Articles / Mrs. Patmore Is Starting to Like Cooking

Mrs. Patmore Is Starting to Like Cooking

Published May 17, 2022

My charming conversation with the disarming Lesley Nicol

“Neither Sophie, who plays Daisy [on Downton Abbey], nor I are any kind of cook. We made sure that we never did anything too technical. So if anybody watches it closely, they’ll see that I never do anything, like even rolling pastry: I won’t do that, because I won’t do it right. I season things, I stir, I present things, and I shout at people, and that seems to me what the chefs do, isn’t it?”

It is really easy to have a guest that everyone loves, and everyone loves Lesley Nicol, who is today’s guest on Food with Mark Bittman. Many of you know her as the curmudgeonly cook Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey — the second movie, Downton Abbey: A New Era, comes out this Friday — and I can’t imagine Downton not being one of the most-rewatched shows of the pandemic.

Some of you, though — and I’m talking about our family friend Kevin and people of Kevin’s young age — love Lesley Nicol for her role as Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (and yes, I talked to her about that, and the infamous beaver suit). Before even arriving at Downton, she spent much of her career as a series television regular and is also known for her theater work. The joy and appreciation she brings to her work and her passions outside of her job are apparent, and this is a fun interview.

The recipes featured in the episode — from the Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook, naturally — are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review. And we’d love to hear your food-related questions, as we’d like to start doing live Q&A: Email us at food@markbittman.com.

Finally, and most importantly, I’d like to express my condolences to Lesley, whose husband, David Keith Heald, passed away suddenly earlier this month, shortly after she and I talked. From me and my team, Lesley: We are sending you our love.

Thank you, as always. — Mark

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English Cream Scones

Scones have been essential to the British teatime tradition since the mid-nineteenth century, when, according to legend, the fashionable Duchess of Bedford ordered her servants to sneak the small cakes and hot tea into her room for an afternoon snack. In time, she began inviting her friends to join her for afternoon tea, and this homey ritual became a social trend. Queen Victoria, hearing of the new convention, soon began hosting fancy-dress tea parties. The tradition continued into the twentieth century, with Mrs. Patmore serving scones to Lord and Lady Grantham at her bed-and-breakfast in season 6 of Downton Abbey. — The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook

Mock Clotted Cream

Clotted cream is a requisite component of a proper English cream tea and a classic accompaniment to scones. Prized for its natural thick consistency and mild nutty flavor, it is produced in Devon and Cornwall, where it is known as Devonshire cream and Cornish cream respectively. It is made by heating unpasteurized milk until a thick layer of cream forms on its surface and then skimming off the cream layer once the milk has cooled. Although no combination of ingredients can replicate the unique flavor and consistency of true clotted cream, this mock recipe, which mixes mascarpone cheese with heavy cream, is a respectable substitute. — The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook