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It is the last day of 2013.  North Americans revel in Christmas celebrations and for us New Years is more of an after thought, one last party before getting back to business.  In Scotland however, Christmas is a low key celebration with a build up to New Years, called Hogmanay, the biggest party of the year.  This year’s Edinburgh celebration will attract 1 billion viewers, just as many as Americans who will watch the ball drop in Times Square. Chalk one up for Cousin Shrimpie.

Our final dish of the year is Lovely Little Mince Pies, a traditional dish served at Hogmanay a recipe from my book, Abbey Cooks Entertain.  Next week we will be diving into S4E1 as we move from darkness into light with the Crawleys.

About Hogmanay

Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle as Hogmanay celebrations get underway. Picture: Julie Howden

Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle as Hogmanay celebrations get underway. Picture: Julie Howden

In the late 1500s, the Scottish Reformation abolished Christmas, which lasted for 400 hundred years. Most Scots had to work on Christmas Day until the 1960s. In the early 1600s, they changed the date of New Year’s from March 25 to January 1, and began celebrating Hogmanay. Christmas is still celebrated with family as a low key affair, but then the Scots pull out all the stops for a two day holiday.

Throughout Scotland Hogmanay is filled with all kinds of festivals, parties, bonfires and, more recently, fireworks. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival lasts for days and includes one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world. This year Edinburgh will be seen by 1 billion people around Scotland.  

Some of the Scottish traditions have become part of our own New Year’s Eve celebrations. We sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight and make New Year’s resolutions, both invented by the Scots.   Some traditional toasts:

enjoy a cup of Auld Man's Milk with my Downton Abbey cookies

recipe for Auld Man’s Milk

  • Lang may yer lum reek (long may your chimney smoke) wishing wealth to keep enough coal burning in your fireplace to keep warm, and the home fires burning.
  • A guid New Year to ane an’ a’ and mony may ye see, a wish for a good New Year to one and all.

The Great Fruitcake Debate Continues

If you missed it, last week CBC Radio featured a fun story on the Great Fruitcake Debate.  I spoke about the history of the great cake, and how commercial production has led to the loss of quality in the product.  I did enjoy one listener who wrote in to say who wants to buy a fruitcake from Sears?  I wondered about  the price of fruitcake vs. the cost of a new yoga block.

Thank you to all of you who wrote in with your comments about your family traditions which included cake.  I was particularly touched by Carol a reader who wrote at length about her family connection with fruitcake. So Carol received a free download of my book.

The CBC put me in touch with David D., a listener in Manitoba who has a fruitcake receipt (they were called receipts, not recipes back in those days) dating back to the 1600s. They put me in touch and I shall take on his challenge to try it out.

Downton Dish

S4Ediblefood It was a very Merry Christmas for UK Downton fans as the 2 hour finale was broadcast.  Lord D was spellbound by the number of sub plots. I will keep mum and say that as always the Tesco commercials on ITV did not disappoint. Everything sold with an accent is so much more appealing.

If you are a fan of PBS, you will have been in heaven with the S3 marathon in anticipation of Season 4 which will finally be arriving on January 5th on PBS in the US and Canada.
Each week I share Downton news, but if you haven’t seen all seasons (1-4) beware of spoilers below:

Upcoming Events

Jan. 4/5: PBS S4 Launch Party Inspired by Downton in Burlington, VT

downtonHeader Vermont Public Television is hosting their second Downton inspired culinary weekend January 4th/5th. This event will launch Season 4 at the renowned culinary mecca, the Essex Resort, in Burlington Vermont. Look forward to this wonderful event of fabulous Downton food and festivity, and be among the first in the US to see Episode 1 in a theatre setting. Last year Lord D and I had so much fun dressing up for Day 1, that they chose to wear their finery on Day two. Tickets are now on sale for this great event in support of public television, the network which brings Downton to the US and Canada.

SoupFest 12 in Hamilton, Ontario: January 28, 2014

soupfest web header 2 Aside from chocolate, soup has to be my favorite dish so to be invited to be a judge at this year’s FirstOntario Credit Union Soupfest in Hamilton is a honour and a delight.  In past years the local chefs blew me away with their creations.  The local teashop produced a lovely Earl Grey soup, fit for the Dowager.

Soupfest is a community celebration where over 25 quality area restaurants compete for Best Soup, Most Creative Soup, Best Display and the Best Grow Local category.   

All proceeds will support Living Rock Ministries efforts in responding to you-at-risk.  Each week Living Rock prepares 900 meals, provides emergency food to 200 youth per week, offers prenatal and parenting, crisis and housing support in addition to employment training and work experience offered 5 days per week.  If you live in the Toronto area,  check out the event website and head on down.

Downton fans note:  Attendees will be eligible to download a free copy of my book, Abbey Cooks Entertains.

Abbey Cooks Entertain: Now Only $4.00*

With 220 traditional Downton era recipes with a modern twist, this is a great book to to give for fellow fans planning holiday treats and meals.  This 432 page ebook sells regularly 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.

*Order now using “DowntonHolidays” to get 50% discount until January 5th.

Lovely Little Mince Pies


from Abbey Cooks Entertain

The traditional dish for Hogmanay is Mince Pie.  These adorable mince pies are easily made in muffin tins from items you should have
on hand in your Abbey Larder: mincemeat and pastry.  You can also make 1 larger pie, splashing a bit of brandy on the mincemeat before adding the top crust, baking at 425F for 40-50 minutes.

Makes 12 pies



  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin.
  2. Roll out your pastry to V inch and cut 12 circles 4 inches round, and 12 circles which measure 2 inches.
  3. Press the larger circles into the muffin tins, ensuring that the pastry slightly extends beyond the lip of the tin. Fill each cup with mincemeat.
  4. Moisten the edges of the smaller discs and place on top of each little pie. Crimp the edges of the pastry to ensure a good seal, preventing the mincemeat from boiling out.
  5. Whisk the egg white with the caster sugar, and brush the pies with the mixture. Sprinkle granulated sugar on each pie and make a little air vent in each to let air escape.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes or until well browned on top, then reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for another 25 minutes, or until the golden brown.
  7. Let the pan cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, and while still warm carefully remove from each tin, running a knife around the edge to loosen if you need to. Let completely cool on a wire rack before storing. Lovely on their own or with a nice dollop of clotted cream or non fat Strained Yoghurt, mixed with a bit of honey.

Your Downton S4 Survival Guide

You bought these for others, now stock up on the staples for yourself.   Click on the icons to take you to Amazon to order in time for the holidays.

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