I haven’t had cable TV for the past five years. We watch DVDs and we’ve got streaming Netflix, so I’ve never missed day-to-day TV — that is, until the season two premiere of Downton Abbey! Yes, I know how big of a geek that makes me. I’ve been pining away to find out what happens next on this Masterpiece Theater British costume drama/soap opera ever since I watched Season 1 in practically one sitting on Netflix. There’s a war, you know!
Poor Bates! Sweet Anna! And would Lady Mary ever confess to her love for Matthew and/or give her sister Edith the slapping she so richly deserves?
Well, apparently I wasn’t alone. The premiere last Sunday night raked in 4.2 million American viewers, which is double the normal nightly average for PBS. It was like the nerd Super Bowl! I went out and bought an antenna for my TV so I could watch it. I felt like a crafty Dowager Countess, but without the corset.
So what British things will we eat and drink while we watch the next episode? Cuppa tea? Chocolate biscuit? I’ll tell you, I’d rather have the lamb stew that the household staff was eating last week than the Crepes Suzette from upstairs that the new maid was asking for. Posh airs, bollocks.
Okay, so here’s my idea — bread pudding. It’s thrifty, so it’s just the type of thing you’d eat when the boys are at the front battling the Huns. We all have to do our part, you know. But you can tart it up a bit without feeling too guilty.
So start with the very basics. If you’ve got most of a loaf of bread, three eggs, two cups of milk and some sugar, you can do this. If you’ve got raisins or some apples, or both, you can do it better. And if you’ve got a little bourbon or some brandy, you can knock it over the castle wall.
1/2 cup raisins or 1 chopped apple, or both
½ cup bourbon or brandy
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter (if you’re using lowfat milk)
2/3 cup sugar – granulated or brown
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups cubed bread (you can use French, brioche, regular white or even leftover coffee cake)
If you’re using raisins and bourbon, then soak the raisins in the bourbon for an hour or so. If you have an apple, chop it up and heat it gently in a saucepan with the bourbon and a tablespoon of butter until the apple softens — about 10 minutes. If you don’t have raisins or an apple, keep calm and carry on.
Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the eggs in a big bowl, and then mix in the sugar, milk, cinnamon and vanilla. If you’ve only got skim milk, I’d melt a couple tablespoons of butter and add that. Stir in the bread cubes and raisins or apples. Let this sit while you butter a casserole dish big enough to hold everything that’s currently in the bowl. Pour the whole lot into the buttered dish and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until a knife you stick in it comes out clean.
Eat this while drinking sherry and watching Downton Abbey. Hiss whenever Molesley comes on screen, the coward.