My Downton Birthday

So I tried to make my pandemic birthday a little nicer with some Downton Abbey Cookbook recipes.  My morning started with making the biscuits for Deviled Biscuits.  The biscuits are just flour, baking powder, salt, milk and butter.  But unlike biscuits I am used to they are only 2 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick going into the oven.  The recipe was supposed to make 50-60 biscuits and only got 23 so I guess I did not roll them thin enough.  One batch cooked more than the other although I used the same temperature and timing.

While the biscuits were cooling I started the Kedgeree.  I had cooked 1 pound of cod the day before by simmering it in milk.  And I had made 5 cups of cooked Jasmine rice.  So birthday morning I fried the rice in butter with some fish stock.  Once it was hot I added cayenne, salt and black pepper.  Then the drained and flaked fish was added.  A mixture of eggs and cream was then added, and it was cooked gently for another 5 minutes.  Here it is while cooking.

I made the Deviling mixture.  It is mustard, Worcestershire sauce, minced anchovy fillets, olive oil and paprika.  This was placed in a plastic bag and the biscuits are toss with the mixture and left to soak for a minimum of 10 minutes.  I only added 1/2 of the biscuits though because I knew Tom would not like the Deviling mixture and would prefer plain biscuits instead.

While they were soaking I started the Truffled Eggs.  I had ordered these truffles from Amazon.  My original plan had been to make this breakfast for our shearing crew.  But since those plans fell apart I decided to make these foods for my birthday breakfast instead.  So I had already assembled the more unusual ingredients beforehand.

Here is the only Madeira Tom could find at our local grocery.

So I slowly cooked eggs in butter over a modified double boiler for 4 minutes.  A small amount of Madeira went in at this point for another 4 minutes.  The eggs were taken off the heated and 1/2 of a chopped black truffle was added.  It was then to be served with a 1/2 sliced truffle on top.

While I was cooking the eggs, I also fried the Deviled Biscuits in butter for 4 minutes total.

Here are the eggs and biscuits cooking.

So the Kedgeree is supposed to be garnished with fresh parsley and sliced hard boiled eggs.  So here is mine with the garnishes.

And here is the photo in the book of what it is supposed to look like (please excuse the newspaper piece I was using as a bookmark).


I did pretty good, I think.  Here is the breakfast all assembled.  I meant to have some fresh squeezed orange juice too but forgot.

So the Kedgeree was good.  It was not very fishy, and the cayenne gave it a nice pop.  I like the truffled eggs but the sliced truffles on top were not that good.  Of course if I could find a fresh truffle I am sure it would be amazing.  But the cooked truffles in the eggs was delightful and fancy.  The biscuits were very fishy and salty.  But this was probably my fault as I only used 1/2 of the biscuits but a full recipe of the mixture.  But all and all a good and unusual breakfast.

Tom did not try the Kedgeree nor the eggs.  He is not a big fan of fish, but especially in the morning and does not like “mushrooms”.  It is funny because I do not think I like fish for breakfast either, but I am learning that my ancestors must have.  I have explored Swedish and now British historic cooking, and fish for breakfast is definitely a thing.  Plus both of us grew up in the Pacific Northwest where fish and seafood is common.  I am sure the local tribes used these resources for their morning meal (that will be explored later),  But I have not looked into my Scotch-Irish culinary history yet.  That will be another adventure.

By the way, the dishes I am using for my Upstairs Downton Abbey meals were inherited from my maternal grandparents John and Ruth Stone.  Here are the dishes at their wedding in June of 1942.

John and Ruth Stone wedding photo with china

So after breakfast and some clean up, I started on my birthday cake.  I decided to make the Orange Layer Cake.

The first step is to remove the peel without the pith of 1 large orange and 2 lemons in strips 3 inches long and 1/4 inch wide.  I did my best but they were not exactly the right size.  Then you juice the fruits.  The orange juice then went over the lemon peels, and the lemon juice went over the orange peels, and they steeped for 1 hour.  After an hour each juice is drained off separately and saved.

After the cake pans were prepped and the oven heating to 350 degrees, I creamed butter and sugar together and then add 5 egg yolks.  Here is a photo of this incredibly rich mixture.

A mixture of flour, baking soda and salt is added, alternating with the orange juice, and then it is all poured into the 2 pans and baked in the oven for 25 minutes.  The layers are incredibly thin going into the oven.

While the cake was baking I started preparing the peels.  They are boiled in a small amount of water for a few minutes and drained three separate times.  They are then boiled one more time with water and sugar and simmered for 1/2 hour.  They are drained again and placed on a parchment lined baking sheet.  After the cake layers were removed, these went in the oven of 250 degrees for 30 minutes.  Here they are after all of this.

Now that the cake was cool, I placed the first layer on one of my grandparents’ plates.  A layer of pureed British orange marmalade went on top of this layer and then the second layer was placed.

