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Our favorite Downton couples

I awoke this morning to the sweet words of my husband, “Happy Valentine’s Day, my love”.  No, he was not a day late:  in our home, we celebrate love every day.  I freely admit that he is definitely more romantic than I.  He introduced me to Downton Abbey, and sometimes gets husbands into trouble with their wives when he is seen opening my car door, and showering me with compliments and flowers.So while Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I urge couples to find little ways to keep your love alive, and for those still looking for love, learn how to love, to be loved, and recognize it when you see it.  I love this clip about how precious love is, how hard it can be to find, to keep and cherish. “A story of love, loss and regret.”

Symbolic of love: the delicate soufflé

There are two incidents in last week’s PBS broadcast of S2 E7&8 which put me mind of soufflés. Mary speaks to Matthew of their relationship “flop”, and when Daisy sneaks a late night peak at her test cake for Matthew and Lavina’s wedding, Mrs. Patmore snaps “you are making a cake, not a soufflé”.  Hmm, soufflés… 

Soufflé literally means “puffed up,” in French, and is a culinary term for a light, frothy dish, just stiff enough to hold its shape, and which may be savory or sweet, hot or cold.  The basic hot souffle is based on a roux–a cooked mixture of flour and butter–and then incorporates beaten egg whites.  Food historians confirm this is a French invention in the late 18th century.  Recipes for various kinds of sweet and savoury soufflés appear in Louis Ude’s The French Cook of 1813, a work which promises a “new method of giving good and extremely cheap fashionable suppers”.

The Flop: Contrary to popular opinion loud noises do not cause souffles to flop.  The rise and (and the inevitable fall) of every soufflé is a direct result of temperature. Heat expands the air in the egg whites; coolness deflates it.  For that reason you do have to eat your creation as soon as it comes out of the oven (within 5 or 10 minutes) or it will deflate as it cools.

My role here is to provide period appropriate recipes which are easy to prepare, or at least entertaining to read.  These little chocolate indulgences are inexpensive, easy to prepare and delightful to share and enjoy.  Like love, they do need some TLC, but worth the effort.  Enjoy the next 364 days of bringing and keeping love in your life.  It does help make the world go round.

Individual Chocolate Soufflé Cakes

simple healthy and yet indulgent dish

Indulgence doesn’t have to mean unhealthy.  Cooking Light is a great resource to find inspiration for recipes which promote healthier eating.  These airy chocolate cakes puff up nicely in mini soufflé dishes and are pretty easy to do.  This recipe serves 2.


  • Cooking spray
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour  
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free milk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white  
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Coat 2 (6-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray; sprinkle each with 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar.
  3. Combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, flour, cocoa, and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring until smooth. Spoon chocolate mixture into a medium bowl; cool 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Place egg white in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.
  5. Add remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat).
  6. Gently stir 1/4 of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture.
  7. Spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times to level.
  8. Place dishes on a baking sheet; bake for 15 minutes or until puffy and set. Sprinkle each soufflé with 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

*check the handy conversion chart at the top of this page to determine the measurements for your part of the world.