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Enjoy award winning Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough in Knightsbridge

Welcome Downton Abbey fans. Across the UK, there is a faint smell of smoke in the air as people struggleto get the smell out of their hair and clothes from last night’s Bonfire Night.  It is a big day for Americans as they go to the polls today.  It is a surprisingly close race; the world will be watching for what will be sure be be a long night. Perhaps you might stock up with scones, tea and a celebratory dessert like today’s treat.   Regardless of your political views, the important thing is to get out and cast your vote.

Join me each Tuesday as I dish on Downton Abbey and other topical issues one might discuss at tea, served up with a recipe with history. You may find my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea helpful in understanding traditions and recipes to serve at your own tea party.

Today’s treat is Strawberry Charlotte Russe. I chose this dish for a couple of reasons.  First, the dish makes the occasional cameo appearance on Downton, and secondly, a little birdy tells me it is a featured dessert at the Vermont Public Television gala event (see below).

Anyone can be a Downton Abbey Cook

A heart felt thank you for sharing my passion for Downton Abbey, history and food. Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube. And keep sending me your pics of your Downton creations.

@Littlebeegees made her first scones

Parkin prepared by @Lincolntheatre2







VPT’s Experience Inspired by Downton Abbey: Jan. 5/6

The place to be to see S3

Vermont Public Television is hosting a Downton inspired culinary weekend January 5th/6th to launch Season 3 at the renowned Essex Resort. Lord D and I look forward to this wonderful event of fabulous Downton food and festivity, with a Saturday night screening of S3E1 on a large screen. Tickets are now on sale.

Corporate Sponsers:  If your corporation would like to help support this event through sponsorship contact Michael D Ellenbogen at michael@eonscreative.com, 802-768-8498.

 What’s in a Cover?

Cookbook mockup design to date

I have mentioned a few times that I have been working part time on a ecookbook, a collection of recipes to share with Downton Abbey fans.  It is a labour of love which I hope will inspire you  to become your own Downton Abbey Cook.  Your comments have inspired me to share the best foods of that era which we still eat today, making adjustments to make them healthier, but just as tasty.

The book will have lots of pictures of Downton era foods organized by specific types of Downton entertaining:  brunch, afternoon tea, garden parties, dinner parties, cocktails, holidays, and weddings.

So as I struggle to cull recipes for the book in time for a December release, the hardest part is settling on a cover photo. There seems to be 3 basic themes in this genre: food, table settings, the author with food and/or table setting.  Lord D’s background as publisher of a culinary magazine has been a great help.  I also need to thank Ardent Life Media, LA based designers who are graciously donating their services and their patience for the cover design.  The next time you pick up a cookbook you should marvel at the thought process that went not only into selecting the recipes, but what ended up on the cover.

Dishing Downton

Season Three has now ended, so the press are now focusing on the ratings, and looking forward to the Christmas episode.   I have been trying to behave by not give away too many spoilers, or passing along gossip, as Hugh Bonneville keeps reminding me you can’t  believe everything you read.

  • Downton hits big numbers.  Downton ended its official Season 3 run with a record average of 10.1M viewers and a 39.1% share. With an overall average of 9.7M viewers, the Season 3 has become the highest-rated for the period drama – S1 averaged 8.4M,  S2 had 9.5M.
  • Christmas Episode:  There will be a Christmas episode again this year, reportedly a 2 hour special.  While screened at Christmas, it apparently will not have a holiday theme.  It is rather challenging to get into the Christmas spirit when you watch a Christmas episode in July.
  • Season 4 on the Horizon?  I have seen a few articles talking about the probability of Season 4, perhaps running parallel to contract negotiations with the lead actors.  Dan Stevens, for example, is enjoying his Downton Downtime performing on Broadway.
  • Downton voted Best new Series:  According to a poll run by TV Service Freeview, UK viewers have named Downton the best series since 2002.

For the Love of Puddings

The Dowager has a taste for Charlotte Russe

The English love their puddings and lay claim to having invented them.  Certainly they are closely tied to English cuisine. Medieval puddings were still mostly meat-based. 17th century English puddings were either savory (meat-based) or sweet (flour, nuts & sugar) and were typically boiled in special pudding bags.  By the latter half 18th century traditional English puddings no longer included meat. 19th century puddings were still boiled but the finished product was more like cake, plum pudding, for example.

There are other types of dishes called puddings, but as they are egg based, are actually custards.  Either way, they are all delightful and we have made some of both here.

Today’s “pudding” is Charlotte Russe.  Credit for the Charlotte Russe is given to French Chef Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who named it in honor of his Russian employer, Czar Alexander I. The word “russe” means Russian in French. Charlotte is the Czar’s sister in law, Queen Charlotte, married to George III. Typically you name your Charlotte after the flavoring you include.

Individual Guiltless Strawberry Charlotte Russe

such a good pudding

such a good pudding

Charlotte Russe is a French chilled dessert made with ladyfingers, filled with a fruit flavored cream filling set by gelatin, a favorite cooking ingredient of the Edwardians. My version cuts some of the fat by substituting half the whipping cream with yoghurt.


  • Ladyfingers (purchased or use my recipe so you can customize  the size)
  • 2 cups strawberry purée          (4 cups mashed strawberries)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • 1½ cups whipping cream, whipped soft
  • 1½ cups nonfat plain yoghurt
  • 5 teaspoons gelatin powder
Makes 6 individual desserts


  1. Mix the gelatin powder with two tablespoons of sugar.
  2. Warm one cup of the strawberry purée with the remaining sugar. Mix the gelatin powder/sugar mixture into the warm strawberry purée. Mix the gelatin well to prevent any lumps from forming. Add in the remaining strawberry purée.
  3. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature. Fold in one-third of the whipped cream and then the remaining whipped cream and yoghurt.
  4. To add an extra bit of decadence you can lightly dip the rounded side of each ladyfinger in brandy and then coat with sugar. It will help soften the cookies.
  5. If you don’t have a charlotte molds, improvise with empty soup or sauce cans with both ends removed.  I halved the ladyfingers widthwise, but you can also half them length wise with a little patience to make smaller, more delicate charlottes.
  6. Stand the ladyfingers on end with the rounded side out, and carefully line the inside of the mold/can ensuring no gaps.  Make a base for the charlotte by breaking a few cookies and placing then on the bottom.
  7. Gently pour or spoon the filling into the mold. You could add some chopped fresh fruit in the centre and fill to the top of the ladyfingers. Refrigerate the charlotte for at least 3 or 4 hours.
  8. The mousse will have firmed up quite nicely,  move the charlotte to your serving
    Charlotte Russe

    tied with a bow  

    plate, and then gently remove the can or mold. For a larger charlotte the addition of a lovely ribbon tied in a bow is the crowning touch which helps keep the pudding together before serving.

  9. Garnish with fresh berries, a fruit coulis, (or thawed frozen berries) and a dollop of your favorite dairy product.  Keep it healthy and try non fat greek yoghurt sweetened with a touch of honey.