Season three of PBS' Downton Abbey doesn't kick off until January. While we're waiting for our fill of Mrs. Patmore's kitchen quips (come to think of it, Maggie Smith's character really does look a bit like Gordon Ramsay), cookbook author Emily Ansara Baines has come to our mushy pea rescue. Or not, depending on how you feel about classic British fare.
In The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Baines promises “more than 150 recipes from upstairs and downstairs,” ranging from Lady Mary's crab canapés to the everyday mashed potatoes the show's house staff reportedly indulged in. Unofficially, of course.
Incidentally Baines, who lives in L.A., also wrote The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. We're still trying to figure out the kitchen connection between a fictionalized drama about British aristocrats during World War I and a fictionalized post-apocalyptic reality TV game show about children fighting to the death — fictionalized might actually be the operative word here.
Get more, plus a fascinating (official) behind-the-scenes look at the Downton Abbey kitchen set, and that recipe for mushy peas, after the jump.
As is to be expected from an unofficial cookbook, there are no gorgeous photographs of the Dowager Countess enjoying that lobster in Mornay sauce (p. 62) or Sir Anthony beaming over the arrival of his eponymous apple Charlotte (p. 127) as he takes afternoon tea in the library. This photo-free version has more of a “downstairs” design style, with recipes printed in black-and-white text, complete with toll-free phone numbers on the title page for “discounts for bulk purchases.” We have a feeling the Dowager Countess would be (officially) amused.
As with most unofficial cookbooks, words like “perhaps” make frequent recipe header appearances. In an apple cider-stewed veal recipe, we're told, “Perhaps the daughters of Downton Abbey would pick the apples for the cider themselves, though this seems to be more like something Daisy would enjoy.” Seafood Newburg, plum pudding and Madeira pound cake all take on similar hypothetical roles in reference to the television series.
In the author's defense, those expressions of uncertainly likely have been included by necessity (one would not want to give PBS barristers any claims to end the cookbook's circulation). Still, it becomes a glaring annoyance rather quickly. Perhaps (now we're doing it, too) that is why we quickly skipped to Part 2: “Sustenance for the Staff,” which has a third as many recipes as the “Upstairs” Crawley fine dining section. And those everyday shepherd's pie and “working-class porridge” (spiced oatmeal) recipes have a more honest charm about them.
Yes, many of the recipes in The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook are period and regionally appropriate. But what we'd really love to see is an “unofficial” television cookbook that takes us back to those WWI recipe times in a real British castle — maybe even Highclere Castle, where the TV series is filmed. A (factual) culinary companion study to the fictional PBS series, in essence, in the wake of Downton Abbey's success. And imagine the research fun of ferreting through a castle's worth of oxtail stew recipes.
No matter, as at the moment we promised you that recipe for mushy peas. And since it's from the “downstairs” Abbey kitchen, it seems we have some silver polishing to catch up on.
From: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines.
Makes: 4 servings
Recipe head note: “Mrs. Patmore might whip this up on nights when the staff is too tired to properly eat after a full day of tending to Downton's regulars and their guests.”
Squid Ink Note: Marrowfat peas are a late-harvest variety left to dry out in the pod. Many British versions are sold with soaking tablets (you do not need to also add the baking soda as the recipe instructs). If you can't find dried peas, Jamie Oliver's updated recipe using frozen green peas and mint sounds pretty great.
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) dried marrowfat peas
4 cups water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Soak dried peas overnight in a large bowl full of water and baking soda. The baking soda is important because it helps break down the peas. The next day, drain the peas, then place them in a medium-sized saucepan and just cover with water. Simmer for 25 minutes; the peas should break up without mashing.
2. Remove peas from the heat. Stir in the butter until it melts, followed by cream, sugar, salt and black pepper. If desiring a thinner consistency, add more cream.
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