Polish the silverware, dust off your best china and send the servants home. You won’t need to ring for them anytime soon, thanks to the captivating history and edible pleasures revealed in this simply marvellous cookbook. If you’ve seen any of the six seasons of Downton Abbey, you’ll be swept up by its pages, intrigued by the period insights and delighted by the recipes that reflect the fabulous fare of early twentieth century England.
The care taken by food historian and author Annie Gray in presenting how food was made and served during the great war (World War 1) and in the 1920’s is remarkable. She transports us back to a more graceful era, where society took the time to prepare good food and enjoy the pleasure at a leisurely pace. As you continue explore its pages, you’ll discover the difference between the very different menus served upstairs and downstairs, with photographs and detail that make this half reference book, half cookbook. It’s a keeper, a super gift and treat to curl up with just to take it all in.
Like daily life back then, recipes in The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook are separated by class and station. Upstairs takes you through breakfast, lunch and supper, afternoon tea and garden parties, picnics, shoots and race meets, festive foods and dinner. Downstairs offers dinner, supper and tea, and the still room. Notice the difference?
There are such lovely gems sprinkled throughout the book, like kitchen notes, a guide on how to host a Downton dinner (can’t wait to do one), the secret to a perfect roast, creating a kitchen garden, and recipe notes. Blink and you could imagine yourself settling into the perfect 1920 eveing; filling up your glass from a crystal decanter as you look out over the rolling lawns, while somewhere in the background the stove starts to fill the air with rich aromas. This is the life!
For servants, although they received food and board – and enjoyed the privilege of serving their household – it was hard work, with little rest:
Downstairs meals were served in rotation so that there were always servants doing their duties.
There was a clear hierarchy among head cooks, and this was expressed through their wages in 1912, which ranged from an annual salary of £120 to £140 for men and only £50 to £60 per year for women.
For food lovers, the recipes are the jewel in the crown, keeping true to the time with their original measurements, along with the metric equivalents. Ones that will quickly catch your eye and get your kitchen fingers itchy include:
- Lobster Cutlets
- Trout in Port Wine Sauce
- Caviar Croutes
- Champagne Jelly
- Yule Log, a must for any proper Christmas table
- Toad in the Hole
- Steak and Kidney Pie
- Spotted Dick
- Rice Pudding
- Porter Cake
Whether you’re a lifetime Downtown Abbey fan looking to extend your favourite show into a real world adventure, or a foodie hoping to broaden your recipe horizon with some of the very best examples of English feasts, this hardcover collection is a modern day treasure to enjoy upstairs, downstairs and everywhere in between. Jolly good show!