Sizzling British hit “Downton Abbey” has stolen the hearts of its legions of avid fans, but one viewer hopes the television show will steal its way to their stomachs as well.
Canadian culinary historian Pamela Foster has crafted a cookbook based on the early 20th century British cuisine featured in the show — though she’s given it a modern, and more healthful twist.
So don’t expect to find a recipe for kidney souffle in Foster’s book, no matter how much Downton’s lords and ladies — and their maids and footmen — may have enjoyed it.
“Some of the food, people nowadays just wouldn’t like it,” she said of the dishes that use “parts of animals that most people aren’t used to eating anymore.”
Foster also reduced the fat content and amended the cooking methods so the recipes could more easily be replicated by today’s cooks. And she took out some of the butter to lighten up the rich pastries served with tea “to make them healthier.”
“There are some recipes (Scotch eggs or fritters) I wouldn’t touch because they’re fried,” Foster said in a telephone interview from her Toronto-area home.
Foster, whose blog DowntonAbbeyCooks.com chronicles her thoughts on the show with recipes to fit the mood, started the project last year after a marathon viewing of the first season.
“Each episode, I paid close attention to what was being served. Some was just mentioned, and some you saw on camera,” Foster said.
The author told AFP she had long been interested in the cuisine of Britain’s noble elite, because her husband traces his roots to a family like Downton’s Crawleys. Foster’s blog turned into an e-cookbook “Abbey Cooks Entertain” and now, due to its huge popularity, a print version is being considered.
She explained that the cuisine of the Edwardian period was influenced by both French and Indian foods.
“Edward VII loved food, sauces and curries in particular, and people did then as (royal watchers) do now: They did what the king did and his food passions spread,” Foster explained.
Many of the recipes are easy even without kitchen staff, she said, because French chef Auguste Escoffier simplified them at the end of the 19th century.
However, she cautioned that Downton’s fans probably won’t want to eat exactly like the aristocracy did back then.
The English aristocracy, wary of fresh vegetables they believed caused scurvy, ate a lot of meat and fish bathed in French sauces in the upstairs dining rooms, while servants ate mostly vegetables downstairs.
Moreover, “if you were the king, you ate five or six times a day, multiple courses... and then had a midnight snack. To eat like they did, you’d spend all day eating,” she said.
Her cookbook includes 220 recipes, including the roast chicken Mrs.Patmore dropped on the floor in the first season of the show and the apple charlotte that she refused to make.
“I tried to give a flavor of the cuisine,” Foster said. “It’s nice to give British cuisine a boost in popularity and respect. They were known as the worst cooks in the world, except for the Scots and their broth.”