This summer we drove down the long drive lined with beech trees to Lucknam Park and the magnificent country home came into sight Rémy exclaimed, “Mummy it’s like your favorite TV show, it’s Downton Abbey!” I didn’t want to correct him on his British architecture – it’s Paladian rather than the Jacobethan style of Highclere Castle, the setting of Downton because I knew exactly what he meant. We were to spend a luxurious week at Lucknam living out every English fantasy from Elizabeth Bennett to Lady Mary with giant four poster beds and delicious cream teas on the front lawn meant I was in heaven – more Lucknam inspired posts to come but today I want to celebrate Downton Abbey.
Last night in the UK was the premiere of Season 3 of Downton Abbey and if you are like me and obsessed with anything from my homeland you can’t wait months for the US to screen it on January 6th, 2013. Instead you hop on to the internet, pay £5 a month, download some software and Bob’s your uncle, blow me down, you get to screen anything on British TV – ANYTHING! – including Downton Abbey. This was a dream for the olympics, means Rémy doesn’t miss Doctor Who and Minty and I can continue our obsession with The Great British Bake Off. Now I’m a little nervous of letting you in on this secret because it really is too good to be true and we all know that when something is that easy and that good there’s always a catch. Well so far no catch. It’s the best cure for this homesick ex pat living on the wrong side of the pond as I struggle to understand why exactly it is I live in Los Angeles!
As I watched the pitch perfect, if a little clichéd, season opener of Downton last night I couldn’t help but think of the red nose day spoof.
Suddenly Jennifer Saunders seemed more Dowager Countess than Dame Maggie Smith, even with her show stealing one liners. (Since when did the Dowager Countess learn about the Prudential man?) Is season 3 a victim of it’s own success – a little too predictable and chocolate boxy? Or perhaps watching it on ITV via My Ex Pat Network, with the obligatory ads that disrupt the flow and with a jolt take you from 1920s to 2012 with commercials for British beef and sustainable fish from Waitrose and passenger airbagged Volvo cars. The Dowager Countess would have a field day with the word Supermarket or how about airbag, rather like her reaction to “weekend” or last night’s moment when she turns up her nose at the latest arrival from America – and no it’s not the brilliant Shirley MacLaine who arrives from New York as Cora’s mother – she’s offered a cocktail. I need them all to be drinking a few more cocktails if I am to enjoy this series as much as the previous two. Let’s hope we get a lot more of the roaring twenties than a couple of cocktails before dinner for Dame Maggie to turn her nose at.
And here’s a scone recipe that even Mrs Patmore would be proud of, if she could only get Daisy to stop striking and help her cut them out!
Recipe for the Perfect Scones
When I tell you this recipe is simple and quick I really mean it – a few pantry ingredients that make up the perfect tea-time vehicle for a good amount of clotted cream and some sweet strawberry jam!
1 lb all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 0z Baker’s sugar (= caster sugar for Brits)
250 – 300 ml whole milk
1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 F. Line two baking sheets with sheets of parchment paper.
2. Put the flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and mix on high for about 10 seconds.
3. Add the butter and process until mix resembles breadcrumbs, about 45 seconds.
4. Add the sugar and mix in for 10 seconds.
5. Slowly pour in the milk through the top as the processor is on high to form a soft dough. As soon as the dough comes together stop pouring in the milk.
6. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and gentle pat into a round about 3/4 inch thick. Use a small round cutter to cut out scones and transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheet. When all the rounds are cut knead the dough together very gentle to cut out more scones, continue until all the dough is used up.
7. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until the scones have risen up and the tops are just turning golden brown.
Serve with clotted cream and strawberry jam – debate until eternity which should go on the scone first – I’m sure the Dowager Countess could tell us the true way to do it.