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Spring Means Rhubarb Season is Almost Upon us

CRAIC
Rose up on her Irish slang

After a long cold winter, Spring has finally arrived, what great craic! Craic is an Irish word for fun and enjoyment, typically mixed in with alcohol and music, but still an expression of delight that we can shed our winter clothes and enjoy sun, and a new growing season.  I was particularly delighted to see my rhubarb plants already growing and I can’t wait to dig into a fresh stalk of tart delight.  Then again I have always preferred sour over sweet.

In any event, rhubarb is one of my favorite vegetables, not least of which is that is likely the easiest plant to take care of.  Edwardians simply adored rhubarb, and while I have already shared a few rhubarb recipes (see below) in the next few posts, we will explore more recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Today we start the day off right with healthy rhubarb oatmeal gems (muffins).

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Dating Downton With Ham and Eggs

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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Downton Cooking Basics: How To Make The Best Scrambled Eggs

Tea at the Cadogan
Granny would have had tea Cadogan, serving Afternoon tea since 1887.

It has been an interesting few days in the online world of Downton Abbey.  There is another  plot twist afoot in Season 4, so if you don’t want to know anything about Season 4 before January’s launch, I would strongly advise you stay away from social media for the next three months.

For all fans of Downton I thought you might enjoy travel back to episodes we have all seen and take a cooking lesson in memory of dear Lady Sybil.  Today we learn how to make creamy scambled eggs, fit for the Downton upstairs breakfast room, but easily made in your own Abbey.  Save your milk.  Properly made scrambled eggs are a simple mixture of eggs with a little butter, prepared in a saucepan, not a skillet.

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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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Lemon Tart – How Appropriate for Downton Abbey Fans

Lovely Afternoon Tea for Two at the Hilton Green Park
Discuss all things Downton over Cocktail Afternoon Tea at the Hilton London Green Park

A few days have now passed since Sunday’s double whammy. I am still processing the events. UK Downton fans had high hopes for S4E1, US fans for Emmy wins. There was sadness on both sides of the pond came away sad.  UK fans needed time to grieve for Matthew so big splash to kick off S4. As for the Emmys, US fans experienced a different type of sadness: no major win. There is fierce competition out there, but  Downton can still hold its head high that its quality programming can be watched by all members of the family, and the food certainly is much better. The only Emmy Downton did capture was for music, of that everyone can agree.

Today’s treat is lemon tart. For US fans the sour taste pairs well with not seeing S4E1, and no major Emmys for the show.   For UK fans, it is the perfect accompaniment according to Tesco Finest*, the new Downton Abbey Sponsor on ITV. Their banner ads even say so.

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Tea Tuesday: Labour Day Lavender Blues

lavender blue chairs at the  Capital Hotel
Shop at Harrods then settle into the lavender   blue chairs at Capital Hotel for tea.

The US and Canada celebrated Labour Day yesterday. The long weekend marks the unofficial end of summer and the last day of freedom for many children who are back to school today. As adults we also feel the blues of carefree days by the lake basked in sunshine. The days will be soon be getting shorter and cooler for us in the Northern Hemisphere, but for now I am only lavender blue since there are still a few more weeks of official summer left.

Labour Day dates back to 1882 and I like to believe the story that Americans were inspired by Toronto’s Labour Festival.  The no whites after labour day rule is another signal that the seasons are changing.  Traditionally white clothing (linens) was worn in warmer temperatures and when the wealthy packed up their summer homes at the end of August, they also put away the summer whites until next May.

As you may know, Tea Tuesday is a weekly tradition I started, celebrating the era of “Downton Abbey”, the popular TV show, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe.  Refer to my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea, helpful in understanding the traditions and dishes served at tea.  Each week we take time to take a break to talk Downton and share a recipe which might have been enjoyed upstairs or down.

Today we enjoy the fruits of the harvest. You don’t need a lot of space to grow lavender and once harvested, you can make wonderful Lavender Lemon Tea Cakes and tea.

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Tea Tuesday: Servants Serviceberry Pie

Delightful afternoon tea in Edinburgh at the Balmoral Hotel
Delightful afternoon tea in Edinburgh at the Balmoral Hotel

No sooner than the cooler weather had me pulling out my light sweaters, we experienced a resurgence of summer wither in our part of the world.  I won’t be fooled, though, summer will be ending soon, for me marked by all the back to school sales.

