On the heels of the record-breaking premiere of the first Downton Abbey feature-length movie, Annie Gray, one of Britain’s leading food historians, presents The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook. Filled with beautiful stills from the television show, the book is expertly divided into meals for the upstairs sort and meals for the downstairs folk. For each recipe, there is a list of ingredients, instructions, and a quote from the series. Some meals have recipe notes which will warn you to look out for something (this was extremely helpful for the recipe I tried) and historical context either from the show or the period the dish originated in. Did you know that the idea of leftovers as something inferior is a modern belief? History buffs will be delighted to learn little tidbits such as this from several of the recipes throughout the text.
The recipes are also arranged in a helpful way beyond just “Upstairs” and “Downstairs,” with subsections that denote the time of day the meal should be prepared for or when the meal would most likely be eaten, such as at Christmastime or at a picnic. One of the best parts of The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook is the introduction and kitchen notes, which provide more historical context and information on the ingredients used. Gray adapted the recipes featured in the book from original Downton-era sources, so it was fun to see how that was done and to also get information on what eggs or sugar to use.
For the purposes of this review, I made an Upstairs dish called “orange layer cake.” This specific recipe has a historical note on the prevalence of orange cakes and noted that we have seen many of these types of cakes in the background of a lot of the afternoon tea scenes, specifically with Isobel and Violet.
The recipe note I mentioned earlier warned not to be tempted to use a smaller pan even though the batter would barely cover it. This was extremely helpful, as I did want to do this. I was only stopped by reading the note on the second page. I found the cake fun to make and the instructions detailed and helpful. The only complaints I had were that it took a long time (I started at 9:00 p.m. and finished at 2:00 a.m.) and that the icing came out not nearly as thick as it should have.
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, cooking, and history, or even if you just want to delve into the types of food Newt Scamander and his friends might have enjoyed, check this cookbook out. It’s wonderfully made, painstakingly researched, and simply fun to make the dishes contained within. I’ll be making the vegetable curry next; what about you? Check it out – it’s available now!
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Weldon Owen, for review.