by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.comOur series opens with tragic news for the Crawley family, English aristocrats who live in a grand country house named Downton Abbey. The year is 1912, and two male family members who were heirs to the Downton fortune have perished on the RMS Titanic. Meanwhile, Mr. Bates, a new valet, arrives with a limp and past service to Lord Grantham as batman (servant) in the war. The other servants campaign to have him removed from his duties. It would appear that Anna, the head house maid, is the only one on his side, but in the end Lord Grantham also has a soft spot for the mysterious Mr. Bates. In spite of the scheming he is allowed to dress another day.
While the Crawley family mourns their loss, there is much discussion about how to crush the Entail which ties Lady Cora’s American money to the Estate. The entire fortune would otherwise go to an unknown third cousin once removed who is seen as a threat because no one has actually laid eyes on him before. Lord Grantham decides not to break the Entail, much to the dismay of a fortune-hunting Duke who came to Downton looking for a rich heiress. In the end Robert writes to his cousin Matthew, inviting him and his mother to come to Downton.
Last week we prepared Madeleines, a lovely tea time treat. The little cakes play a key role in this episode, demonstrating how differently Matthew and his mother live from their relatives. Matthew, a strong-willed lawyer from Manchester is determined that the money and title will not change him. He insists on carrying his own bags and refuses the help of the butler to dress him. Like it or not, proper manners are an important way of fitting in, particularly to the aristocracy. My father is a lawyer and I have spent a number of years working alongside corporate lawyers in a mid-sized law firm, so I understand just how head strong they can be. It will be an uphill battle of wills.
One afternoon Cora and Violet come to visit cousin Isobel for tea. Matthew comes home to find the visitors. He joins them but does not sit, and decides to help himself to tea and madeleines to the horror of Molesley (the butler), and the embarrassment of his mother, the Dowager, and Cora. This is one illustration of many in this episode which demonstrates that this middle-class lawyer lacked an upbringing with proper training in etiquette. He is a diamond in the rough, and has a long way to go before he will fit into the role of Earl. He will do well to listen to the advice of his mother who instinctively knew that she and her son would be judged by how well they will fit into their new life. It would appear that he was smitten with Lary Mary at first glance, and that should prove to be a powerful motivator.
Stay tuned for this week’s episode as the Crawleys invite friends and neighbors over for a traditional fox hunt. Prepare some cake and punch to watch the event. You may even cheer for the fox if you like.
Today’s Downton Dish: Guilt-Free Carrot Cake
While carrot cake sounds quite healthy, you may be shocked to discover the amount of oil required in traditional recipes. I substitute unsweetened applesauce which cuts out most of the fat and use sugar substitute. Whole wheat flour makes this a dense cake which is still moist.
- 2 tbsp. apple butter (concentrated applesauce)
- 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (or sugar substitute)
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 cups of grated carrots
- 1 cup chopped dried fruit, i.e raisins, optional.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ baking pan with oil (non fat cooking spray if you live in this century).
- In a mixing bowl, combine the apple butter, applesauce, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
- Next, slowly add flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon to the mixture.
- Blend until all of the ingredients are moistened.
- Lightly mix in the grated carrots, and dried fruit if using.
- Pour into baking pan.
- Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes.
To keep calories down, go without a topping, or go light. Use your imagination: a light icing made of powdered sugar and milk, or a lowfat cream cheese icing. Slice into blocks or thin wedges for your afternoon tea; this is a great way sneak vegetables into your child’s lunch box.
Pimm’s cup is a traditional and refreshing English punch. We aren’t sure what punch was served at the Downton Fox Hunt, but could very well have been Pimm’s Cup. Just don’t drink and ride.
Pimm’s Cup is a simple mix of 2 parts lemonade to 1 part Pimm’s No. 1.
Watch Downton Abbey Wednesdays at 9pm ET/6pm PT.
Pamela Foster is a culinary historian who resides in the Greater Toronto Area with her husband, affectionately referred to as Lord D. Her popular blog Downton Abbey Cooks explores food, history and health of the Downton era (1912- 1920s). Her ecookbook Abbey Cooks Entertain can be downloaded from her website or through Kobo or Amazon.ca. (Get a sneak peek here.)
all Downton Abbey photos (c) NBC Universal/ITV
photos of Pamela Foster/Abbey Cooks Entertain/recipe dishes courtesy Pamela Foster