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Take your tea outside

Take your tea outside at the 5 Star Old Government House in Guernsey

Downton Downtime allows us all plenty of time to catch up on summer fun as we patiently wait for Season 4. You may even discover that some activities were also enjoyed by the Crawley family not so long ago. I have written about Crawley-worthy leisurely activities, many of which have been incorporated into the Downton scripts. Since I have a fondness for fishing I was quite excited that the S3 holiday episode featured Matthew and Michael Gregson trying their hand at fly fishing. My father, brothers and I just made our annual pilgrimage to the hallowed fishing grounds of Dundas Island, north of Prince Rupert in British Columbia, just south of Alaska. There is a Downton connection to Prince Rupert. Charles Hays, the founder of Prince Rupert, lost his life on Titanic, and was the brains behind the Grand Trunk Railway, the stock that Lord Grantham invested all of the estate’s money in.

As you may know, Tea Tuesday is a weekly tradition I started, dishing about Downton Abbey, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe. Refer to my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea, helpful in understanding traditions and recipes to help you host your own tea party with family and friends. During Downton Downtime I only post once a week so not all the dishes here will be served at tea, but we can still share Downton gossip over a nice cuppa.

Today’s savoury dish is a walnut crusted baked halibut. Fish is much less work to cook than it is to catch, but there really isn’t anything more satisfying than serving up a meal that what you caught yourself.

Downton Dish

life on the open water

life on the open water

Now that summer has arrived there is much to do to keep you distracted to keep your Downton cravings at bay. If you haven’t seen all seasons (1-3) beware of spoilers below.

Fishing Like A Crawley

Happy fishermen with their bottom catch

Dad, my brothers and I enjoyed another good day of bottom fishing with Hot Spot Charters captain Darryl (far left).

My father loves to fish; my brothers and I inherited the fishing gene from him. He can fish for trout a few hours from where he lives, and I fish for small mouth bass where I live, but we all love to fish in the ocean for big chinook salmon. For over 10 years we have migrated to Dundas Island along with the salmon for a test of skill and wills to catch the elusive Tyee (30+ lb. chinook salmon). If you catch one you get a pin which comes with a salty speech.  I have caught only one, my Dad quite a few.

You feel like you are in the middle of an Discovery Channel show, and in fact wildlife filmmaker Andrew Manske has shot film on the Island. I marvel that eagles are as common as seagulls, WhaletailRT seals are casually hanging out on the rocks. We often encountered porpoises, killer and humpback whales in our travels. Whale watching is included in the trip.

yummiest catch

crab, the yummiest catch

You feel like an aristocrat when you have a guide, much like the Crawleys on their Scottish holiday.

Picking a great charter operator is the difference between an OK trip and a trip of a lifetime. We are roughing it out on a fishing boat for three days, but the charter captain knows all the hot spots, teaches you the basics, baits your hooks, cleans your fish, and tells tall fish tales in colourful language make the trip interesting. The best part is when you catch fish in front of the other charter boats…that is when you know you have a great guide. I particulary enjoy the midnight crab feast upon arrival at the fish camp. Crabbing isn’t quite like what you see on the Deadliest Catch, the crab pots tiny in comparison, the water calm and you steam and eat the crab right on the spot.

Lady Katie & I with a care package from home

Lady Katie & I with crab care package.

Like the blurring of lines between upstairs and downstairs at Downton, we have become friends with the Hot Spot Charter family. I was given the name “Princess” which I suppose had something to do with my pink gear.
I even brought home their daughter Katie as my “house maid”, giving her room and board for a year when she was studying at UBC and I lived in Vancouver. My house never looked so clean, my cat never so loved, and the occasional care package of crab from Katie’s family quite the bonus for keeping an eye out for the young lass, who is as sweet as Downton’s Anna, in the big city. I have just this week replaced the comfy moccasins her mom gave me years ago.

Hot Spot Charters operates out of Prince Rupert, BC

Hot Spot Charters operates out of Prince Rupert, BC

If salmon and halibut fishing is on your Crawley bucket list, drop me a line and I can put you in touch with the Roberston family in Prince Rupert.  Alternatively, if your eyes are really sharp you can pick out the phone numbers on the side of the boat.

Abbey Cooks Entertain: Inspiration for Your Fundraiser

Click here to buy

With 220 Downton era recipes, you will want to get this book for recipes for the famous Downton dishes from Season 1-3. I also presented whole chapters on Garden Parties and Afternoon Tea.

This 432 page ebook sells for only $7.95. Book sales help offset my costs in food, equipment and time to keep bringing you new dishes each week. 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.

Looking for an Idea for a Fundraiser Event? many local museums and churches are drawing upon the popularity of Downton Abbey by hosting an afternoon tea or garden party as a successful fundraisers. While I am in my home town I am actually helping my home church organize an afternoon tea to celebrate their 100th anniversary.

Ask me for a complimentary copy of my book to for great recipe ideas to help ensure your event is a success. I only ask that you provide me with pictures and a description to share here to inspire others.

Walnut Crusted Baked Halibut

a tasty and heathier alternative to fish and chips

a tasty and heathier alternative to fish and chips


Halibut is a bottom feeding fish and if you wondered why it is a pricey fish, you should try fishing for them since you are reeling them up from a minimum depth of 250 feet. Most fisherman would agree that salmon is much more fun to catch, but halibut is certainly more tasty.

Halibut is certainly a popular choice for fish and chips, but baking the fish in a nice crust is much healthier, and I think more tasty. We catch a lot of halibut most years so I tend to just coat it with whatever ingredients I have on hand, with a formula of nuts, breading ingredients and herbs that I snip from my herb garden. I have shared my hazelnut crust recipe last year. I also make a lovely scented lavender crust. Lord D’s current favorite is this walnut crusted version with panko. Panko, also known as Japanese bread crumbs, is really nothing more than shredded dried white bread without the crust. Save time and money and make it yourself (see below).


  • vegetable oil or cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs (see make your own below).
  • 4 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp, fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 4 halibut fillets (6-8 ounce portions, about 1 inch thick)
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Prepare a rectangle baking dish or sheet by oiling with a paper towel or using cooking spray.
  3. Mix walnuts, panko, and all herbs in a shallow dish. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the mixture.
  4. Brush each fish fillet with 1 tablespoon melted butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Lay each fillet into the coating mixture and press down gently. Gently spread the coating on the top of the fish and pressing so it adheres to the fish. Carefully transfer to the baking sheet.
  6. Fish cooks quickly and will take about 8 minutes to bake. The fish is done when you can flake it with a fork. Some people like a crispier crust and you can put under your broiler another minute.
  7. To keep this dish simple and lean, simply serve with lemon wedges. If you like a sauce, try my blackberry or raspberry sauces.

Make your own Panko Crumbs

  1. Cut the crusts off day old white (french bread)
  2. Use a coarse grater to make small coarse crumbs. Mrs. Patmore didn’t have a food processor, but that works too. If you have time, just let the crumbs air dry and then store, otherwise dry them in your oven.
  3. Preheat your oven to 300F.
  4. Spread the crumbs evenly on a baking sheet. The goal is to dry, not toast the crumbs.
  5. Bake for 4 minutes, shake and then bake for another 4 minutes.
  6. Let the crumbs cool completely and then store in an air tight container.