From the Bookshelf: “The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook,” by Regula Ysewijn
“Christmas would be nothing without its food, of course, and indeed its drink. Flemish food writer and culinary historian Regula Ysewijn has brought to life not only the dishes of the Downton era, but also some of the magnificent edible delights of earlier centuries. It is a brilliantly researched book full of tasty treats. I do hope you enjoy it.” – Julian Fellowes
For devotees of the series (and for those who just love holiday cooking), “The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook” is a delight from cover to cover, chock full of full-page photos which bring the beloved show to vibrant life. Sprinkled throughout with quotes and stills from the TV series, it’s almost as if Mrs. Patmore and her sidekick Daisy are in your kitchen walking you through the festive recipes.
The first part of the book sets the stage: Edwardian traditions such as the Christmas tree and decorations, the exchange of Christmas gifts, entertainment including Christmas crackers and singing carols, and of course, the special foods and drinks enjoyed during the holiday season. A “kitchen notes” section translates for modern readers the ingredients that were once common in kitchens of 100 years ago. The ingredient guidelines allow modern cooks to be successful when adapting recipes originating from a time when eggs were brought in from the henhouse each morning and the milk was still warm from the cow!
The gorgeously photographed recipes section is divided into chapters including soups; fish and shellfish; meat, game and roasts; meat pies and savory puddings; sides and vegetables; sauces; savories; desserts and sweets; and the all-important drinks chapter. Ingredient amounts are given in both imperial and metric quantities to make this a truly international cookbook.
Just a few of the over 70 recipes include pheasant soup and oxtail consommé; roast beef, goose or turkey; jugged hare with prunes; Yorkshire pudding; tomatoes à la Bruxelles; apple and celery salad, orange salad with kirsch and curaçao, and roasted parsnips; parmesan biscuits and macaroni and cheese tartlets; mince pies, apple pie, gingerbread biscuits, trifle, and Epiphany tart; and mulled wine, wassail, and “Smoking Bishop,” a popular Victorian Christmastime mulled punch which famously appears at the end of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Ysewijn has also included fascinating and useful essays throughout the text to explain the cultural context or history behind the various dishes. The passage on “How to host a Downton Christmas” details creating decorations from evergreens, pine cones and holly berries; creating a festive menu; and setting a splendid table. “Boxing Day” explains the history of the holiday and how the English upper classes saw it as yet another day to enjoy themselves. Readers can also learn more about Christmas desserts (“On Plum Pudding,” and “A Downton Christmas Cake,”) or gain practical information such as how to choose a bird using the “Downton Turkey Checklist” and how to fashion “DIY Christmas Crackers.”
Available from most booksellers online, the cookbook can also be purchased in a boxed set with a companion volume, “The Downton Abbey Cookbook.” For even more Downton Abbey cookery, try The Official Downton Abbey Night and Day Cookbook Collection, which contains “The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook” and “The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Cookbook.”