by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.comThanks for joining me for another Weekly Downton Dish. Each week we catch up on past episodes and provide a great recipe to give you a taste of great food from the Edwardian era. My period dishes also hint at what this coming week’s episode has to offer.
In S1E3 we enjoyed the thrill of a traditional fox hunt, and what “pamuked” means, referring to the unfortunate death of Kemal Pamuk in Lady Mary’s chambers. Downton is cherished by many because it is, in part, a morality play. At the end of this episode Lady Mary soberly reflects on the course of events: “aren’t all of us stuck with the choices we make?” And now Cora, Mary, and Anna have a terrible secret to keep, unaware that Daisy had unwittingly seen the three ladies carry Pamuk’s body to his room where he was discovered the next morning.
My recipe for traditional Irish Stew is not only timely because of the frigid cold snap experienced across Canada this week, it is a fitting welcome to the new Irish chauffer in our most recent episode. Branson impresses his lordship with his passion for reading history and politics, and is even given permission to check out books from the grand library. Branson takes a fancy to Lady Sybil and suavely strikes up a conversation with her over frocks and “The Vote.”
The village was excited at the arrival of the Downton Fair, and Mrs. Hughes spent an enjoyable evening there with Joe Burns, an old beau. He won a rag doll for her, but was unsuccessful at winning her heart or her hand in marriage. While the attempt at a rekindled romance fizzled, young love was not fairing much better. William fancies Daisy, but Daisy has a teen crush on Thomas, blissfully unaware that he is not a “ladies” man, even though Mrs. Patmore did her best to educate her in such matters. Thomas takes delight in tormenting William by encouraging Daisy’s affection. Teen angst is timeless.
Meanwhile, Mary seems to have put the Pamuk incident behind her and now focuses her attention on “The Great Matter”. She is angered by her circumstances, destined to live in a “waiting room” until she weds, and jealous of her father’s attention to Matthew, the son he never had. But Matthew is sympathetic to Mary’s plight, and after he consoles her one evening, she extends her hand in parting. As their hands touch, they unexpectedly linger for a moment. Now that is romance, Downton style.
Saving the best romantic moment for last, our dashing downstairs hero Mr. Bates brings up a tray of food to Anna who has spent the day in bed with a cold. With Valentine’s Day around the corner take note that nothing touches a woman’s heart more an unexpected meal served by her partner. I have been blessed with a romantic husband, my Lord D, who never fails to delight me with a special treat.
As we look forward to Wednesday night’s episode here on Vision TV, it is time for Apple Charlotte, the most famous Downton Dish and my most requested recipe. This simple dessert plays a supporting role involving a dinner guest, and Mrs. Patmore. Stay tuned.
Today’s Downton Dish: The Famous Apple Charlotte
A traditional English dessert, it is perfect for novice bakers and thrifty cooks because the crust is made from stale bread. It will be sure to impress finicky family members and special guests alike.
Makes 4 servings
- 10 half inch slices of stale challah or any stale sweet bread
- 2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 tbsp. light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- ⅔ cup skim milk
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar* (or granulated sugar, sugar substitute)
- Icing sugar to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375° F and generously grease four (4 oz.) ramekins.
- Caramelize the apples by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the apples, vanilla, lemon juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Mix well and cook on low heat until the apples are tender and any liquids evaporated. This should take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes depending in the type of apples you are using. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. The mixture should have thickened and be medium caramel in colour.
- Combine the eggs, milk and sugar in a shallow dish. Mix until fully combined.
- Using a 2½” round cookie cutter, cut out four circles from the bread which will serve as the base of the charlotte. Alternatively, use a clean ramekin and a sharp knife to trace/ cut your circles. Cut the other slices of bread into rectangles about 1 inch in width. Cube, dry, and store your bread scraps in an airtight container to be used for croutons or stuffing. Start with the circles: Lightly dip each in the egg mixture and place it in the bottom of each greased ramekin. Then dip the rectangles—standing them upright around the inside edge of the cup, extending above the rim which you will fold over to make the lid. Each ramekin will use about 6 or 7 strips.
- Fill each mould with the apple mixture. Add a piece or two of bread to the top and fold over the edges so it is sealed completely. It should look like a pretty little crown. Sprinkle each top with a little sugar.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed up. Allow to cool slightly, then run a knife around the edges and invert onto individual serving plates. Use a sieve to dust with icing sugar.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with a quality vanilla ice cream or try my Earl Grey Créme Anglaise recipe. My healthy dessert topping suggestion is non-fat strained (greek) yoghurt, mixed with a bit of honey.
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