Downton S5 Christmas Special: Nothing Heals Like a Restorative Broth

Caroling by the Christmas tree (ITV)

What a marvelous end to Downton Season 5.  The Christmas Special was like a perfectly laid out buffet with something for everyone. There were love stories, great injustice, selfless acts, grouse hunting, secret plots, reunions, touching farewells and Christmas carols.

It was a wonderful season, over for us in North America, but yet to be discovered in other parts of the world. Do come back and visit here from time to time as I continue to share the love of food from Downton era. Together we can get through Downton downtime together. I will be regularly sharing new recipes here, but you will find me more active on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

I was particularly delighted that one of the sub plot lines this episode featured “the challenge of the wooden spoon”. Dowager mentions the words of a previous maid ‘every good lady’s maid should know how to make a restorative broth.” When Miss Denker suggested that those days had not gone, Sprat pressed her to produce her own chicken broth. Seems fitting then that this week’s recipe is chicken broth.

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The Downton Abbey Wedding Curse

Atticus & Rose marry
Atticus & Rose marry, but will it be happily ever after? (ITV)

It was a challenging two screen night again this week as Downton and The Academy Awards competed for our attention. No Downton cast members up for awards this week, but perhaps one day there will be a Downton movie of the like of Gosford Park. On a side note I was gratified that the only premier screening Lord D and I caught Toronto Film Festival this year was Still Alice. Julianne Moore was as striking as she was passionate about Alzheimer’s in her opening remarks at the Gala.

In this week’s episode the Crawleys spent most of their time in London. Not much “food name” dropping, although we do see Daisy finishing the wedding cake. A whirlwind of events (the parents of the Groom entertaining, how odd) during the week, Mrs. Patmore suggests she could whip up some soup for a buffet for guests staying at Downton House. So this week’s dish is Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil. A simple, yet elegant soup to serve to the most discerning guest on a moment’s notice.

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Downton Soup Kitchens Serve Borscht to Russian Refugees

Downton wins NTA and SAG awards this week.

January is almost behind us but we have had plenty of distractions to keep our mind off the short days and long winter nights.  Not only did Downton Abbey won Best Drama at Britain’s National Television Awards last week, they picked up the Drama Ensemble Award at last night’s SAG awards.  Joanne Froggatt was so kind to specifically thank us viewers for our support.  You can view the “ensemble” acceptance speech below in the Downton Dish section.

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, Scots around the world celebrated poet Rabbie Burns this weekend (more below).

In tribute to the Russian refugees who Rose adopted and whom Violet has a connection with, this week’s dish is Beef Beet Borscht, a traditional Russian dish.  It is hearty healthy and inexpensive soup, perfect to feed your own army during the cold winter months.

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A New Fridge at Downton Would Keep Vichyssoise Conveniently Cold

How would your soup stand up to the challenge?

Winter continues to have a firm grip on many parts of the country. How well do you cope with change  in the weather, or change in general?  At Downton, it is Mrs. Patmore who appears to have a particular challenge of embracing new technology. First a mixer and now a refrigerator will be coming to Downton this season.  Other than her corset, she clings to the comfort of  the familiar.

Change can be a bit daunting.  Lord D and I have recently brought home a new fridge.  It can be a bit of a learning curve and while the young (like Daisy and Ivy) jump in with both feet to explore their new world, the rest of us grumble as we try to figure out how to turn on the ice maker or why the fridge keeps chiming at us.  Lord D comforts himself by sitting in front of the Whirlpool to watch the pretty lights late at night.

Today’s dish is Vichyssoise, one of the four dishes Alfred is tested on at the Ritz. Not a hard dish to make, but a great test of basic cooking skills.

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The Great Fruitcake Debate

You can now Downtonize your Holiday Tree

Only one more sleep until Christmas and all through the land last minute preparations are being made for the big day at hand.  For UK fans this includes the annual Downton Abbey Christmas episode on ITV.  US fans may debate the reasons why PBS broadcasts new episodes months behind ITV, but in the spirit of the season why not focus on the long standing fruitcake debate.

CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) ran a fun story about the love/hate relationship with fruitcake today.  I did my best to stick up for our favorite holiday treat, but more about that below.  Today’s Downton Dish recipe which will come in handy in a few days. It is what I call the Remains of the Day Turkey Soup which is a great way to use up leftovers, or what I like to call “made overs”.  It is one of the recipes from my cookbook, Abbey Cooks Entertain. My holiday gift to you all.

