Red Grouse

Downton Dish: Casseroled Grouse with Marmalade

Like just about every member of the upper class, the Downtonians are heading north to start shooting some grouse. The 12 August–The Glorious Twelfth–was and still is the official start of grouse-hunting season, when eager sportsmen (and women) hit the heather moors of Scotland and the north of England to hunt this delicious bird which, as it flies low to the ground at up to 80 mph, also offers sportsmen a significant challenge. Red grouse is the type most commonly hunted in Britain (of the four species of grouse to be found here, one is protected, one so rare that most sportsmen avoid shooting them, and one lives in areas so inhospitable hardly anyone seeks them out), and its meat is flavoured by its diet of heather, blueberry, cranberry, and bog myrtle. All the grouse you find for sale is wild: attempts to rear it in captivity have all failed.

Wealthy people like the Sinderbys and the Crawleys would often rent shooting estates in the north from hard-up aristocrats, or buy one of their own and host lavish shooting parties that saw astonishing numbers of birds killed over just a few days. King Edward VII was a keen sportsman and made the rounds of the great shooting estates along with his son, George, who was known for his rather distinctive shooting style: one arm straight along the barrel, turning to shoot birds behind him with a quick, jumpy step. Shooting weekends were highly formal: after the morning drive the guns would meet up with the ladies somewhere on the estate for a multi-course lunch. After that, the ladies would sometimes join the drive, typically as observers, before returning to the house to change into gowns for tea. At the end of the day came dinner–tails and tiaras were de rigeur, and there was usually a ball the first evening. On other evenings, non-shooting guests would stage amateur theatrical performances rehearsed while the men were out on the morning drives.

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Image: Clemens v. Vogelsang via Flickr Creative Commons

Downton Dish: Scouse

Because her sexual encounters always end so happily, Mary has decided to embark on a weekend-long bonkfest (sorry, ‘sketching trip’) with Gil. And apparently she let him make all the plans, because he chose the romantic city of…Liverpool. Oh, Gil. You sweet idiot. Well, while they’re there, they might as well enjoy a hearty bowl of scouse, Liverpool’s well-loved local dish. Scouse, originally called Labskause, was brought to the city by Northern European sailors. The dish was mostly eaten by Liverpudlian sailors and their families, so gradually the sailors themselves came to be known as ‘scousers’ and over time the term came to refer to anyone from Liverpool. Typically, scouse consists of meat (beef, lamb, or a combination of the two), vegetables, and potatoes, though a vegetarian version, known as blind scouse, is also fairly common. Whichever way you make it, it’s a hearty, filling dish, perfect for cold winter nights or multiple days of erotic gymnastics. Girl’s gotta keep her strength up, you know.

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Cinnamon Waffles with Caramel Apple and Walnut Sauce

I love the autumn. I love the colours and the crispy air and the golden light. And I love the food. Man, the food! Warm stews, roasted vegetables, squash of all types, game birds, pears and apples. So, so good.

This time of year, I tend to go on a baking binge. Cooler temperatures make me want sweet comfort foods, and it’s no longer uncomfortable to have the oven on. Last week I ushered in October with some pumpkin muffins. But this week, it was all about the apples. I love apples. And I love caramel. And the two together…oh, man. Amazing! Now, I know some of you are looking askance at this recipe and thinking: I dunno, that’s gonna take, what, five hours or so of pilates to burn off? But you know what? It’s the weekend.

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Spanakopita, Image courtesy theculinarylibrary.com

Wild Greens Spanakopita

Summer has struck, which means that those blessed with back gardens are currently probably shaking their fists at the sky and cursing the name of weeds like dandelions and nettles. Which they really shouldn’t be doing, because—guess what?—these very same fauna pests are fully edible and quite delicious. I’ve already talked about nettles, so let’s turn to the dandelion. Yes, that annoying plant people pay … Continue reading Wild Greens Spanakopita

Nettle and Celeriac Soup

While out on my foraging expedition at the end of April (which netted me so much wild garlic we’re still eating the same batch now), my husband happened to point out the stinging nettles growing nearby. Most people give nettles a good wide berth–and for good reason: those itty bitty stingers hurt like hell and they sting for hours–but the thing is, nettles are incredibly … Continue reading Nettle and Celeriac Soup

Downton Dish: Turbot in Champagne Sauce

There’s a lot going on at Downton these days, but one of the more intriguing plotlines is the slow-motion trainwreck that is Thomas’s crush on Jimmy. I never thought I’d say this, but oh, Thomas, you poor man. O’Brien has you in her sights and she’s going to squash you like a bug. And honestly, did the whole Oscar Wilde trial (which would have all gone down within your lifetime) teach you nothing?

It’s impossible (for me, at least) to watch this without thinking of the great wit and writer, so this week’s recipe is inspired by him. Unsurprisingly, his favourite tipple was champagne—he drank it constantly, but I’ve already done champagne cocktail, so let’s go a different route, shall we? Champagne is more than just a delicious drink; the Edwardians loved using it in sauces, like this one. It’s also said to be an aphrodisiac, so it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! Surprise your sweetie with this delicious, sophisticated dish.

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Mediterranean Squirrel Stew

Eastern gray squirrels are obnoxious little bastards. It’s bad enough that they go after all your birdseed and lawn seed and whatever else they can get their greedy little paws on, but while they’re helping themselves to all the food, they’re actually killing off a lot of native squirrel populations, like the British red squirrel. They’re like locusts, and they don’t even belong in this … Continue reading Mediterranean Squirrel Stew