Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Downton Kind of Day

Like so many other Downton Abbey addicts I am enthralled with the characters and the lifestyle of the era.   I have heard several people trying to figure out who they are most like.  Is it Mary with her slight superiority complex, or sweet Anna or selfless Sybil or Edith or even Daisy?  If I were to pick one I like I would have to say I am Mrs. Patmore with a small bit of O'Brian.  I am not mean like she is but I am a little cynical.  Ok maybe more than a little cynical but I do have a kind heart___mostly.

I salivate at the beautiful dishes Mrs. Patmore, Daisy and the rest of the kitchen crew (along with the props department) serve.  I am not sure if it is the food itself that looks so good or the sterling, china, crystal, and linen used at the table.  Whatever it is fascinates me and even though the English are not known for their delicious food I found myself looking through recipes for food from the period.  

I am not exactly how I stumbled on the cookbook "Abbey Cooks Entertain" by Pamela Foster, but after seeing the title I searched Amazon and lo and behold it was there.  It was not only there, but was available in a Kindle version so for a small credit card charge and about 2 minutes of my time I downloaded it to my Ipad and have it complete with colored photos of dishes.  I read a cookbook like other humans read a novel.  I went to bed to read and 3 hours later I had read and mentally cooked several of the recipes.  Ms. Foster seems to have her own small abbey and a terrific knowledge of period food.  Her side stories alone are worth the cost of the book.

I decided to start small with a dessert for the service table.  I will slowly work my way up to the gentry meals.  Since we do not typically eat a seven course meal this may take a while.  This is a little cake that has some surprise ingredients.  It whipped up in no time and the aroma was heavenly.

Kitchen Garden Cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a parchment for the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan and grease the parchment and the sides of the pan well ( Or do like me and coat well with baking spray)

3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup caster  ( ultra fine ) sugar (but I used regular Dixie Crystals and it worked perfectly )
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup coarsely grated parsnip
1 cup coarsely grated carrot
1 cup coarsely grated potato
1 cup coarsely grated apple
1 orange zested, then juiced (Use an organic orange since pesticides linger in the orange peel )

In a small bowl mix the applesauce, sugar and the eggs.  In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder and spices.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry mix and add the grated produce.  Stir in the zest and the orange juice.  Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the pan and set on a rack to cook.
Dust with confectioners sugar and enjoy.  Serves 8-10

We had a small piece of the cake for dessert.  It is an earthy dense cake that requires no frosting but she did suggest cream cheese icing if you had rather  ice it.  She also gives instructions for candied carrot curls to top it, but our food just does not have to be that pretty. ( Plus I don't have a kitchen staff to clean up unnecessary pots and pans).

Though it tasted good, I thought it was a tad too one dimensional.  I am not sure if Mrs. Patmore would have access to brown sugar or not, but when I make it again I will use 1/3 brown and 2/3 white sugar.  I will also swap a sweet potato for the regular potato and add either toasted walnuts or pecans. (more for the crunch than the taste.)  It might also be really tasty brushed with a little brandy and then dusted with the powdered sugar.

Over all I give it a strong B+, but with a few tweaks  for my personal taste it could be a true winner.

p.s It was good enough for The Hub to have seconds and thirds!


  1. parsnip?? scary thought...the rest I could handle!

  2. The parsnips really have no flavor in the cake. They mainly add texture.