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Watching Downton Abbey is as Satisfying as Carrot Ginger Soup

BB Bakery
A table full of treats at the BB Bakery County Hall

It is October.  Some of the trees in our neighborhood have already given into the inevitable and shed their leaves in one fell swoop, while others are beginning to change from green to red and gold.  While I grumble about winter, I do enjoy the glorious display of trees in technicolor splendor.  As a cook, I also love the transition from light supper meals to the heartier dishes when root vegetables are in their glory.

A few weeks ago, I helped answer the question of what to do when your Lord brings home a bushel of tomatoes.  This week’s challenge is what to do with the 20 pounds of carrots that begged him to bring home.  Lord D makes a mean pork roast, so some of the carrots were roasted. Others were made into my favorite low fat carrot cake, topped with carrot curls.  But when you have a large amount of carrots, nothing does the trick like today’s dish, carrot ginger soup.  Just like watching Downton Abbey, it is satisfying  mix of upstairs and down.

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Tea Tuesday’s Downton Dish is Ham and Potato Soup

Enjoy a special Easter Tea at the Dorchester
Enjoy a special Easter Tea at the Dorchester

Only one more day before we can officially say goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring. Unfortunately the seasons take their sweet time in making the shift change, but it won’t be long until we can put our winter boots and sweaters away. It does help that Easter is earlier this year.

As you may know, Tea Tuesdays is a weekly tradition I started last year, dishing about Downton Abbey, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe.  Starting last week we departed from simply providing Afternoon Tea recipes and expanding our Tuesday repertoire to include dishes you would see at High Tea–what workers would eat as an early supper at the end of their day.  It will give you a better sense of the difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea, and give Lord D, my official taster, a chance to recover from tea treat overdose.  There are only so many delicious cakes and tarts (even if they are made healthier) that a man can take.

You can still 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.

Today’s dish is Ham and Potato Soup, a great way to use the left over ham bone from your upcoming Easter Dinner.

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How will You Spend Your Downton Downtime? Reflecting with Consommé

My birthday dessert bar: pink velvet and chocolate cupcakes, cake pops and cake balls, chocolate covered oreos.
Memories of my 50th birthday dessert bar

Well in spite of Spring being ever so close but still out of reach in this part of the world, and Downton Abbey fading into memory, today is a good day since it is my birthday. My milestone birthday was last year so this year is a return to a low key affair of dinner out with Lord D at our favorite seafood restaurant, and a month full of coffee and lunching with friends I haven’t seen in a long while, particularly those who are also March babies.

And what would a birthday be without some reflection?  Of course I think that only happens as you age, as I remember  I would dread my mother asking me every year about any words of wisdom I had with the passage of time.  I was young and looking forward, not so much behind.  Then miraculously your perspective changes and yes, parents seem to gain wisdom as we get older.

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Game Plan for Hosting a 1st Class Titanic Tribute Dinner

Invitation done, Next…

April 14th is approaching fast for those planning to host or attend a Titanic tribute dinner.  While Titanoraks (Titanic fans) pay homage annually, this year is special as it marks the 100th anniversary of the famous sinking of the unsinkable passenger liner off the Canadian coast. Tribute dinners are based on the printed menus for 1st, 2nd and 3rd class (steerage), which survived the disaster. The luxury liner boasted an impressive pantry which fed both passengers and crew: 60 tons of meat and fish products; 50 tons of fruits and vegetables; 5 tons of cereals and 40,000 eggs.

There will likely be no shortage of restaurants around the world hosting a dinner inspired by these menus.  How about attending an event in Halifax,  Hong Kong, or in Houston where a restaurant is offering a lovely meal for $12,000?

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30 Day Count Down to Titanic 100th Anniversary

1st Class dining on the Titanic

April 14th marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  On Sunday, April 14, 1912 at 11:40 pm, Titanic struck a giant iceberg and by 2:20 am on April 15, the “unsinkable ship” was gone.  Canadians have a special connection to Titanic: the great ship sank in the chilly waters south of Newfoundland, and Canadian vessels were involved in the recovery efforts. Over 100 victims of the Titanic are buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Halifax. Continue reading 30 Day Count Down to Titanic 100th Anniversary