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Add English tradition to your own Abbey with recipes inspired by TV drama

01/28/2013 01:54 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT
Culinary historian Pamela Foster's "Abbey Cooks Entertain" has 220 recipes inspired by the fine cuisine served at the fictional Downton Abbey and other grand English country houses at the turn of the 20th century.

The book is for "all the cooks who wish to bring a touch of English tradition to their own Abbey," she writes.

She says she has reduced the fat and sugar without impacting the taste. "No deep fried foods in this book. I prefer to bake with whole wheat flour, use applesauce in place of oil and butter, and suggest sugar substitutes in place of regular," she writes.

The following recipes can be found in the section "Famous Downton Dishes" and have been featured on the British drama.

Roast Chicken

A simple roast chicken can be elegant to serve both upstairs and down. This is a great recipe for beginners as it uses lemons to help keep the chicken moist and flavourful, Pamela Foster writes. It's great for a romantic meal to show a new love that you know your way around the kitchen.

Try not to knock it on the floor as Mrs. Patmore famously did in Season 1, but if you do just dust it off and carry on.

1 whole chicken (1.5 kg/3 lb is ample for 2 to 3 people)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Assortment of root vegetables: 3 carrots, 3 parsnips, 3 potatoes, 1 onion

2 garlic cloves

Fresh herbs you have on hand: rosemary, sage, thyme, flat-leaf parsley

Dried herbs of your choice (optional)

2 lemons (one thinly sliced)

15 ml (1 tbsp) softened butter (optional)

Clean and prepare root vegetables. Roughly chop into large chunks. Place in a roasting pan with a grill rack. (If you don't have a grill rack, simply place chicken on top of a few vegetables.) Pour a little olive oil over vegetables, add garlic and toss in fresh herbs. (We love rosemary in our house.)

Remove any giblets from chicken cavity and wipe down chicken with paper towels. Rub with oil, salt and pepper. You can also rub it with other dried herbs you have on hand (rosemary, thyme, herbes de Provence).

Gently separate breast skin from meat on each side with your fingers or a spatula. Insert lemon slices and some fresh herbs which will help flavour the bird and keep moisture in. (Alternatively, you can rub in a little softened butter, again between the skin and breast meat. Go wild and do both.)

Lemon does a great job of moisturizing the chicken from the inside out. Depending on the size of the chicken, either cut the second lemon in half, or prick the whole lemon all over and stuff it into the cavity. Tuck wings under the back, but there's no need to truss it (tie the legs together). Place, uncovered, in a 190 C (375 F) oven.

Wash any surfaces that the chicken and your hands have come in contact with to avoid the spread of harmful bacteria.

As a general rule, calculate a cooking time of 20 minutes per 500 g (1 lb) of meat. The temperature of the chicken needs to reach 74 to 77 C (165 to 170 F) when a meat thermometer is placed in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding any bones. If you don't have a thermometer, the juices should run clear when you take a little poke into the thigh.

When chicken is cooked, let the poor bird rest for 20 minutes to let juices settle into meat. If you cut it too soon, you will see all the flavour on your cutting board.

Remove from roasting pan, cover with tinfoil and get your table setting ready.

Carve chicken and serve with roasted vegetables.

Makes 2 or 3 servings.

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How to Carve A Chicken

The chicken should be placed on a carving board that has a little moat to catch any juices, but make do with what you have on hand. Use a sharp carving knife and fork if you have one, or simply use a kitchen fork and sharp knife.

Cut legs and thighs off first: carefully cut down between the leg and the breast, cut through the joint and pull the leg off. Repeat on the other side. You further separate the leg from the thigh by cutting through the joint.

Cut off the breasts: angle the knife along the breastbone and carve one side off, then the other. If you want to make smaller portions, or have cooked a large chicken, cut the breast into smaller portions. Place the breast piece cut side down and slice smaller diagonal strips across the breast.

A smart Abbey cook will save the carcass to add to the stock pot to make chicken stock.

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Asparagus Salad With Saffron Vinaigrette

This classic salad was served in first class on the Titanic, and to the servants at a special occasion in Season 3 of "Downton Abbey."

500 g (1 lb) asparagus (select thin over thick stalks)

1 ml (1/4 tsp) saffron threads

22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) white wine vinegar

2 ml (1/2 tsp) Dijon-style mustard

Pinch of sugar

45 ml (3 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 sweet red or yellow pepper, diced

Salad greens, for garnish

Holding asparagus halfway up stalks, snap off woody ends at a natural breaking point. Save ends for your stock pot.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook asparagus spears for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender but not limp. Drain and run spears under cold water until completely cooled. Drain and set aside while you prepare the dressing.

In a medium bowl, stir saffron into 5 ml (1 tsp) boiling water. Let stand for 2 minutes or until saffron has softened. Stir in vinegar, mustard and sugar. Whisk in olive oil. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Add asparagus and diced pepper and toss gently to coat with vinaigrette.

Line a platter with salad greens and arrange asparagus mixture decoratively on top.

Makes 4 servings.

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Strawberry Charlotte Russe

Charlotte russe is a French chilled dessert made with ladyfingers and filled with a fruit-flavoured cream filling set with gelatin, a favourite ingredient in Edwardian cookery. Pamela Foster's version cuts some of the fat by substituting half of the whipping cream with yogurt.

The show-stopper has made the odd cameo appearance on "Downton Abbey." In Season 3, Ethel, who formerly worked at Downton Abbey and has fallen on hard times, is retained as Isobel Crawley's housemaid. When Mrs. Bird, the cook, quits, Ethel has to cook as well. She gets some help from Mrs. Patmore to create the simple yet tasty russe.

Foster says she generally makes her own ladyfingers. "But if you bought a package of large ladyfingers you can cut them in half and have lots for snacking," she says.

25 ml (5 tsp) gelatin powder

175 ml (3/4 cup) sugar or sugar substitute, divided

500 ml (2 cups) strawberry puree (about 300 ml/1 1/4 cups strawberries, mashed), divided

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) whipping cream, whipped soft

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) non-fat plain yogurt, plus extra for garnish

Ladyfingers

250 to 500 ml (1 to 2 cups) sliced berries

Clean and set out 4 to 6 individual charlotte moulds. If you don't have moulds, improvise with large soup cans, with both ends removed.

In a small bowl, mix gelatin powder with 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the sugar. In a saucepan, warm 250 ml (1 cup) of the strawberry puree with remaining sugar. Mix gelatin-sugar mixture into warm strawberry puree, mixing really well to prevent any lumps from forming. Add in remaining strawberry puree and let mixture cool to room temperature.

Fold in one-third of the whipped cream and then remaining whipped cream and yogurt.

Carefully trim ladyfingers into 7.5-cm (3-inch) lengths. The ends can be used in the base.

Stand ladyfingers on end with rounded side out and rounded edge up, and carefully line inside of each mould, ensuring there are no gaps as best you can.

Place scrap pieces inside mould to create a base for the charlotte.

Gently pour or spoon filling into moulds. If desired, you could add a layer of chopped sliced berries in the middle and then add more filling to the top.

Refrigerate charlotte for at least 3 or 4 hours.

The filling will be solid so you should be able to easily, but gently, wiggle the mould away from the charlotte. Garnish with fresh berries and a dollop of non-fat strained (Greek-style) yogurt sweetened with a touch of honey.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: "Abbey Cooks Entertain" by Pamela Foster (Pamela Powered Inc., 2012).

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