If, like me, you’re a Downton Abbey fan still reeling from the tragic events of this past Sunday’s Episode 4 and are in dire need of comfort, you’ve come to the right place.
There now, have a nice cup of tea and we’ll talk.
HOW COULD THEY??!!
Lady Sybil was my favorite Crawley sister, and as Mrs. Hughes said, “The sweetest spirit under this roof is gone.” I’ll certainly miss her progressive thinking, optimism and open-hearted goodness. The episode was a painful reminder of how powerless even upper class women were when it came to critical medical decisions. Who knows a patient better than her lifelong physician? Who knows a child better than her own mother? And what about a husband’s right to decide what happens to his wife?
All of it is hard for us to fathom, but probably one of the reasons we’re so enthralled and fascinated by the series. The old class system, the pecking order whether you’re upstairs or down, the oppression, hypocrisy, intrigue, devious plotting and power plays all make for great entertainment. Wait a minute . . . we have a lot of those things going on these days, too. Maybe, like me, you secretly wish you had a household staff at your bidding? While I don’t need the fancy clothes, I’d be really happy with Mrs. Patmore and Daisy in my kitchen.
My only consolation this week is that Downton Abbey won a 2013 SAG Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series! Regardless of what you may think about plausible or implausible plot points, surely you agree that the series is well acted and directed. In my limited sphere of experience, I’ve noted that British actors seem more humble and less “movie star-stuck-on-themselves” than some American actors — very refreshing!
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Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I was keen to try a recipe from the Abbey Cooks Entertain eBook by Pamela Foster. I like all the introductory notes and information about Edwardian cooking and entertaining — much the same as you’d get from reading Pamela’s excellent Downton Abbey Cooks blog.
Though the Edwardians were known for their lavish multi-course meals and culinary excess as a symbol of wealth and influence, Pamela was wise to update recipes from period cookbooks and newspaper clippings with an eye towards healthier eating for modern times.
There are 220 recipes and color photos which provide suggestions for entertaining at brunch, afternoon tea, cocktails, and dinner upstairs and down. In addition, there is a selection of recipes to host a traditional garden party, and to celebrate English holidays throughout the year. Finally, taking a page from the country house cooks of the era, there is a section which provides a number of base recipes to help stock your larder.
To go with my comfort tea, I decided to try Chocolate Madeleines. We have to thank renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier for his influence on Edwardian cuisine. Though we tend to think of Afternoon Tea as a veddy British thing, what would the tea tray be without French treats like madeleines, truffles, éclairs, and financiers along with cream scones, eccles cakes, and parkins?
Pamela’s recipe calls for applesauce and honey with only 1/2 cup of sugar. Since I opted for the chocolate version, I omitted the lemon and orange zest and ground almonds from the original recipe and substituted Dutch process cocoa and bittersweet chocolate. I also used x-large eggs instead of the large eggs specified, which likely made my batter more liquid-y than it should have been, but it still baked up nicely.
I admit to missing the heavenly flavor of butter, hallmark of all my favorite recipes, but those of you seeking to lessen the guilt in favor of a low fat alternative will appreciate these. Next time I will bump up the bittersweet chocolate for a more intense chocolate flavor. (You chocoholics know just what I’m talking about.)
With each madeleine I savored, a “remembrance of things past” — well, maybe, just the earlier episodes when Sybil was healthy and happy — flooded my mind. I love that she wanted to learn how to make a cake to surprise her mother. Remember when she shocked everyone in the drawing room wearing those baggy trousers? She wasn’t afraid to embrace change, challenge the status quo, and let love influence her decisions. Her experience as a nurse taught her that in the face of tragedy, all men, regardless of status, are equal. And who else could reduce the seemingly self-serving Thomas to tears upon her death?
Apparently, even the DA cast was profoundly affected by Sybil’s deathbed scene (feel free to indulge in another Rob James-Collier swoon):
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Please, have more tea and madeleines. We need to steel ourselves for more Crawley drama next week. You can find the Chocolate Madeleines recipe online at Downton Abbey Cooks, as well as order a signed copy of Abbey Cooks Entertain!
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bib and come join the fun!
Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.