anniversary of the sinking on April 14, 2012. Isn’t promotion a wonderful thing?
3/22 Update: The Titanic mini-series launched in Canada on March 21st. It will run weekly until the finale on April 14th. In the UK the series will air on ITV starting March 25 at 9 PM, and in the US it will run on ABC on April 14 (Episodes 1-3) and April 15th. After one episode, I found the series lacking something, but it got better with age: my review.
Hosting your own Titanic tribute
Now that you are aware that the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is near, there will be a flurry of events paying tribute with dinner menus featuring the last meal. Call it a party but should be viewed more like a tribute since lives were lost just hours after the last meal. If you plan to have one it might be a good idea to start testing recipes now.
A Guide to Titanic Recipes: I have worked through the printed menus which survived the tragedy and there is something to inspire all cooks from first, second and steerage menus. Check the “Titanic Menu” tab at the top of this page to navigate to other posts on this subject. I have also built links between posts.
Follow this link to find all the Titanic recipes. Some of the recipes come from this great cookbook Last Dinner on the Titanic. To order your own copy, click the applicable US, Canada and UK link. Here is what you might expect at a dining experience out, the chef inspired by this book.
Generally, everyone ate exceptionally well on Titanic, regardless of class:
- First Class: there was a private party in first class on that fatal night, but the others in first class enjoyed a grand 10 course meal.
- Second Class passengers ate a less elaborate but beautifully served dinner.
- In steerage, third-class passengers ate simply prepared, but hearty meals served in their own saloon.
I actually attended a steerage event years ago whch was hosted by a local eatery/night club in an historial building. I recall that the food served in steering was pretty good. I do remember the ladies room was directly beneath the dance floor and the shaking and creaking of the floor boards made the the image of being on the Titanic all the more real. It reminded me of the below deck dance scenes from the famous movie. If you lost your own copy (I have no idea who my husband loaned our copy to), you might want to pick up a new copy of Titanic (Widescreen) and skip all the cooking!
The first class menu is pretty ambitious, but cooking is about fun, so let’s start with dessert! Waldorf pudding and Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly which was served as part of the tenth course. Eclairs were also served with French ice cream. You can find those recipes here.
Waldorf Pudding is not like the salad. British love their custard and essentially this a simple custard with apples. Daisy could do this in her sleep!
Apparently the actual recipe for this dessert went down with the ship (understandable under the circumstances), but there are a few versions that attest to being close to the original. My version is based on the recipe found in the Last Dinner on the Titanic. I do think that portions in first class, particularily after nine courses, would likely be individual portions, making it more elegant and easier for the wait staff to serve.
Makes 6 servings
2 large tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
pinch finely ground nutmeg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, halved
Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C, Gas Mark 3)
Stir together apples, raisins, lemon juice, and ginger.
In skillet, melt butter over high heat; add apple mixture and cook for a few minutes
Stir in 2 Tbsp. of the sugar. Cook for a few minutes until the apples are carmelized.
Divide apples amongst 6 1 cup ramekins which have been oiled.
- Place milk in a medium saucepan set over medium heat and heat milk until it bubbles. Take some hot milk and add to the eggs, mix and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking constantly until thoroughly blended, add the remaining sugar and keep mixing over heat until the mixture starts to thicken a bit. It should look like a sauce. Add the nutmeg, vanilla, and mix well. Pour over apple mixture.
- Set the ramekins inside large roasting pan and Prepare a bain-marie (water bath) by pour enough boling water in roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. This will gently cook the custard.
- Place in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until custard is set but still jiggly. Carefully remove baking dish to cooling rack
Run a knife around the edges and invert on a serving plate.
Sprinkle with walnuts.
Cool to room temperature before serving and enjoying what hopefully won’t be your last meal.
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Mrs. Beeton, the original domestic goddess popularized jelly desserts in her best selling book Mrs. Beetons Book of Household Management. Yes, she is the one to blame, but still, when in moderation and fortified with alcohol, jellied desserts are light and refreshing.Chartreuse is an after dinner liqueur which dates back to the 17th century, a creation by 3 monks who each had one part, but not the entire recipe. It is available in green and yellow. While the green provides a nice color contrast to the peaches, it has more of a vegetable or herbal flavour, the yellow more honey. It is one of the handful of liquors that continues to age and improve in the bottle.
makes 6 servings
- 3 large clingstone peaches
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- Fresh lemon balm leaves or edible flowers
For the Jelly
- 5 tsp powdered flavourless gelatin
- 2 cups water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup Chartreuse
For the Jelly
- Dissolve the gelatin in 1 cup of water.
- In a small pot, bring the remaining cup to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until it is entirely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Add the Chartreuse and the gelatin and stir to combine.
- Pour into a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish lined with waxed paper; refrigerate until completely set.
For the Peaches
- Immerse the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds; then immediately transfer them to cold water. Slip off the skins, and cut them in half and remove stones.
- In a large pot, combine the water and sugar; cook over medium heat stirring gently until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute or until syrup is clear.
- Add lemon juice, cinnamon stick and cloves.
- Add the prepared peaches making sure they are entirely immersed; cut a piece of parchment slightly smaller than the pot and place over the top of the peaches to make sure the remain submerged, or use a plate or a smaller lid and place in the pot.
- Bring the syrup to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low and poach the peaches gently for 6 minutes or until soft (they should be easy to cut into with a spoon). Allow the peaches to cool in the syrup. This may be stored for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- To serve, turn out the jelly onto a cutting board and carefully remove wax paper, and roughly chop 2/3rds of jelly with knife or edge of large spoon. Divide broken jelly amongst 6 dessert plates. using a knife or cookie cutter, cut remaining third of jelly into decorative shapes. Use a spatula to arrange shapes around the outer edge of each bed of jelly.
- Slice peaches from one end to almost the other, and fan it out onto a bed of jelly. Garnish with edible flowers or lemon balm leaves.
Meanwhile in 2nd class, diners enjoyed plum pudding wine jelly, American ice cream and “cocoanut” sandwiches. This dish was a challenge to research. I have found a couple of Indian recipes in newspaper archives of the time which are literally sandwiches filled with coconut…yuck! Indian influences were seen on the 2nd class menu (Curried Chicken and Rice), but let’s just stick to a standard butter cookie sandwich.
makes 14 sandwiches
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 tbsp. shortening
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 3/4 cup icing sugar
- 1 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
- Dash pure vanilla extract
- Using electric mixer, beat butter until light; add sugar and continue beating at medium-high for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla and egg, beating until well combined. On low speed, mix in flour, coconut, and nutmeg just until well blended.
- Shape dough into ball, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or until chilled through.
- On lightly floured surface, roll out dough, one-quarter at a time, to 1/8 inch thickness. Using floured 2-inch round fluted cutter, cut out rounds.
- Using floured palate knife or metal spatula, place on greased baking sheet.
- Lightly brush each cookie with beaten egg white.
- Bake in 350 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown on bottoms.
- Remove to rack; cool completely.
- Meanwhile, cream together shortening and butter, adding icing sugar gradually until mixture is creamy. Stir in coconut and vanilla.
- Spread equal amounts of filling evenly over half the wafers and top with remaining wafers to make sandwiches.
- Store in tightly covered container for up to 1 week.
See, that really wasn’t that hard? Mrs. Patmore would be proud of your efforts in the kitchen!