Downton Abbey fan creates cookbook from on-screen food

A Downton Abbey fan has taken her interest in the show to a new level, creating a cookbook based on recipes mentioned in the Edwardian-set melodrama.

Ontario woman is a culinary historian and blogger about life at Downton

Michelle Dockery portrays Lady Mary in the Downton Abbey. The fashion of the day was for French cuisine in the upstairs dining room, says Pamela Foster, a Canadian who has written a cookbook of Downton Abbey recipes. (PBS/Associated Press)

A Downton Abbey fan has taken her interest in the show to a new level, creating a cookbook based on recipes mentioned in the Edwardian-set melodrama.

Pamela Foster, of Burlington, Ont., combined her love of the show and her own interest in culinary history to created the e-book Abbey Cooks Entertain.

Culinary historian Pamela Foster of Burlington, Ont., author of Abbey Cooks Entertain, a cookbook featuring food from the show Downton Abbey. (Pamela Powered Inc./Canadian Press)

"I'm a big fan of the show and, as a result of a marathon session my husband and I had, watching episode after episode without eating anything, it inspired me to find out what the food was like and learn how to cook it," Foster said in an interview with CBC News.

Foster was already blogging regularly about the show, which focuses on a British noble family, the Crawleys, living in Downton Abbey and their friends and servants.

One of the regular features of her blog is "Tea Tuesday," which focuses on the pastries and finger sandwiches eaten at afternoon tea.

"Since food follows fashion, to literally take all the food that was eaten in those days and bring it forward might not be the best experience," Foster said.

Instead she has reduced the fat content and amended the cooking methods so today's cooks can replicate the recipe.

"A lot of those rich pastries I've been able to lighten up by taking some of the butter out. I'm a big fan of unsweetened apple sauce. We can have the same taste and experience without all the badness to it," she said, adding that she likes to keep the recipes as a healthy as possible.

Abbey Cooks Entertain is an e-book of recipes. (Pamela Powered Inc.)

The Edwardian fashion was a lot of meat and fish in the upstairs dining room, as well as French sauces. Vegetables weren't popular — except for the servants downstairs. A family like that of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, followed the king's lead in what they served.

"Edward VII loved food with a passion, loved French food in particular, so you do what the king does and everyone picked up that passion for volumes of food, especially French food," Foster said.

Fortunately many of the recipes were simple, because the French chef Escoffier had simplified them at the end of the 19th century.

Her Abbey Cooks Entertain e-book includes recipes such as the roast chicken dropped on the floor by the cook Mrs. Patmore and the asparagus salad served to servants for a special occasion in season three.

"As I followed the show, I started to take an interest in the famous Downton dishes, for example the Apple Charlotte Mrs. Patmore refused to make. We don't see it on camera but that inspired me to go researching that dish, which is a traditional British dish — it's basically bread and apples," Foster said.

But she avoided foods such as the kidney soufflé that was less likely to appeal to a modern fan.

"My husband loves the fact that there's decorum and there's manners, and there's a time and place for everything, and everyone has a certain way of behaving that we often don't see," Foster said.

With files from Metro Morning, Canadian Press