Cooking in a different time: ‘Downton Abbey’ inspires a delicious look at Edwardian recipes

I was really sick with the flu last month and didn’t have much energy at all. When I finally could make it to the couch, I decided to finally figure out how to download Amazon Prime videos to my Kindle so I would have something to do.

It took like two seconds because all you have to do is click on the “watch” button but how was I to know it was that easy?

Anyway, I had always wanted to see the PBS series Downton Abbey because I love those Masterpiece Theatre English costume dramas. I’m still on the first season and wondering if Lady Mary is ever going to get around to saying yes to Matthew, the entitled heir to Downtown Abbey but I also love the busy kitchen and elegant dining room scenes—did you know that women were not allowed to serve food to the aristocrats, it was definitely a man’s job but we were allowed to cook it.

Now that I’m better, I’m interested in trying some of the recipes from “Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey’s Elegant Meals” by Larry Edwards (Arcade Publishing $19.95) with its anecdotes about the foods served at that time and recipes updated for our modern kitchens.

Those Edwardians knew how to eat and the book contains recipes for Edwardian Leg of Lamb, Lobster Pudding, Oyster Roll, Leek Pie, Downton Pheasant Casserole, Lemon Creme Soufflé, Raspberries in Sherry Sabayon Sauce, Stilton Chowder, Queen Victoria Rice Pudding and Downton Abbey Honey Cake. There was one for asparagus in a cider sauce that sounded very Southwest Michigan to me so I thought I would include it as well as another that seems so very British and of that time.

Asparagus in Cider Sauce

1 pound asparagus, trimmed if necessary

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

In a large saute pan, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook 10 minutes or until tender, depending on the size. Drain the asparagus and set it aside. Discard the cooking liquid.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, black pepper and nutmeg until well combined. This is what is referred to as a seasoned roux (thickener).

Whisk the cider vinegar and whipping cream into the saucepan and whisk until the sauce begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice. Place the asparagus on a serving platter. Drape the sauce over the asparagus and serve.

Downton Abbey Honey Cake

2 eggs, separated

½ cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup honey

1-1/2 tablespoons very strong black coffee (espresso is fine)

2 cups flour

1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup minced dried apricots

¼ cup minced walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line bottom of 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until light and pale and then beat in the oil, honey and strong black coffee.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and all spices.

With the mixer on a low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients just until a batter forms.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites until peaks form. Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter and then fold the remaining whites into the batter along with the orange zest, raisins, dried apricots and walnuts.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and even out.

Place the cake into the oven and bake 75 minutes or until the sides break away from the pan.

Remove cake from the oven and let cool in the pan 10 minutes.

Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a rack until ready to slice and serve.

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