Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cooking Edwardian Christmastide

One word best fits Christmas in Edwardian England – lavish. And nowhere was this lavishness more exhibited than in holiday cooking. Mrs. Patmore of Downton Abbey and Mrs. Bridges of Upstairs, Downstairs, was certainly glad to put her feet up and settle in for a (hopefully) quiet January and February.

Here is what Queen Victoria ordered to be prepared and served one Christmas day at Osborne, her country estate. This was for quite a large dinner party, by the way.

50 turkeys, a 140-pound baron of beef that took ten hours to roast over a spit, hundreds of pounds of lamb, dozens of geese, and crate after crate of vegetables. The vegetables had to be specially shipped from Windsor Castle.

And look at what all went into the mince pie. 82 pounds of raisins, 60 pounds of orange and lemon peel, 2 pounds of cinnamon, 330 pounds of sugar and 24 bottles of brandy.

Thankfully, the queen had more than one cook in her kitchen.

Plus, of course, the traditional deserts and biscuits, such as the time honored plum pudding, of which you will find a recipe below. I found an original recipe from Mrs. Beaton’s cookery book, but thought it looked a trifle complicated. But for all you Downton fans who would like to recreate a little holiday era festivity before season three comes out, this dessert should be just the ticket.

Plum Pudding

2 cups raisins

3 cups brandy

1 cup candied fruits

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

2 cups day-old bread crumbs

1 cup blanched almond meal

½ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 large egg

2 teaspoons molasses

1/3 cup Guinness Stout

¼ cup orange juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Soak raisins in brandy for at least 1 hour. Drain, reserving ½ cup brandy. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl combine raisins, candied fruit, butter, bread crumbs, almond meal, brown sugar, flour, orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix together egg and molasses, then add reserved brandy, Guinness, orange juice, and lemon juice. Add to fruit mixture and mix well until fruit is moist. Split batter between two greased 3 inch deep bowls, cover with waxed paper and then aluminum foil. Secure this with twine so no water can get into the bowls, then put bowls on a rack in a deep pot. Add enough boiling water to reach 2 inches up the sides of bowls. Cover pot and steam puddings in oven, replenishing water as necessary for 4 hours. Remove bowls from pot and let cool. Store puddings in cool, dry place for up to one week. This can be stored for as long as two years. Replace waxed paper before storing. To serve, reheat puddings by steaming them for up to one hour, then unmold onto platters or plates to serve.


There you have it. A plum pudding Tiny Tim or Queen Victoria would be proud to feast upon.


Happy Christmas to all,



I will not be blogging again until January 7th, due to the holiday festivities (and of course the preparation of that huge feast for when Her Majesty comes for dinner.J), but I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year full of joy and blessings. I have some fun surprises in store this upcoming year, so stay tuned and I’ll see you in 2013!


Last Countdown to Christmas Giveaway – This week, I’m giving away a copy of The Merchants Daughter by Melanie Dickerson, plus more Christmas cards. Leave a comment with your email to be entered into the drawing and I’ll pick a winner this Friday.

1 comment :

Jes said...

Love Downton Abbey! My mother makes plum pudding for Christmas! She owns Mrs. Beaton's cookbook but I'm not sure if she uses this recipe. :)

jswaks at gmail dot com