We are a few days from Halloween. Did you know that Halloween has ancient origins in Ireland? It was originally called Samhain, and the day marked the end of the harvest season for Celtic farmers. Irish immigrants brought their traditions to America and adapted to their new surroundings. Originally, turnips served as Jack o Lanterns, but pumpkins are so much easier to carve.
This week we recap a couple of traditional Irish served at recipes which would have been enjoyed by Branson’s family, but if you like Lady Mary who really doesn’t really do Halloween, your cook can quickly create a quick and lovely orange squash risotto.
Traditional Halloween Foods
The Irish still celebrate Halloween with two food traditions.
- Colcannan is a cabbage and potato dish, also known as bubble and squeak in other parts of the UK. Here is the recipe for a main course colcannon we made last year. Leftovers make scrumptious colcannon cakes.
- Barmbrack means “speckled cake”. It is baked in either a loaf pan or cake pan depending on your family tradition. Here is the recipe for Branson’s Barmbrack we made last Halloween. The brack foretells the future. Baked with charms, a piece is served to each member of the family, and your piece may contain a charm which will determine your fate:
- A coin: good things, hopefully riches, on the way
- A ring: you’ll be married within the year
- A snippet of cloth: rags, poverty, bad luck in the year ahead
ITV is currently broadcasting the latest Season 4 in the UK. In the US and Canada, PBS launches in January (see the countdown clock above). Each week I share Downton news, but if you haven’t seen all seasons (1-4) beware of spoilers below.
- Biding Your Time till S4? Give your home the Downton look
- Are you Into Instagram? Check out the Official Downton Abbey Instagram account
- Highclere is OK: in case you were worried about how Highclere survived the recent storm, they report little more than a few branches down.
- Downton Couldn’t Possibly go on for ever: Penelope Wilton thnks we will all get bored eventually.
- Lady Carnavron’s latest book [easyazon-link asin=”0385344961″ locale=”us”]Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey[/easyazon-link] is now shipping in the US.
- The Dowager’s Best Moments for S4: if you can’t resist, here are You Tube links to Part 1 and Part 2.
What I will Say about Season 4
Since Downton fans span the globe I am watching along with the UK fans, but promise not to divulge major spoilers before January. I did keep quiet last year (although it was really hard) so I think I can be trusted, mostly.
There are a few things I will say about Season 4E6:
- Upstairs the Dowager and Isobel wage war again with the good Dr. Clarkson as scorekeeper.
- Downstairs Daisy and Ivy feud, but Ivy is clueless as to why.
- There is a bit of shuffling of duties downstairs as one staff member realizes a lifelong dream.
Tweet This: The Downton Abbey Food Stylist
If you thought cooking Downton dishes was a challenge, imagine how difficult it is to recreate dishes that won’t melt under the lights when filming the show. Lisa Heathcote, food stylist for the show, recently shared some of her secrets in a live Twinterview. You can still check out the interview by following @lisa_heathcote. My favorite part was that she loves jiggly jelly as much as I do.
Amazing Tea: Clearview Tea Company
I have had many tea purveyors around the world approach me to promote their tea brands, but in the end my heart belongs to my homeland and a humble tea enthusiast who has made loose tea her passion. Rebecca and Maggie Brown make their home in Creemore with Lord G, who actually is a Lord, and their son lives in London. Mother and daughter take great pains to source the best tea leaves from around around the world.
Creemore is a lovely century old town which is not unlike Downton’s village in quaint charm. I have become absolutely enchanted by their Creemore Market blend which is Earl Grey with a hint of vanila. The delicate aroma from my teapot when I brew a pot at the office is a great stress release. Check out their website at www.clearviewtea.ca. They ship to the US and around the world.
Abbey Cooks Entertain: Only $7.95
With 220 traditional Downton era recipes with a modern twist, this is a great book to have on hand when planning a Downton cocktail party, a romantic dinner, or hearty downstairs meal with family and friends.
Book sales for this book help offset my costs in food, equipment and time to keep bringing you new dishes on a regular basis.
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.
Colorful Squash Risotto
While the Italians might not have been “too picky” in their choice of brides (The Dowager, S1), the same cannot be said about their passion for great food. Risotto is one of those simple, hearty, low fat glorious dishes. It is essentially arborio rice, stock, parmesan and whatever ingredients you wish to include.
The Arabs introduced short grain rices into Spain and Italy during the Middle Ages. The popularity of these rices was fueled by its high price, so of course was highly prized by the gentry who could afford it. All roads lead to Milan which had been under Spanish rule, where rice was a staple and and slow cooking was a preferred method of cooking, which also explains how paella evolved in Spain. You may have heard of “Risotto alla Milanese”, the most fa
- 1 whole butternut squash
- 6 cups non fat chicken broth
- 1 splash EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp. saffron (or ground cumin)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. fresh sage chopped
- 4 cups baby spinach chopped
- Slice open squash, seed and then cut into strips, seasoning with salt and olive oil. Place on a shallow baking sheet.
- Roast skin side down in a preheated oven at 450°F until tender and golden, about 50 minutes. Cut flesh from the skin and cube into 1/2 inch pieces. This can be done ahead of time. Otherwise you can start the risotto when the squash has about 10 minutes left to cook.
- Simmer the broth in a medium sized pot.
- In a large heavy pot, add onion in 2 tbsp. of EVOO, stirring until softened, about 6minutes on medium heat. Add the rice, garlic, and cumin, stirring for 3 to 4minutes. This coats the rice and prepares it for its transformation into creamy goodness.
- We are now going to begin adding the liquid. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed, and then begin adding the hot broth, 1/2 cup broth at a time stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Keep repeating until rice is creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18minutes total.
- Stir in the squash, then stir in cheese, sage, spinach, stirring to combine.
- Serve risotto immediately, grating fresh parmesan on top.
- I always make more than I need so I can make risotto cakes the next day, shaping into patties, dipping in egg and crumbs and then pan frying. Serve plain or with your favorite sauce.
Start your holiday gift lists
Gift ideas for your Downton fan. Click on the icons to take you to Amazon to order in time for the holidays.
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