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Book Review: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines

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We are huge fans of the British television series Downton Abbey so when I saw The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, I knew I had to check it out. Downton Abbey takes place on a fictional estate of that name in North Riding of Yorkshire, England and revolves around the Crawley family and their servants prior to and during World War One. The series focuses on eldest daughter Lady Mary and her attempt to find a husband, which is necessary after the male heir died in the sinking of the Titanic.

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook is a collection of more than 150 recipes from upstairs (the titled family) and downstairs (the servants). Not only is the cookbook a fascinating look at the British television series itself, it’s a great historical look at the types of foods that were eaten by British royalty in the early 1900s. Each of the recipes has a brief introduction explaining the episode the recipe comes from. Also included are etiquette tips for those unfamiliar with proper etiquette for dining with British gentry. Some recipes include pairing tips to give you ideas of what to serve with the featured recipe. Many recipes also include a section called “Times Gone By” that gives a brief look into why things were served or their origins in history.

The recipes in The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook are broken down into “Dining with the Crowleys” and “Sustenance for the Staff.” The first includes Hors d’Oeuvres Variés; First and Second Courses: Soups and Fish; Third Course: Elegant Entrees; Fourth and Fifth Course: Juicy Joints and Succulent Steaks; Sixth Course: Resplendent Roasts, Gorgeous Game, and Accompanying Salads; Seventh Course: The Necessary Vegetable; The Finishing Touch: Sweets and Desserts; and Tea at Downton Abbey. “Sustenance for the Staff” is broken down into Hearty Breakfasts to Start the Work Day; A Quick Lunch Between Business; Downstairs Supper; and Desserts for the Servants’ Sweet Tooth.

While most people probably wouldn’t find themselves making many of the dishes in the “Dining with the Crowleys” section, it was fun to see the types of foods the British aristocracy ate. I doubt that I will be making Filet Mignon with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce any time soon, but the Potatoes Lyonnaise and the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup are certainly things we’d enjoy having. The “Sustenance for the Staff” section has a bunch of recipes that I can see us enjoying, including Warm Chicken Pot Pie, Classic Vanilla Rice Pudding, and the Working Class Porridge that I made for breakfast.

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey British television series or British cooking, you definitely need to buy The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding – More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs.

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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.
  • charles farmer

    Be careful- at best it’s fun and harmless. But badly edited, poorly written, historically inaccurate and gastronomically careless. Why the overuse of ‘decadent’? The author does not seem to understand exactly what ‘aristocracy’ means. Black pudding is NOT so called because of the Black country. ‘De rigueur’ does not mean ‘frequent’ or ‘commonplace’. The idea that the class of people such as the Granthams were out to impress or show off is quite wrong. But there are some light moments : the thought of Lord G forgetting his manners over a brussels sprout is priceless.

  • Pamela Nevels Janis

    Love the Cookbook! However, a bit of confusion re: page 115 Etiquette Lessons, Line 4, beginning wih “On the right ….” Should not this read, “On the left ….” Please clarify, as I do want to set a proper table. I would appreciate an answer [Personal contact info deleted] Who knows … perhaps the Granthams will come for dinner! :)) In all seriousness, I am looking forward to trying several of the recipes. Thank you sincerely, Pamela

  • Thank you for bringing this cookbook to our attention. I am always amazed at the sheer volume of dishes at dinner parties of that era. I suppose it helps to have a Mrs. Patmore!