by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.comWe have now finished Season 1 of Downton Abbey, but thankfully we are moving right into Season 2 this Wednesday night. There is no “Downton downtime” on VisionTV.
It is May, 1914 in S1E6. We learn about Lady Sybil’s interest in politics, and that Mr. Bates had been imprisoned for theft. Matthew proposed to Mary over sandwiches, but she hesitated, feeling duty-bound to disclose the Pamuk story.
S1E7 is the final episode of Season 1 and opens with the Crawley family returning from “The Season” — the time when society families left their country estates to gather in grand houses in London. Officially, Lords were there to take their seats in the House of Lords when Parliament was in session (April to August). However, London Society took the opportunity to network and socialize at endless parties, introducing young debutants, like Lady Sybil to future husbands. Bringing a bit of London back with them, Lord Grantham has a telephone installed at Downton. The new device takes some getting used to, but turns into a job opportunity for Gwen, who is hired by the telephone company.
There is talk of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. Those familiar with world history know that World War I was declared one month later on July 28, but for now plans were being made for the garden party benefit for the hospital. The menu included items you would find at tea, as well as cold meats, ices and alcoholic refreshments. Some did see that war was coming, and Thomas quietly makes plans to find a cozy spot for himself.
Mrs. Patmore is sent to London for surgery to correct her vision, accompanied by Anna who takes the opportunity to uncover the truth about Mr. Bates’ troubled past and clear his name. Evelyn Napier tells Mary that it was Edith who wrote to the Turkish Ambassador about how Mr. Pamuk died. Mary gets her revenge by chasing off Sir Anthony who was planning to propose to Edith at the garden party.
Meanwhile, Cora is pregnant, creating a new dilemma for Mary. If the child is a boy, then Matthew will no longer be heir. Aunt Rosamund advises Mary to wait until the child is born before answering Matthew’s proposal, but Granny’s wise words speak to Matthew’s moral character: “If she won’t say yes when he might be poor, he won’t want her when he will be rich.” Tragically, thinking that Cora was going to replace her, O’Brien leaves a bar of soap out for Cora to slip on, causing her to lose the baby, which was a boy.
Mary’s delay in answering Matthew opened his eyes to how unsure he was of her and his new world. He declares he has to leave Downton so that he could gain control over his life once again.
There is one more piece of news which puts everything else in perspective: Robert declares that “we are at war with Germany.” And so Season 1 ends.
Season 2 will see Downton in wartime, but life goes on at the grand country house. This week’s dish is crêpes. Mrs. Patmore makes a simple Crêpe Suzette, but you can dress up this versatile French dessert a number of ways.
A famous French dessert, Crêpe Suzette is a simple dish which will add a touch of flash and elegance to any romantic dinner. Imagine a lovely thin pancake drenched in a caramelized sugar and butter sauce, set aflame with orange flavoured liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau.
While it was invented in the late 1800s, was it named after Princess Suzanne by accident? Or was it a creation to draw a dinner theatre crowd, inspired by French stage actress Suzette (Suzanne Reichenberg) whose character served crêpes on stage? Either way, it is a special sweet treat and can be made in under 30 minutes.
- 1 large egg
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
- ½ cup skim milk
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- Whisk the egg with the salt. Add the flour, half the milk and remaining ingredients. As you whisk the batter, add in the rest of the milk. Continue whisking until all is blended and smooth. Add a little more milk if the batter is too thick. The batter should be pourable but not too liquid.
- Allow the batter to sit for an hour.
- There are special crêpe pans which have low sides to help with flipping, but you really don’t need one. Just remember that the size of your crêpes is dependent on the size of pan you use and it should be super clean.
- Heat your pan on medium-high heat. Lightly grease with a paper towel. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using about ¼ cup for each crêpe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. If the batter is not spreading, you may need to add more milk, or try another pan.
- Cook the crêpes for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, flip and cook the other side.
- 2/3 cup orange juice (from 3–4 medium oranges)
- 1 medium orange, grated zest only
- 1 small lemon, grated rind and juice
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar (or sugar substitute)
- 3 tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- a little extra Grand Marnier for flaming
- Mix all the ingredients, except the butter, in a small bowl.
- Place serving plates in a low oven to warm.
- Now melt the butter in a large skillet the same size as your crêpes, pour in the sauce and allow it to heat very gently.
- Place one crêpe in the pan and give it time to warm before folding it in half and then in half again to make a triangular shape.
- Slide the crêpe to the edge of the pan, tilting so the sauce runs back to the centre, then add another crêpe.
- Continue like this until all crêpe are re-heated, folded and well soaked with the sauce.
- The dish is traditionally finished with an impressive flambé. Heat a metal ladle by holding it over a gas flame or by resting it on the edge of a stove burner. Take it off the heat, pour a little liqueur or brandy into it, return it to the heat to warm. Carefully light with a long match or BBQ lighter, then set light to it. Carry the flaming ladle to your serving table, and pour the flames over the crêpes in your pan to ignite the whole dish, then serve on your warmed plates.
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). A signed copy of her ecookbook Abbey Cooks Entertain can be downloaded from her website and regular copies from Kobo or Amazon.ca. (Get a sneak peek here.)
Read about and watch Pamela Foster’s Valentine’s Day appearance on Canada AM.
all Downton Abbey photos (c) NBC Universal/ITV
photos of Pamela Foster/Abbey Cooks Entertain/recipe dishes courtesy Pamela Foster