So the next step was making the icing.  This was the downfall of my birthday cake.  The recipe said to mix 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar with the lemon juice.  This icing seemed really runny, but I put it on the cake anyway.  It ended up on the counter and then the floor, literally.  So there was a huge clean up and I decided to try again.  I used at least twice the amount of sugar with juice from 2 lemons.  It still seemed thin but I tried it again.  Again it ran off onto the counter and floor but more stayed on the cake this time.  I gave up and threw the candied peels on top and called it good.  Here is my birthday cake.

And this is what it is supposed to look like.


It is certainly not as elegant.  At this point in my birthday we took the hot rod up to Bellingham to pick up our order of greek style baby back ribs from Five Columns restaurant.  We drove back on Chuckanut.  Here are some of the views on the way home.

And here are the ribs.  I had already eaten the Greek salad before this.  Food and drink do not taste as good since I have been ill.  But these ribs were truly amazing.  They were so tender and the spices were perfect.  A real treat!

We did watch the Living Room Concert for America while eating dinner.  It was quite good.  I was amazed how much better some of the acoustic versions are than the originals.

After the dinner and concert, I had another Downton treat.  This time it was a cocktail called Final Say.  It has creme de violet in it so this drink is a tribute to the Dowager Countess of Grantham, my favorite character of the series.

It is equal parts of gin, maraschino liqueur, creme de violet and fresh lime juice.  It was good.  Again another unusual flavor I have to decide if I like or not and I did.  It has an earthy herbal flavor to it that was fun.

Next we decided to watch an old James Bond movie.

Watching these films now, I realize how incredibly sexist they were.  But the vintage filmmaking and plot are still kind of fun.

Midway through the movie was time for my birthday cake.  No candles or singing this year.  But the cake was good.  I loved the citrus flavors and the peels were fun.  Tom even had seconds.

So I tried hard to make my birthday special in spite of everything. But it didn’t really work. It was still mostly a sad day for me.  The mood lifting moments were when I briefly knitted, the drive on Chuckanut and the ribs.


The presents also gave me a lift.  This one I accidentally opened a few days ago but it is a piece of the Alaska Way viaduct that my uncle sent me for my birthday.  It included a card titled Not Fragile, referring an album that was popular when he was in college.  I am not sure if he was only referring to the rock or to me too.  But I am taking it as I am not fragile too.


Tom gave me this lovely bowl that he made.


I also got this great book from my mom and step dad.

birthday book

And this very sweet card from my dad with a cash present inside.

birthday card

So there were nice spots to my birthday, but I couldn’t make it what I had wanted it to be when I made my plans almost 3 months ago.

Today is a little better, just because there are no big expectations.  I am still sick and the novel coronavirus is wrecking havoc on the world.  And tomorrow I must work and do my very best while trying to protect myself and everyone around me from this virus.  I took yesterday off from coronavirus research but got back to it today in preparation for work tomorrow.  So far the most amazing but incredibly sad items reported on my birthday that I have found are an LA Times article about how our local choir apparently spread this virus from asymptomatic people via airborne transmission.  And a Dr. Z interview with a critical care specialist from Atlanta describing their experiences with treating these critically ill patents.  It is heart wrenching.

So that was my Downton influenced birthday.  I am guessing this is a birthday I will remember though.  I do not want sympathy as so many more people have real problems, but I did want to share for posterity’s sack how this pandemic affects attempts at celebration.


PS. I realized I forgot to mention that the facebook and blog birthday wishes did also touch my heart.  Thank you!

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6 Responses to My Downton Birthday

  1. Your celebrations (planned and unplanned) are so very different from anything among my friends and family, but then again, so is your diet and, um, beverage consumption. Just read that article about the Skagit Valley Chorale. WOW.

    • Donna says:

      Understand that this is not my day to day diet, just special occasions. I know you are vegetarian and I was until fairly recently. My day to day diet is coffee for breakfast, a salad at lunch and a serving of meat with a vegetable at dinner. Much less extravagant. I am doing a daily cocktail 4-5 days per week but that is new since Christmas. The choir article is incredible, isn’t it? We are a small community so everyone knows almost everyone so I do know some of the people in the article. But the most incredible thing is that this basically proves airborne spread from asymptomatic people and changes the whole paradigm of what we need to do to try to slow its spread. Very different from what we have been told to this point. Our local health department did an excellent job investigating this as well. I kind of wish our local newspaper could have been the one to report this though. It would have been nice for them.


  2. Jeanne says:

    That was a lot of work for your birthday dinner! I’ll bet the truffles were expensive. It’s too bad they weren’t tasty. I wish I could have tasted your cake! It sounds delicious!
    I had just heard about the Mt Vernon choir on the news this morning, but they didn’t say it was in Washington! So sad.
    I hope and pray that you are soon feeling completely well.

  3. Jeanne says:

    I forgot to tell you that Tom did a beautiful job on the bowl he made for you! He really has a gift for that.

    And I think you look a lot like your grandmother.

    • Donna says:

      He did, didn’t he? It is very sweet. Now I need to figure out what to do with it. I never thought I looked like her so I appreciate that. Thanks!

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