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Downton Abbey Fans See Red When They Think About Green

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S4E3BustaGut

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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The Great Fruitcake Debate

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HolidayBritishXmas

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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Add Gingernuts to your Downton Holiday Sweet Table

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Its looking a lot like Christmas at Highclere Castle

Its looking a lot like Christmas at Highclere Castle 

It started in the last half of November.  The songs which I detest at other times of the year were finally getting a listen on my iPhone on my commute to the office.  ”Christmas Time is Here!” slowly started to get me into the spirit of the Season.  This past week I created a new playlist of all my favorite holiday songs to send me into overdrive.  I was also organizing our company annual Winter Wonderland event so it really got me into the spirit of things and now the Season is in full gear. Holiday decorations in the stores which were annoying right after Halloween are now really pretty.  At home, my baking has increased, the fruitcakes are getting a shot of rum every week, all leading up to our annual family gathering is coming up this weekend.  Lord C has been kind enough to host the last few family celebrations, but a very British Christmas is Lord D and mine to host this year.

This week’s holiday dish is a good one for those who love ginger but don’t have the time or patience to roll out and cut and decorate gingerbread cookies.  Gingernuts, the English version of ginger snaps is a traditional favorite cookie, this and any other time of year.

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A Very Downton Holiday Includes Mince in Your Baking

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PBS now sells holiday oranaments

PBS now sells holiday ornaments

Not a Downton fan was stirring across the PBS network Sunday night as all eyes were riveted to the Return To Downton special.  Susan Sarandon hosted the look back across the three seasons and more importantly a peak at Season 4. Will Mary survive Matthew’s Death, will Downton survive the 1920′s, will Anna and Bates live happily ever after, will Lady Rose stay out of trouble?  So many questions that will be revealed come the launch of Season 4.

In the meantime the holiday season is upon us and a good time to celebrate in true Downton style by serving traditional British holiday sweets.  Stock up on your dried fruits as this week we recap on traditional favorites to add to your holiday trays and a new recipe for healthy easy mince oatmeal squares. 

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Downton’s Drop Scones are Simply Delicious “Pocket” Pancakes

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Be safe out there this Black Friday

Be safe out there this Black Friday

The US will soon will be alive with the sights and smells of Thanksgiving cooking.  No time to dwell on Downton Abbey this week as shopping lists are being prepared from time honored recipes passed down from mother to daughter.  If you think cooking for your extended family a few times a year is tough, imagine Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, Ivy and the kitchen staff preparing  multi course meals every night. I really don’t know how they did it.

The Dowager should have every reason to ask “What is Black Friday?” since this is an American invention dating back to the 19th century.  Perhaps we can bridge the cultural gap with the introduction of today’s Downton dish: Drop Scones.  They are not like American drop biscuits, but rather delicious mini (pocket) pancakes.  Imagine tucking a few of them into your pockets as a snack during your Black Friday shopping marathon.

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Downton Downtime Comfort Food: Mince and Tatties

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To all the UK fans

To all the UK fans

All around the world, Downton Abbey fans are longing for more, driving each other mad in anticipation of new episodes.  In the UK the taste of Season 4 is still lingering on the palate and there is great anticipation for the annual gathering of family and friends to watch the Christmas episode.  Of course in  North America fans are craving for Season 4 on PBS.  Some affiliates are rebroadcasting previous seasons while others are gathering fans for preview shows.

To help settle everyone’s nerves and for those who enjoy cheering for the downstairs staff, this week’s dish is servants hall comfort food:  mince and tatties.  Simple and satisfying.

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Lest we Forget with Bonnie Cranachan

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Monday was Remembrance Day, commemorated across the British Commonwealth.  As you may recall from Season 2 of Downton Abbey, the family and servants gathered on 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month which signified the end of World War I. In the United States it is observed as Veteran’s Day, a day aside to pay tribute to celebrate living veterans who served in the military. In May, Americans remember those soldiers who passed in the service of their country on Memorial Day.  Today I thought the lovely splash of poppy red  in Bonnie Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert, was a fitting comfort food.

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Celebrate Bonfire Night with Comfort Foods Like British Flapjacks

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The Guy Mask

The Guy Mask- you may have seen the mask but not know its history.

“Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, Treason & Plot. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason should ever be forgot.” Traditional British Rhyme A lesser known holiday to Americans, tonight is Guy Fawkes Day, aka Bonfire Night, celebrated across the United Kingdom marking the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up English Parliament on November 5, 1605.  Bonfires were set alight on that night when the plot was revealed, celebrating the safety of the King James I and the tradition has continued.  For four hundred years, the anniversary is commemorated fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on huge bonfires, and of course lots of warming foods and drinks. Today’s traditional bonfire treat are flapjacks. Flapjacks in the UK are not the same as pancakes.  They are a delicious granola bar which are as addictive as they are nutritious. You can imagine tucking into this treats around the bonfire, sharing insights on this season of Downton with friends, family and neighbors. Continue reading »