It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. The Dowager might very well have asked her American nemesis Martha Levinson “What is Thanksgiving?” The British do not celebrate a one day feast; instead there is month of Harvest Festival events.
The Canadian Thanksgiving holiday was officially proclaimed by Parliament in 1879 and draws upon three traditions: European harvest celebrations; the first North American Thanksgiving (1578) observed by Martin Frobisher in the Arctic Circle; and the Pilgrims’ 1621 first celebration in Massachusetts. In 1957, the date was set for Second Monday in October, and of course Americans know that US Thanksgiving is the held the 4th Thursday in November.
In light of the harvest which leads to the holiday season, this week features an easy turkey gravy, the pièce de résistance of the turkey dinner. “It’s all gravy” is an English idiom, one of many we will explore over the coming weeks to share at the dining table.
Here is the latest dish on Downton:
- There is an App for that! Downtonisms stores all your favorite sayings by character, which are also spoken. Get for your phone:
- Those new Kindle Downton commercials (video): judge for yourself. I would be thrilled to be an extra.
- Behind the Scenes (Audio). BBC Berkshire host explains how tea is done on the show.
- For the hardcore UK Fans: check out After Buzz episodes dishing Season 5: E1, E2, and E3.
- In London in December? Highclere Castle is hosting a Drinks Reception in aid of the Royal British Legion on Dec. 17, definately worth a side trip.
- Downton won’t be on forever. Julian Fellowes will leave us wanting more, but will next take on the American Guilded Age.
What’s Cooking Bracebridge: Oct. 3-5th
I had a fabulous time at What’s Cooking Bracebridge, an event which attracted some big names in the Canadian cookbook world: Rose Reisman, Anna Olson, Stefano Faita, Janet Podleski were all in attendance. Lord D and I had a wonderful time exploring this lovely little community, showcased by the changing leaves. While we weren’t able to take part in all the events, we were entertained by Stefano’s fresh pasta demonstration at the Saturday night Italian gala.
I hosted Afternoon Tea and talk on Sunday at Inn at the Falls, a lovely century old inn, overlooking the Muskoka River. The room was overflowing with locals who invited friends from Toronto, many of them history buffs, but all who loved tea and great scones. I am flattered that I inspired the Inn to decide to host their own afternoon tea on a regular basis. My work here is done.
Many thanks to the event sponsors, organizers, volunteers for the invitation, and for the hospitality of the inn keeper and chef at the Inn.
Have Yourself A Very Downton Christmas: Dec. 11-16
There are a number of tours to Highclere Castle, and I have been approached by a number of companies offering tours. This one caught my imagination, particularly since Highclere is now closed to the public for the season.
Friendly Planet Travel has a put together a lovely tour package around the holidays: a Gala Christmas Ball at Highclere Castle plus 4 nights in London and Paris optional day excursion. From their brochure: “London positively comes alive at Christmas time. Beautiful lights, decorations galore, music everywhere and plenty of opportunities for downing pints in pubs throughout the city await the lucky visitor. Even more exciting, a highlight of holiday celebration awaits you at the exclusive Downton Abbey annual Christmas Ball. Officially known as Highclere Castle, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon will open their home, one of England’s most beautiful Victorian castles, welcoming you to enjoy a classic British Christmas evening in the setting of the hit PBS television series. You’ll dress in elegant attire for this special evening and enjoy a lavish 3-course dinner complete with Christmas Carols sung by a celebrated local choir.”
For more information about this trip with an optional excursion to Paris, visit Friendly Planet Travel’s website.
Abbey Cooks Entertain: 220 Recipes for $14.95
Time to start planning your Downton Viewing parties. With 220 traditional Downton era recipes with a modern twist, this is a great book to create some simple or complex dishes for your Mary or Anna. This 432 page ebook sells for $14.95. 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 to your loved ones.
UPDATE: I actually printed out a hard copy of my book for the event last weekend to discover just how large it actually is. No longer undervalued the current price is now $14.95. For those lamenting for a printed copy, they should be available through Amazon’s print on demand in time for Christmas with the famous Downton recipes from Seasons 1-5.
Fun with Food Idioms
Lord D has recently developed a fascination with the origins of common phrases which put me to mind of those English phrases which focus on food, including “it’s all gravy.” Enjoy these few:
As keen as mustard: mustard was an essential ingredient to roast beef, a favorite meal for centuries. It was also used as a cure for colds. So keen as mustard is a really good thing. The phrase dates back to 1672, much before Keen’s Mustard was formed in 1742.
Baker’s Dozen: Medieval English bakers sold their goods by weight not quantity, so they made an extra loaf to avoid being penalized for selling short weight.
It’s all gravy: This phrase originated from an Old English saying. Life, it explained, is meat and potatoes, and the luxuries are gravy. So essentially when you say “it’s all gravy,” you’re saying “it” is all the awesome, saucy goodness in the world. And that’s what gravy is all about!
Turkey Giblet Broth
A thrifty Abbey Cook makes use of all parts of the turkey. This broth is the foundation for the classic Turkey Pan Gravy.
Makes 2–3 cups
- Turkey neck, gizzard, tail, and heart
- 1 tbsp. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- Kosher salt
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- large sprigs of fresh thyme and flat-leaf parsley
- Roughly chop the turkey neck into large pieces, cut the gizzard in half. Heat oil on a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the turkey parts, along with onion and salt. Cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add 4 cups cold water along with the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the broth is flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Strain the broth and use in the pan gravy.
Turkey Pan Gravy
Makes approximately 2 ½ cups
- 3 cups Turkey Giblet Broth or Chicken Stock
- Turkey pan juices
- 6 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. of fresh thyme sprigs, removed from the stem
- After you have removed your turkey from the roasting pan, pour the drippings into a large measuring cup or a gravy separator which separates the fat from the juices. You will only need 3 tablespoons of fat which you will put back in the roasting pan.
- Discard the remaining fat, and add the remaining juices with the giblet broth. If necessary, add chicken stock until you have a total of 4 cups of liquid.
- Place the roasting pan on a medium heat on the stove, sprinkle the flour into the pan, whisking into the fat to make a roux.
- Slowly pour ½ cup of the broth mixture into the pan quickly whisking to incorporate it evenly with the roux, slowly continue to add the broth until the gravy starts looking more like a smooth sauce. Whisk in the remaining broth and let the gravy simmer.
- Add the thyme sprigs and simmer for about 5 minutes, dipping a small piece of bread to check for seasoning, adding salt and freshly ground pepper.
- You should have avoided any lumps, but you can strain the gravy through a medium mesh and no one will be the wiser.