by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.comThere is never a shortage of excitement at Downton, the grand house fashioned after the British houses of Parliament. This week we were treated to a double dose of drama, and we are only one more episode away before the highly anticipated broadcast premiere of Season 3 here on Vision TV on Wed., April 10 at 9pm ET.
As you recall, a mysterious Canadian soldier dominated last week’s episode. No one quite knows if the Phantom of Downton Abbey is Patrick Crawley, the rightful heir to Downton or his devious Canadian pal Peter Gordon. In the end we really aren’t quite sure.
This week: it is now 1919, the war is over, the last of the hospital equipment has just left Downton, and there is no longer a uniform in sight. The war changes everyone. Edith and Sybil are restless, while Matthew and Robert wonder if their lives have any value. Robert and Cora are bickering, likely since the war gave Cora a new purpose in life, one which did not centre on her husband. Robert is tested, his head turned by Jane, a pretty divorced maid who thinks he is swell. Meanwhile Matthew regains the use of his legs, and yet somehow Dr. Clarkson still keeps his job in spite of his record for misdiagnosis. Sybil is determined to start a new life with Branson, which goes over real well with Papa. Sir Richard and Mary try to lure Carson away to Haxby, but he changes his mind when he learns that Sir Richard asked Anna to spy on Mary.
After deadbeat dad Major Bryant dies, Ethel’s only hope is to connect with his parents for support. Mr. Bryant initially denies the paternity of little Charlie, but eventually asks for custody of their grandson. Incidentally, Kevin McNally, the actor who plays the nasty Mr. Horace Bryant is married to actress Phyllis Logan, who plays Mrs. Hughes.
Thomas has come up with another ill conceived plan. He purchased dry foods to start a black market enterprise but was duped, the goods inedible. With no money and no job, is Thomas is forced to eat humble pie (our Downton Dish from last week)? Mrs. Patmore quips, “It is wonderful what fear will do for the human spirit.”
And while it initially appears that the garden is rosy for Anna and Bates after Vera Bates’ apparent suicide, dark clouds form. Anna persuades John that they should marry so that in the event things don’t go their way, she will have rights as his wife. Sure enough John Bates is arrested for murder.
The wedding with Lavinia is back on, but Granny plants the seed of doubt in Matthew’s mind with talk of marriage as a serious business for their kind (sadly, is it not for everyone?). It sets the stage for an impromptu dance between Matthew and Mary, and a magical kiss between them. This is around the time that the Spanish Influenza invades Downton, striking Carson, Cora and Lavinia, but not Molesley who is just drunk. The flu proved deadly to healthy young adults, and takes Lavinia’s life, paving the way for Mary and Matthew to be together, or does it? Stay tuned.
Coming up is the Season 2 finale: the Christmas episode. This week’s Downton Dish is an easy classic shortbread, always seen at Christmas, but enjoyed year round.
This Week’s Downton Dish: Classic Never Fail Shortbread
Shortbread is often seen at Christmas but is enjoyed year round in the UK. While we often make them into round biscuits, it traditionally is fashioned into fingers. Easy to make, you can expect excellent results once you learn a few tricks. Rice flour is the secret ingredient which gives this shortbread a nice crisp texture. Take care not to overwork the dough, otherwise the butter will become greasy and will give an oily finish to the biscuit. Otherwise this is a never fail recipe, unless of course you aren’t watching the oven.
Makes 14 fingers
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup caster sugar*; plus extra to sprinkle
- 1 cup plain flour, sifted
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- Preheat the oven to 300 F
- Lightly butter a 9″ square pan
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the flour and rice flour and use a wooden spoon to work all the ingredients together to make a paste. Knead lightly.
- Press the mixture into the tin, using the back of a spoon to smooth down the surface. Use a table knife to draw a line down the middle vertically, then mark six lines across horizontally to make 14 fingers. Prick each one with a fork.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and mark again. Return to the oven and continue to bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is set.
- Mark into the 14 fingers again then sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar. Cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, the fingers should snap right off without cutting again. Carefully remove them from the pan.
- Finish cooling the shortbread on a wire rack then store in an airtight container for up to three days.
*caster sugar is a super fine sugar. If you don’t have any, you can make your own by putting sugar in a blender or food processor.
Downton Abbey Season 3 premieres April 10 at 9pm ET/6pm PT and our special Downton Abbey mini-site has launched featuring photos, videos, character profiles and much more. It’s your online domain for all things Downton!
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