Maggie Smith (left) and Shirley MacLaine in a scene from the third season of ''Downton Abbey''. Photo: AP

Downton Abbey cuisine: Crawley kitchen favourites

Now that Downton Abbey's third season has hit Hong Kong television screens, sparks are flying at teatime. At pre-dinner cocktails.

Now that 's third season has hit Hong Kong television screens, sparks are flying at teatime. At pre-dinner cocktails. At dinner. In the bedrooms. In the kitchen. Upstairs. Downstairs.

In the first episode earlier this week, Martha Levinson (aka Shirley MacLaine) rolled up to the country estate where her daughter, Cora, lives with husband Robert, head of the Crawley clan. It included the following exchange.

Robert's mother Lady Violet (aka Maggie Smith) to Cora: "I'm so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I'm with her, I'm reminded of the virtues of the English."

Cousin Matthew Crawley: "But isn't she American?"

Violet: "Exactly."

The British drama has spawned countless spoofs. So it's no surprise that a cookbook, liberally seasoned with the Crawleys and their cadre of servants, would surface.

(Adams Media, US$21.95), by Emily Ansara Baines, promises more than "150 recipes from upstairs and downstairs".

Noted on its cover: "This book is unofficial and unauthorised. It is not authorised, approved, licensed, or endorsed by Carnival Film & Television, its writers or producers, or any of its licensees."

Fans will enjoy the name-dropping and references, from Mrs Patmore's Dropped Roasted Chicken to the Upstairs Anchovy-Onion Tarts. "It's likely that Lady Mary would stay away from this particular hors d'oeuvre as it would give her bad breath - and then the charming Pamuk might never want to kiss her," writes Ansara Baines, whose credits include and stints in New York and Los Angeles as a professional baker and caterer.

Bubble and squeak is there, as are Lancashire hotpot and Bakewell tarts. The author has also peppered the book with "Times Gone By" and "Etiquette Lessons" sidebars.

While the book has it charms, seasoned cooks and those with a knowledge of English cookery may look askance at shepherd's pie topped with pastry, not mashed potatoes. And with the Edwardian era fading and Crawley wealth diminishing, the excesses of French food offered seem a bit much for rural landed gentry.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: TV dinners with an Edwardian twist