Another Downton Day in America. This week’s episode S3E3 (E1 & E2 were shown on Masterpiece last week) of Downton Abbey led us on an emotional roller coaster. First it was happy days for fans as Edith’s wedding was sure to be more fun than Mary’s and perhaps we would actually see a wedding reception this time around. Meanwhile, Downton was in ruin and the Crawleys were sent off searching for a new home. In the end, the tables are turned: wedding goes down in flames, while Daisy saves the day by remembering that Lavinia had given her a letter to post explaining to her father that Matthew belonged to Mary and not her. I am still not quite sure how or why one would write a letter like that, or how Reggie managed to have amassed a fortune while Lavinia went under cover for Sir Richard to clear a huge debt that he held over her father. Regardless, Matthew can now claim the fortune to help save the day.
We didn’t see much of Mary’s wedding but Edith’s seem to be more familiar and modern by our standards even if she only had a month to prepare. For me, the best part of the episode is when our favorite Downton servants are treated to an extravagant meal of Edwardian classics, many of which were dishes served in 1st Class on Titanic. I cooked through that ambitious menu (menu and recipe links here) in honor of the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking so recognized the salad and duck instantly. I am sure that these menu choices were reflective of Julian Fellowes keen interest in Titanic, but perhaps was also meant to foreshadow the catastrophe at the altar.
Shame to let such great food go to waste, as the Dowager quipped “if the poor don’t want it you can bring it over to me.” Some was sent to the poor and appetizers were served in the servants hall. Still, it would have been a new experience for servants. The kitchen and serving staff would recognize these dishes, having prepared them for their employers. However, their normal diet consisted of heartier meals, which we now associate with “pub food”. Alfred thought them to be “pickelty bits” and was more interested in having some cheese. Out of the mouths of babes.
Here are links to the dishes mentioned: scroll down to the bottom of the page to get the recipe.
- Oysters a la Russe (Titanic)
- Calvados Glazed Duck (Titanic)
- Asparagus Salad with Saffron Vinaigrette (Titanic)
- Lobster Rissoles with Mousseline Sauce (sauce with salmon served on Titanic)
- Truffled Eggs on Toast
Lobster Rissoles with Mousseline sauce
As you might expect in a recipe served at Downton, the dish is French and it is traditionally wrapped up in a pastry like a turnover and then deep fried. “Rissole” comes from the Latin russeola, “reddish paste,” a reference to the appearance of the filling. A relative of croquettes, in other parts of the world they aren’t wrapped in pastry. Insteasd they are coated in breadcrumbs. A crab cake would be considered a rissole.
You can simply mix chopped lobster with a bit of onion and few spices and call it a day, but try this vintage recipe which incorporates the healthy components of dates and figs to up your game. These are baked not deep fried. The egg wash does a great job of sealing in the pastry so that it flakes in your mouth not in your hands (or carpet).
Makes 10 – 15 appetizers depending on the size you make them
- 1 1/2 cups lobster meat, cooked and finely chopped (you can also use crab)
- 1/2 cup dates, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dried figs, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup green onion*, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. marjoram (or oregano), ground
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 recipe of my Pie Pastry, chilled, or 2 sheets of butter puff pastry
- 1 egg, slightly beaten for an egg wash
- Mousseline Sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Mix together the first 7 ingredients in a medium sized bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Roll out dough. The pie pastry is a bit flaky so don’t roll too thin, but since puff pastry puffs make sure you do roll out quite thin. Decide if you want bite-sized rissoles (try a 2″ biscuit cutter, but stretch the dough a bit since it can be too tiny) but you will likely be happy using a standard 3″ biscuit cutter which will make a nice appetizer size with lots of filling. An empty tuna can works in a pinch as a cutter (Abbey Cooks improvise).
- Use a teaspoon to spoon some filling in the centre of the circle. Brush a little water along the edges to help the seal. Fold over and pinch to seal.
- Use a pastry brush and give a healthy wash of egg to help brown and seal the pastry.
- Place the rissoles on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15- 20 minutes depending on the size. Since the ingredients are already cooked you really only need to ensure the pastry has browned up, both on the top and bottom.
- Serve warm or cold, with the mousseline sauce (lemon flavored cream sauce) as a dip.
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