By Deanne Revel, MyRecipes Contributor
For Downton Abbey fans, last week’s season three finale was bittersweet. We’ll likely be waiting some time for season four to air as it just began filming this month. But to help us get our Downton fix until then there’s “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines.
The book lists more than 150 recipes in its two sections: upstairs and downstairs. You can experience more than seven extravagant courses of Crawley dishes or learn about the hearty breakfasts and suppers of the staff. Many of the recipes are inspired or named after the characters from “Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes” to “O’Brien’s Crumpets.” You could have a Bates-only menu if you wanted to. Others are named after popular lines such as “Nothing Makes You Hungrier Than Grief Apple Tart.”
And these recipes aren’t pseudo British. There’s no semi-homemade here. I thought picking up scones from the grocery store made me fancy on Sunday nights (also known as Downton Days to fans) but I’ve been doing it all wrong. There are curds and teas and cream to go with scones. Clotted cream. It’s legit.
To be historically accurate these traditional dishes require a lot of manual labor and equipment. There’s a reason the Gilded Age ended. Be prepared for Mrs. Patmore all-day-in-the-kitchen-style cooking. A double-boiler was mentioned several times in the desserts section and most of the recipes require hours of cooking. And setting. And then more cooking. However, there is a no-bake gem: The Dowager Countess’sDark Chocolate Truffles. Heavenly.
I got impatient rolling mine into balls so they turned out a little furry. Mrs. Patmore would not be pleased.
If you know a Downton fan who isn’t a foodie or definitely can’t cook this is still a great gift. Each recipe comes with a historical blurb about the dish. Every page is a window into the early 1900s. Ever wonder why the Crawley sisters keep cookies (sorry biscuits) in their rooms when they eat lavish dinners every night? Yeah. It explains that. It was thought to give digestive aid.
On the subject of digestive aid. These recipes are rich. Have your probiotics ready if you want to try a true multi-course Grantham dinner. And don’t think the downstairs recipes are inferior or plain. The dishes are just as rich and…adventurous. “Mock Turtle Soup” with one calf’s head. Or “Stubborn Oxtail Soup” with three “meaty” oxtails. Yeah. It gets real downstairs. Sorry, I didn’t have a cup of blood handy to review some of these dishes.
They’re not all scary. The staff chicken pot pie is one that will rival your mama’s. It’s the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day.
I do wish the book had a rating system for how difficultlt each recipe is. Not all the upstairs recipes are hard. And some of the staff meals are a production on their own. It would be nice to note by each recipe whether it’s Mrs. Patmore level, Daisy level, or the Ethel level.
So. Worth it? If you love to go all out on Downton Days, you need these recipes. What sealed the deal for me was the Christmas recipes. I can’t wait to throw a Downton Abbey Christmas!