Big sigh. The third season of “Downton Abbey” is finally here in North America (see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/)
Are you a fan? I am. As you probably know, the British series focuses on Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and his family on their estate Downton Abbey in North Yorkshire in the early 1900’s. The show has great storylines from both “upstairs” and “downstairs” at the estate. I could go on and on about the lovely acting, beautiful costumes, intrigue and love (sigh – Mary and Matthew!)
As I’ve mentioned before, the show has me a little obsessed over Edwardian food preparation, and thankful for a modern day kitchen. Mrs. Patmore is the estate cook and there’s no doubting that she is queen of her domain. And her faithful kitchen maid, Daisy, is starting to get a little fed up with all the food prep and no thanks. (Sound like weekday cooking at your house?)
On any given day in an Edwardian estate, dinner was a major undertaking. And a dinner party would take days to get ready.
A dinner party would start with soup and a glass of sherry. This was followed by fish served with white wine. After the fish the entrée was served, which might be vol-au-vent, mutton cutlets or sweetbreads served with champagne or claret. The next course was the remove or relevé. It could be a roast of meat, poultry or a meat pie. Potatoes and vegetables were served as well. But it didn’t end there – the guests would then be served roasted game such as a small bird, snipe, wild duck or pheasant. Then they would munch on the dishes known as the entremêts. This course usually consisted of a dressed vegetable, dishes such as cherry tart, and something savoury, like devilled sardines or cheese. Dessert was usually ices, fruits and nuts.
However, we’re starting to see changes on the estate and that’s even reflected in the meals. In the most recent episode, when the kitchen stove stops working, the family turns their sit down dinner party into an early version of the buffet. And cocktails have just been introduced for entertaining.
Maybe you can get together with fellow “Downton Abbey” obsessed friends and enjoy your own dinner party before the show. Here are a few elegant beef dishes in the tradition of “Downton Abbey” without all the work:
Or classic Beef Wellington, it’s a showstopper. We’ve got all the tips to make your roast beef dinner so simple to prepare. And your guests will be just as impressed as the Earl of Grantham’s!
Enjoy, and let me know, how are you celebrating this season of the show?
Janet lives in Manworld, Nova Scotia with her beloved hubby who understands her “Downton Abbey” obsession (that’s why he’s “beloved”), and two wonderful sons.
 Royal Pavillion, Libraries and Museums, Brighton and Hove