Downton Abbey Christmas Cooking, Part 2

Part 2 is largely dedicated to sweets.

I started on December 17 making Chestnut Puddings.  They are made with butter, chestnuts, brown sugar, eggs, golden syrup, bread crumbs, kirsch, flour and blanched almonds.  Some of the chestnut pieces and the almonds are placed in the mold surrounded by the rest of the pudding ingredients.  It is steamed in the oven for almost an hour.  They are then inverted for serving.  I found it a little bland but still good.

Then on December 21 I went with another book, At Christmas We Feast by Annie Gray.  I used the 1604 Elinor Fettiplace recipe for mincemeat.  It included roast lamb (I couldn’t find any mutton), our beef suet, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, currants (hard to find for some reason), a tiny amount of sugar, raisins, rose water and salt,  Here it is being mixed together.

And placed in jars.  Four of these jars became presents.

I then made a Smoking Bishop.  I was intrigued because it was included in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  It started with scoring the peel of a lemon, inserting cloves and then roasting the peel with a torch.  Tom kindly helped me with this.

Then you mix cloves, mace, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and water and boil until it is reduced by half.  Port wine, sugar lemon zest and juice are simmered separately,  All are then combined.

And it is served with a cinnamon stick (mine sunk in the glass).  It basically tasted like mulled wine.  I don’t think the roasted lemon added much to it, but it was fun.

The next dilemma came with candied fruits that several of the recipes called for.  I was having a hard time finding them in the stores, even in the Christmas season.  I managed to find some candied orange peel and some green candied cherries but couldn’t find red candied cherries nor candied lemon peel. So I ended up making my own candied cherries using maraschino cherries I already had.  Here they are, not as pretty as store bought, but they did the trick.

Other ingredients I also struggled with.  I ended up having to order stemmed ginger in syrup and sweet apricot kernels from Amazon.  I drove to the Mukilteo QFC to buy the golden syrup (I had already been in Everett for an appointment).

So next came the Christmas Cake.  It had been the Epiphany cake but changed with the demise of the twelve days of Christmas.  And the good luck bean or trinket moved to the Christmas pudding instead.  You are supposed to start this cake at the first day of Advent and regularly add brandy to it.  But I didn’t have the time (since I had to wait on the apricot kernels) so mine was made December 22.  It has butter ( I used lard), brown sugar, golden syrup, milk (I used almond milk), currants, candied citrus peel, blanched almonds, sweet apricot kernels and flour.  It is baked for 3 hours.  Here it is coming out of the oven.

After it cools you skewer holes into it and drizzle on the brandy.

You can ice it or decorate it with fruits and nuts.  I chose the latter.  They said to use warm strained apricot jam as a glaze, but I chose orange marmalade instead.  Then I decorated with blanched almonds and candied cherries.  I think it looks quite pretty and festive.

Next came the Wardley Cake.  I thought it looked pretty in the cookbook’s photo so wanted to try it.  It is made from butter, flour, stem ginger, rice flour, sugar, baking powder, milk and glacé cherries (candied cherries to us).  I used a combination of the red and green cherries.  It is glazed after baking with the syrup from the stem ginger (which is really yummy).  Here is my cake after baking.

I had Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on in the background while I cooked, so that was fun too.

Next came the Epiphany Tart.  This was really gorgeous in the book’s photo so I had to try. Originally it was made for church socials on Epiphany and included a dozen different jams.  It has a shortcrust pastry with flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt, unsalted butter (for all the recipes the butter is unsalted), water and egg yolk.  You are supposed to place it on an enameled metal dinner plate.  I didn’t have one so used a pizza pan.  You place the strips of pastry and seal them.  Then you carefully spoon different types of jam in the spaced between.  I used 4 jams rather than 12.  Here it is at this point.

The pastry is brushed with egg wash and then it is baked.  Here is it coming out of the oven.  Not nearly as pretty as the picture in the book.

So for Christmas Eve breakfast we tried each of these sweets.  Tom didn’t like the Christmas cake because of all of the currants.  He thought the Wardley Cake was OK, but he doesn’t like candied fruit.  But he did like the tart.  I liked it all.  I thought it was all tasty and nicely spiced, perfect for Christmas time.

Many of these foods became Christmas presents for my family.  I hope they enjoy them.

My next project was to use the mincemeat.  So December 26 I made a Christmas omelette with it for dinner.  The recipe is from Annie Gray’s book.  You make the omelette with eggs, cream, rum, and salt.  You cook it with butter, then add mincemeat which has been heated to cook the suet.  You flip half over and move it to a heated plate.  You then sprinkled with sugar, add heated rum, and light it.

The omelette seemed a little runny coming out of the pan, but the flaming alcohol seemed to cook it to perfection.  I added fried sliced Christmas pudding (made on Stir Up Sunday), and it helped absorb some of the alcohol.  I found the trinket (a coin) in the pudding so hopefully it will bring me good luck.  I really enjoyed the omelette.  It was tasty and very festive.  It boosted my spirits as we had missed out on our Christmas gathering due to the snow.

The next step in using the mincemeat up came last evening.  I made a mincemeat pie.  I made a shortcrust dough and my 7 inch springform pan.  Here it is after baking.

And here it is cut into.  This was my dinner as 1604 mincemeat is more meaty and much less sweet than our current version.  It was a lovely dinner.

As an aside, Tom is not a fan of lamb nor mincemeat so for his dinner I made him a New Year steak and sausage pie.  I used the same crust but in a shallow pie pan.  I made the beef stew with our Instant Pot and then added some fried Bavarian smoked cheddar sausages.  Here is the stew going into the bottom crust.

And the top crust on.

And it being served.

He really liked it.  So that was nice.  It is a Scottish dish rather than English but still festive in its own way.

I recently watched this video of Annie Gray from 2017.  It doesn’t start until 21.5 minutes in, but she is so fun to listen to and learn from.  I thought it was a great presentation about the history of British Christmas and its foods.  She is advocating for the return of the 12 days of Christmas, and I agree.  I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to get it all done on one day, and if the gatherings were spread over a longer period it would be better.  Plus it is the perfect remedy for the dark days of winter.


So my British baking frenzy is now over, and I enjoyed it (but put on 3 pounds).  We have a few leftovers, but now we will be back to the usual fare.  This was a fun little adventure for me.  For Christmas I did receive the Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook.  So at some point I will be delving into that, perhaps in the spring.

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4 Responses to Downton Abbey Christmas Cooking, Part 2

  1. Jeanne says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed making – and tasting – all that lovely food!! I don’t do that kind of cooking.

    Sleep well tonight!

  2. Washe Koda says:

    Yummy 🙂

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