by Pamela Foster, DowntonAbbeyCooks.comWelcome to Season 3, Downton Abbey fans. If you have been following along with VisionTV since January, consider yourself quite fortunate, perhaps even Crawley-worthy. We have been given the tremendous honour of seeing all episodes back to back, right from the beginning. When the series originally aired, fans had to wait up to nine months between seasons. In what I call “Downton Downtime” many have spent those months pining to learn what was ahead. Will Mary and Matthew actually marry in Season 3? Would Cora’s mother, played by Shirley MacLaine, be a match for the Dowager? And who killed Vera Bates? There was a “Free Bates” social media campaign to help bide the time. Others read books about the era and the show itself. As for me, I wrote my cookbook about Downton era food. I finished it after Season 3 had aired in the UK, so I was up to date on the famous foods of the show.
In the first episode of the most current season, Mary and Matthew do finally make it to the altar in spite of a new dark cloud over Downton. Robert made a terrible investment decision, putting all his eggs in a Canadian basket, the doomed Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada. Julian Fellowes is a self-proclaimed Titanorak, meaning someone who is fascinated by the tragic sinking of Titanic, so I am not really surprised to see Titanic back in the plot. The reason that the investment in the Grand Trunk Railway went sour is that the grand plans of Charles Hays, the mastermind of the railway, perished on Titanic. Without his vision the railway was worthless. I do find it interesting that the Titanic tragedy threatens the family not once (with the loss of 2 heirs) but twice.
While preparing for her wedding, Mary still has time to help save her beloved country home. Matthew has inherited a fortune from Lavinia’s father, but guilt prevents him from accepting it. Her next target is Grandmama Levinson. After all it was the American fortune which had saved Downton once, and why Robert married Cora in the first place. Unfortunately the family money is not Martha’s to give, but she does enjoy seeing Violet kowtow, even serenading her at the impromptu picnic, after the stove takes an unscheduled break.
Meanwhile Edith is still pursuing Sir Anthony, the only single man left standing after the war. With Martha’s help, she convinces her father to bless the union. Miraculously Sybil and Tom receive funds to come home for Mary’s wedding. Yes, she is pregnant and sporting a fashionable bob.
Below stairs, Anna is convinced she will find evidence to free her husband from prison, Mrs. Hughes may have cancer, and Isobel has discovered that Ethel has become a prostitute to survive. O’Brien manages to get a job for her nephew Alfred, who is hired on as a new footman. And so ends her alliance with Thomas. Daisy takes a liking to Alfred, but his head is turned by Martha’s lady’s maid, with her American straight talk and forward ways.
This week’s Downton Dish is Asparagus Salad with Champagne-Saffron Vinaigrette. Asparagus season is almost upon us so this is a great recipe to have on hand. It was famously served in first class on Titanic, and also has a cameo role in next week’s episode.
This Week’s Downton Dish: Asparagus Salad with Champagne-Saffron Vinaigrette
- 1 1/2 lbs. asparagus (select thin over thick stalks)
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 1/2 tbsp. champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
- Pinch of sugar
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 sweet red or yellow pepper, diced
- Greens for garnish
- Holding the asparagus halfway up the stalk, snap off the woody ends at a natural breaking point and discard.
- In a wide, deep skillet or large pot of boiling salted water, cook the asparagus spears 3-5 minutes or until they are tender but not limp.
- Drain and run spears under cold water until completely cooled. Drain well and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir the saffron into the teaspoon of boiling water. Let it stand for 2 minutes or until it is softened.
- Stir in the champagne vinegar, mustard and sugar. Whisk in the olive oil. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the asparagus and diced pepper; toss gently to coat with the vinaigrette.
- Line a platter with salad greens and arrange the asparagus mixture on top.
Downton Abbey Season 3 continues Wednesdays 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