It was an interesting evening for Downton Abbey fans in America. In some homes there was stiff competition for control of the remote as the Super Bowl was being broadcast at the same time. Greasy Super Bowl food competed with dainty Downton appetizers in many kitchens. For those conflicted about which to watch there was a brief window of opportunity for football fans to catch a bit of Downton during the power outage in New Orleans. It was a good episode, as Downton recovers from tragic loss. Let others focus on other plot elements of S3 E5 and 6, I am still not quite ready to talk about it, particularly with fans who are still catching up.
As you recall last week there were terrible kitchen tragedies which rattled both experienced and novice cooks alike. I am still a bit shaken, quite frankly. But this week we see the healing process begin. Human nature is such that we while we need time to grieve for the burnt kidney souffle, we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. We can blame whomever we wish, but in the end when we seek solace, comfort and instruction from those around us, we can re-build our lives.
Ethel, to her credit, realizes that she needs help and recruits Mrs. Patmore to help prepare luncheon for the Crawley “girls”. Mrs. Patmore supplies her with recipes which really are quick easy to cook. As Mrs. Patmore so delicately put it: “anyone with use of their limbs can cook a salmon mousse” Here is a salmon mousse recipe I use for a lovely pinwheel tea sandwich.
With instruction and the use of an alarm clock to keep track of when things need to come out of the oven, she picks herself up and grows strong in her determination to carry on.
Isobel was surprised to smell cooking in her house and was quite impressed with the result of Ethel’s efforts. The meal was topped off with a lovely charlotte russe. I hope you like my lower fat Strawberry Charlotte Russe which replaces half of the cream with yoghurt.
As life brings setbacks and failures, you never forget your first well-prepared meal, and neither will your surprised friends and family. It helps build confidence and inner strength.
Yes, this episode helped with the healing process, although I still feel that some comfort food is still in order.
Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie
Long winters and sad Downton story lines call for comforting servant’s hall food. Shepherd’s Pie is a simple dish made of minced lamb or mutton, topped with mashed potatoes. When beef is used it is properly called cottage pie. It dates back to the 1800s, originating in the sheep raising areas of northern England and Scotland, when frugal housewives sought creative ways to “make over” cooked meat, marking the acceptance of potatoes as a food source for humans. We do have to give credit to Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, for his tireless efforts to elevate the humble potato from the hog trough to the dining room table outside of Ireland. This is one of those dishes that is regionalized so that it can be as basic as meat, onions and potatoes, but feel free to you customize to the tastes of fellow servants in your Abbey, using vegetables that you have on hand. I have lightened up the dish with lean meats and non fat yoghurt in the potatoes.
Tools you Can Use
Cooks, like other professionals, have their tools and as Mrs. Patmore says “it is a poor workman who blames his tools”. You can make do with the basics, but as you gain confidence and love for cooking, you should start to recognize items to help you cook. Mrs. Patmore didn’t have electronic gadgets to cook with so be assured you can make do without the expensive gizmos. This section helps you identify some equipment that I use. If you wish you can order directly from Cooking.com or Amazon.com, both reputable stores I have used in the past.
This is my favorite ricer.