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Welcome to Downton Abbey (photo ITV)

Welcome Canada, to the world of Downton Abbey. You may have heard about Downton, (not Downtown), the British produced period drama. Perhaps you have heard a bit about the story line, the quotes (“what is a weekend?”), the critical acclaim, as well as the awards it has won. You might have heard that PBS carried it on Masterpiece Theare–that sounds about right–and some fuss this past weekend with a grand finale: a Christmas episode…in February, that’s odd. If you are like me, you hate jumping into show mid stream–or worse–when it is all over. So you may have not been convinced that this was a show to invest your time on.

Well, Canada, its not too late for you to watch Downton the old fashioned way (on broadcast televison) because starting tonight, Vision TV is broacasting the show right from the beginning. It will be seen Wednesday nights from 9 pm EST, 7 pm MWT. We hibernate in Winter anyway, so enjoy your time inside and make friends on Twitter at #Downtoneh .

Top 10 Reasons Canadians Will Love Downton Abbey

  1. It’s free–unlike other shows, it is broadcast via public TV or basic cable.
  2. Beautiful to watch–Season 1 cost £1 million/episode to produce.
  3. Like Canada, Downton is a lovely home on a huge piece of land.
  4. We don’t have to live in Vancouver or Victoria to enjoy tea and crumpets.
  5. High brow humour–Maggie Smith, as the Dowager, has the best lines on TV.
  6. British is Better–it is not an American show.
  7. The Crawleys aren’t particularly fond of Americans either.
  8. Honor & decency reigns–indiscretions have consequences.
  9. There is no singing–OK, there is 1 song, but it only comes later in Season 2.
  10. An upscale alternative to Coronation Street, but we still love Corrie anyway.

Getting up to Speed: What you need to know

  • The series is set on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in the North Riding of Yorkshire, featuring an ensemble cast, so there are many characters to get to know.
  • It was created and principally written by Julian Fellowes, and premièred on ITV on 26 September 2010.
  • There have been 2 seasons produced, and ITV has confirmed a third season will be broadcast, starting in September 2012 in the UK.
  • The upstairs scenes are filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, which is open to visitors from April on. The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon actually live there. I am sure that letting out a few rooms for filming and visitors helps pay the taxes.
  • The servants’ living areas were constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios in London.
  • The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire was used for filming outdoor scenes, most notably St Mary’s Church and the library, which serves as the entrance to the cottage hospital.
  • It is the most successful British period drama since Brideshead Revisited, with ratings exceeding 10 million viewers.The series also was well received in the United States, averaging more than six million viewers per episode.
  • Critically acclaimed: Guinness World Records has awarded it “Highest Critical Review Ratings For A TV Show.”
  • We love everyone on the show except for O’Brien and Thomas.

Host your own viewing parties

cupcakes aren’t really period specific…just call them fairy cakes

I remember the days when I would seek out friends who had premium cable so I could keep up with shows like The Sopranos. Yes, I admit that I would bribe my way in with baked ziti. With Downton you don’t have that problem since Vision TV is included in basic cable across Canada. So you may gather like-minded friends at the home of whomever has the largest TV, or you could take turns hosting a party with period appropriate food. You can keep it real simple. Hint: Oreos, although American, were invented in 1914.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • The commercials are short so plan your bio breaks accordingly.
  • Feel free to dress up, but there are no tiaras on this show.
  • The show is in the evening, so tea might not be your cup of…
  • Wine is fine to drink. Claret (simply means a dry red wine) is often preferred by the Crawleys, as is Sherry.
  • Pimm’s would also be a good choice to keep with the theme.
  • The food on the show is not very complicated to make, which is where I come in.

My blog is full of recipes to serve for dinner or tea. To apoid spoilers, just scroll down to the bottom section to check out the recipes. I offer mostly heart-healthy options to the traditional recipes. I also include all my recipes on Pinterest.

As part of the Season Finale craze last week I posted a suggested dinner menu. I also gave an interview to an LA radio station, (check out posted interview) as part of a fun Weekend Alibi segment, if you know what a weekend is, that is.

Welcome to Downton, Canada

We greeted the South Africans yesterday with those lovely tea sandwiches. I thought I would share another healthy scone recipe to welcome my fellow Canadians to the tea party. My foodie friend Eva recently introduced me to Sawsan, a lovely cook from Jordan who blogs at Chef in Disguise, who provides great advice on making perfect scones. She is an orthodonist, and I know from visits to my own dentist, that this is a profession that is meticulous (“anal” might be another term) so she is the perfect person to demystify the process. She took the research from Audax, who blogs in Australia, to give to us. The world is truly a small place. Only a wee bit of butter in this versions, so not a diet breaker. Enjoy.

The Ultimate Classic Scone Recipe

Cheddar chive scones have a bit of a kick

Many Canadians and those with British heritage are blessed with family scone recipes passed through the generations. For the rest, it is a challenge to find a good recipe which is reliable, adaptable and heart healthy.  That’s why we are here.  We made these plain scones before.  Here’s a recap and how you can make them your own.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. frozen grated butter
  • ½ cup cold milk

Makes 8 x 2” scones


Preheat oven to 475° F

  1. Sift the dry ingredients 3 times into a large bowl. Rub the frozen grated butter into the dry ingredients until it feels like sand.  Add enough milk just until you get a sticky dough.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top. Knead very gently once, then fold and turn the kneaded dough 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 6” x 12”, then fold into thirds.
  3. Using a well-floured 2” biscuit cutter, make 6 x 2” rounds.  You can get 2 more scones from the scraps but they won’t be as tender. Alternatively, use a well-floured sharp knife to form wedges.
  4. You can either brush the top of the scones with milk or lightly flour.
  5. Bake on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes until the scones are lightly coloured on the tops.  Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process.
  6. Traditionally served with clotted cream and preserves,  try a healthier option of non fat plain greek yoghurt with your favorite preserves.


Now that you have the basics you can let your imagination flow with variations.  Here are some to get you going.

    • Buttermilk replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons, in Step 3
    • Cream – replace milk with cream, add ¼ tsp. of baking soda to the dry ingredients and glaze with cream
    • Whole wheat replace half of the plain flour with whole wheat flour.

    pumpkin scones with pumpkin butter

      • Pumpkin: add 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. baking soda to dry ingredients, add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, adding only enough milk to make sticky dough.
      • Chocolate – add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and add 1/4 plain yoghurt to the wet.
      • Glazed– lightly brush preserves on scones before baking to create a sweet glaze
      • Dried Fruit – add ¼ cup dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.

    berry scones with greek yoghurt

      • Fresh/Frozen Berries – add 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen fruit, finely chopped.
      • Whole wheat and fruit – replace half of the plain flour with whole wheat flour
    • Cheese and Chive:  add ½ teaspoon tsp. cayenne , 1/4 -1/2 cup grated cheese and 2 tbsp. of fresh herbs.
    • Herb – include 3 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill, chives etc) to the dry ingredients.

I offer a new tea recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date.

Kitchen Tools for your Downton Kitchen

As Mrs. Patmore would say, “a poor workman blames his tools”.  The Victorians were the first to really get into kitchen gadgets. Today’s advanced manufacturing and materials now provide us with better built and longer lasting tools, than what Mrs. Patmore would have had access to.

Kitchen Cut-Protection Glove

This is a cool glove which protects your hands while grating.  I have not so fond memories of slicing my finger tips more than once while grating apples as a young kitchen helper.

Microplane graters