by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.comI don’t know about you, but I am still recovering from last week’s two silk hanky episode in which our favorite Downton soldiers come home wounded; Matthew may never be able to walk again, and William succumbs to his injuries. Daisy marries William on his death bed, leaving her a young war widow. It was a heartbreaker. You can watch that episode a dozen times (guilty) and still be moved.
This week brings a Canadian to Downton Abbey, the convalescent home. But just as we are about to burst with patriotic pride, we quickly learn that there is something fishy about this character. Was he really Patrick Crawley, the heir presumed drowned on the Titanic (Edith’s love interest, but engaged to Mary?) Or was he actually Peter Gordon, an opportunistic Canadian who had spent time with Patrick, now looking to take his place as heir of Downton? Me, I was a bit suspicious. I have many English friends who have lived in Canada for decades and still don’t speak proper Canadian, so I wonder how an Englishman suffering from amnesia could pick it up so easily. Edith seemed convinced, but as Downton’s lonely heart, she is probably not the best judge of character. Mary vigorously defends Matthew’s position as rightful heir, while he seems more pre-occupied with experiencing “feelings” in his lower region. In the end, the bandaged man vanishes, so we really aren’t quite sure if the man was Patrick. Will we see him again? Only the writers, Trevor White (the Vancouver actor cast in the role), and his agent know the answer to the burning question. DNA testing would not be able to provide a definitive answer for another 70 years.
P. Gordon aside, it still is gratifying for Canada to be acknowledged in the WWI story line. When Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, we were automatically included without consultation, but on the next day, we did take the formal step of declaring war between Canada and Germany. We served under our own command, and Canada’s sacrifices and contributions to the war changed our history, enabling us to become more independent from Britain. Battles such as Vimy Ridge, Second Battle of Passchendaele and the Battle of the Somme are still remembered as part of our proud heritage and identity. Like the memorable scene in Downton, we also gather together to remember those who proudly served our country on Remembrance Day: 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.
Meanwhile, Violet and Cora are successful in not only convincing Isobel that the refugee movement disparately needed her talents, but that Downton could not possibly continue as a hospital without her. Mary finds time away from wheeling Matthew about to house shop with Sir Richard. My favorite line of this episode comes when she and Richard discuss buying furnishings for their new home. Mary muses “your lot buys it, my lot inherits it”. A simple distinction between new and old money. Finally, there is good news: yes, the war has finally ended, and Vera, the wicked witch, is dead.
You won’t want to miss Thomas eating humble pie in our next episode, so we serve up Shepherd’s Pie as this week’s Downton Dish.
This Week’s Downton Dish: Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s Pie is a humble downstarirs dish made of minced lamb or mutton, topped with mashed potatoes. 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. If you make this dish with ground beef, it is technically called Cottage Pie. 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.
- 1 lb. ground round lamb, mutton, or lean ground beef
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, finely chopped
- 1 cup parsnips, finely chopped
- ½ cup Beef Stock
- 1 ¼ cups hard cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3 cups The Best Mashed Potatoes (see below)
- Preheat to 400°F and grease an 8 x 10 inch baking dish.
- Sauté onions, carrots, and parsnips in a small amount of vegetable oil over medium heat until tender.
- Add the ground meat and sauté until no pink remains. Next add the thyme, Worcestershire Sauce, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the beef stock and cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 10 minutes, adding more stock as necessary to keep moist.
- Add the frozen peas, and spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Cover the mixture with the grated cheese.
- Add the mashed potatoes on top of the mixture. For a special treat, fill a large pastry bag with a fluted end and pipe the potatoes on top of the meat, but be sure your potatoes are well mashed or the lumps will clog.
- Place the piping bag in a tall flower vase to help you fill it. You can also use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes or use both to satisfy all of your guests.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned.
The Best Healthy Mashed Potatoes
The trick to the best mashed potatoes is to use a waxy potato, like Yukon Gold, which has a high moisture content, and to heat the ingredients you are adding. I will heat skim milk, but in this recipe we use chicken stock and strained yoghurt to get that rich taste of cream.
Makes about 3 cups.
- 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled and cut into one inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup chicken stock, warmed
- ¼ cup non fat Strained Yoghurt
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Place the potatoes and garlic in a steamer basket fitted over a large pot of boiling water. Cover and steam until you can easily pierce with a fork, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the steamer and discard the water, then place the potatoes in the empty pot. Add the warm stock and yoghurt, and mash by hand. Alternatively use a rice masher to break up the potatoes and stir in stock and yoghurt.
- Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Downton Abbey Season 3 premieres April 10 at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Watch for our special Downton Abbey microsite to launch the week of March 25. With photos, videos, character profiles and much more, it’ll be your online domain for all things Downton!
Watch Downton AbbeyWednesdays at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Plus, check out our Downton Abbey Series 2 landing page for new photos and polls often.
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.)
all Downton Abbey photos (c) NBC Universal/ITV
photos of Pamela Foster/Abbey Cooks Entertain/recipe dishes courtesy Pamela Foster