We did enjoy a wonderful summer day this weekend though,  celebrating a family member’s birthday who turned 4. I am so blessed to have married into a family of great cooks who share a passion for food.  Nephew Lord C, did not disappoint in providing an amazing, yet light feast.  One day I hope to convince him to co-author a cookbook on Italian cuisine.  He could pass as relative of the red haired Mario Batali and is so incredibly talented and passionate about food.

Dueling Chefs
Dueling with Lord C.

As you may know, Tea Tuesday is a weekly tradition I started, celebrating the era of “Downton Abbey”, the popular TV show, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe.  Refer to my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea, helpful in understanding the traditions and dishes served at tea.

You can’t beat pie made with fresh berries. While Lady Mary might turn her nose up at it, there would be many takers downstairs in the servant’s hall.  Today we make serviceberry pie. You may know serviceberries as Saskatoons as they are called in Canada.

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Tea Tuesday: Think Pink with Classic Downton Rhubarb Summer Cocktails

Pink-Afternoon-Tea-sml1-200x300
Think Pink afternoon tea at the Flemings Mayfair 

“Better get outside, there’s only two more days of summer.”  That is my mantra every August to help encourage myself and my co-workers to get outside at lunch because soon it will be too cold to sit outside in the sun.  Soon the days will get shorter, cooler and all the fresh locally grown produce will gone for the year.  Whether you grow your own, visit your  local farmers market, or enjoy cheaper prices at your grocery this time of year, do enjoy fresh produce now like the grasshopper.  However, be sure to make time to store the excess in your freezer and pantry to store for winter like the clever little ant in the Aesop Fable.

As you may know, Tea Tuesday is a weekly tradition I started, celebrating the era of “Downton Abbey”, the popular TV show, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe.  Refer to my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea, helpful in understanding the traditions and dishes served at tea.

Today we drink! Edwardians love the refreshing tart taste of rhubarb and not only cooked, they incorporated it into cocktails.  Yes, you can have alcohol at your afternoon tea, but these drinks are grand at your garden party.  We prepare rhubarb syrup to make a couple of Downton drinks, such as pink shocker and rhubarb bellini.

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Kick off the Season with Rhubarb Puffs

harrods tea
Afternoon Tea at Harrods

Canadians celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday yesterday, one of our most loved long weekends.  May 24th marks Victoria’s official birthday, but the holiday falls on the last Monday before May 25. While still proud of our English heritage, this holiday takes on a special meaning marking the unofficial start to summer.

The fear of frost has passed in most parts of the country so many worked on their gardens, others fought horrific traffic to enjoy Canada’s beautiful lakes, mountains and forests. Also known as the May Two-Four referring to the Queen’s birthday and the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a “two-four”), a drink popular with Cannucks during the long weekend.

As you may know, Tea Tuesday is a weekly tradition I started, dishing about Downton Abbey, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe. 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.

This week’s treat are rhubarb puffs, a great little bite which is the cross between a muffin and a biscuit. Great at tea, brunch or breakfast.

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Tea Tuesday: Getting Downton with Strawberry Ice, Ice, Baby

Tea at Kingsway
Lovely Afternoon Tea at Kingsway Hall Hotel near Covent Garden in London

It is Tuesday which means it is time for tea and Downton gossip.  The days are getting longer, and the warmer weather is slowly starting to make itself at home.  Encouraged,  Lord D. bought me a new pink bicycle which I will name Daisy, although she looks like a Penelope to me.

Sadly all is not right in the world. Last Monday I lost a friend to pancreatic cancer.  Yesterday the we are stunned by the senseless bombing at the Boston Marathon.  I always looked forward to race day, when I could put months of training to the test.  From joy of accomplishment to utter shock and disbelief in a blink of an eye. My prayers to all those affected, and a way forward so that we can live in a kinder gentler world.

But we must put on a happy face and move forward.  As you may know, Tea Tuesday is a weekly tradition I started last year, dishing about Downton Abbey, featuring a new “Downton” era recipe. Check out my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea, helpful in understanding traditions and recipes to help you host your own tea party with family and friends.

Last week we made DIY Jello, this week today’s dish is Strawberry Water Ice, one of many ices (aka frozen desserts) I fancied enough to put in my cookbook.
It will have to hold you for a few weeks as I will be offline planning and then taking a trip to Bermuda.  See you in May with new recipes.

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