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Carry on Birthday Traditions Despite Downton Downtime

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Mrs. Patmore Birthday card on Etsy

While the cold weather is not helping to boost our collective spirits after the end of Downton’s Season 4, at least I have my birthday month celebrations to look forward to.  My birthday was yesterday but it has become a tradition for me to reach out to friends and colleagues I haven’t socialized with for some time to gather to collectively grumble about how long winter has lasted.  This year we really mean it.

In Season 3 The Dowager famously scolded Martha about the need to “understand the importance of tradition”.  Birthdays are a great time to enjoy traditions, like our favorite foods. Sadly, we never learned this season Robert’s favorite food which was served birthday, but mine is fish and seafood.  We have made a number of fish dishes here (many from fish I caught myself), but this week we travel to the Continent for Italian.  This week’s dish is Angel Hair Pasta with Lobster, a dish Lord D introduced to me.  The Granthams might have travelled to Italy for such birthday delights, but we can quickly and easily make this own dish in our kitchens for special occasions.

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Downton Season S4 Finale Deserves Crowning Roast of Lamb

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S4American4helloAlas another season of Downton Abbey has come to an end. The timing of the finale was the perfect ending of a great weekend for Canadians who beamed with national pride as we beat the Swedes for Gold in men’s hockey.  Like the Dowager we took some pleasure poking fun at the Americans.  Luckily, there always seems to be a Martha Levinson around to defend the American honor.

I don’t particularly mind that the season is over, because now I am free to go back prepare other dishes from Season 4 and explore other culinary delights that Downton inspires.  Let Downton Downtime begin!

In celebration of the finale, I chose Crown Roast of Lamb as this week’s dish.  We see Mrs. Patmore preparing this simple, but elegant dish.  It is fitting since the Crawley family finds themselves at Buckingham Palace.  It is simple and elegant, the perfect dish to have in your repertoire to serve on special occasions.

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Downton Abbey Promotes Swiss Tourism, Renewing our Love for Fondue

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With only one episode left in Season 4 of Downton Abbey, I am at once excited about the finale, but at the same time sad that when the season ends, many fans will turn to other shows with their bright shiny new episodes.  Never fear, I will continue to faithfully blog regularly with a new recipe from that wonderful period of time inhabited by our favorite characters who live in and around Downton Abbey.

This was a challenging week to find a dish on camera to write about.  Mrs. Patmore was too busy making sandwiches and beer for the villagers to give us a close up on an upstairs dish.  I do have a wonderful recipe for ginger beer, but we will save that for garden party season.  But, it was all the talk about Switzerland which had me dreaming about a nice pot of gooey swiss fondue to share with friends trying to keep warm this winter.

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Dating Downton With Ham and Eggs

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Who knew she could cook

Who knew she could cook?

Love is in the air this week as the clock counts down to Valentine’s Day.  This is the day when many men make an Olympic sport of timing a visit to floral shops just before closing.  Thankfully, like John Bates, my Lord D showers me with romantic gestures throughout the year so the roses have already been hand selected and delivered with a cake from the baker who prepared our wedding cake.

This week on Downton Abbey (S4E6 or E7 by ITV count) a few of Cupid’s arrows fly.  Ivy now sees Alfred in a new light, and Lady Mary attracts the attention of Charles Blake as she rolls up her sleeves to help water the dehydrated pigs.  As a horse woman, she would know her way around livestock, but cooking, that is a skill we haven’t seen before.  However does she make it look so glamourous?

Since we have already made creamy scrambled eggs, this week’s dish is eggs en cocotte,  in honor of Mary and Charles’ late night with the pigs and early morning in the kitchen.  This is a simple baked egg dish; this version is made with every man’s favorite food, bacon.

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Super Bowl vs. Downton Abbey: The Secret is in the Sauce

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Super Bowl angst

Downton placed 2nd after Super Bowl in ratings

This past weekend marked the annual battle for the remote between Super Bowl and Downton Abbey fans.  Downton confidently secured 2nd place in TV ratings, topping all other non-football shows.

Sadly for football fans, it appears that the curse of the one-sided bowl game appears to be back after a few years of great games. However as a Downton foodie fan, I also felt a little let down.  Downton had an amazing half time show with the introduction of a jazz band playing for Robert’s party (do they know what they know the other is playing?), but we never did learn what his favorite food was.
Today’s dish is Anchovy Sauce, a simple sauce Daisy was preparing for the fish soufflé early in the episode (S4E5), hoping that Alfred would take an interest

A New Fridge at Downton Would Keep Vichyssoise Conveniently Cold

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Vichysoisse

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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Dream of Spring with Ivy’s Simple Asparagus Feuilletés

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Ivy goes solo (Carnival)

Ivy goes solo (Carnival)

Another dreary Winter’s day and Spring is still far on the horizon.  This is good weather to be snuggled up in front of the TV to catch another new episode of Season 4 of Downton on PBS and dream of brighter and warmer days ahead.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” (Charles Swindoll).  Many characters in S4E4 have tough choices to make and Anna is top of mind as she struggles to keep her attack a secret, afraid of how Mr. Bates will react.

There are happier plot lines this season, my favorite is Alfred’s journey to realize his dream of chef.  On that note, this week’s dish is Asparagus Feuilletés, a great first course or appetizer for beginners, which Ivy is trusted to make for the family.

Downton Abbey Fans See Red When They Think About Green

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The kitchen staff preparing for another party at Downton.

Just as Downton fans were starting to recover from the S3 shock of Matthew’s passing, Sunday’s episode confirmed that there are fates worse than death, and bad things still happen to really nice people on that show. When I first saw this episode on ITV this fall, I thought it was odd that “viewer discretion was advised”.  The same warning was broadcast last night.  By the end of the show we all understood why.  Anna Bates, played by Joanne Froggatt is brutally attacked by Mr. Green, a visiting valet.  The controversial scene was watched by more than 9 million people in the UK on ITV, prompted outrage among some viewers and a huge amount of coverage and debate in the media. A total of 244 complaints were made to Ofcom (media regulator), with around 200 received by ITV.  In the end Ofcom did not investigate the matter further.  We shall see how America reacts.  Sadly, the plotline reveals a darker side of servant life. 

This week’s dish is Syllabub, one of many dishes being served at Downton to their visiting guests that fateful weekend.  Simple to make and contains alcohol. You may find it helps calm frazzled viewer’s nerves.

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Downton Abbey S4 Life Lesson: Electric Mixers Make Better Mousse

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Mixer

Ivy and Daisy check out a new mixer (ITV)

Whether you adorned your finest attire–sipping claret with fellow aristocrats– or snuggled on the comfy couch with a hot brew and  loved ones, all Downton Abbey fans across the US were glued to their televisions last night to celebrate the return of Downton for its fourth season on PBS.

In true American fashion, PBS once again broadcast a double dose of Downton episodes sans commercials; barely enough time to replenish teacups and wine glasses.

This week’s Downton dish is Chilled Tomato and Dill Mousse (a favorite of Princess Diana), paying homage to the introduction of an electric mixer at Downton. Embracing change is a good thing: you never know when you will be rewarded with praise from picky Dowagers.

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Final Countdown to Hogmanay and Downton Season 4

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Hogmanay

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.

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