From seven-course dinners in gilded dining rooms to elegant tea parties in the garden, food is just as much a character in Downton Abbey as the Crawleys and their downstairs staff. British chef and food stylist Lisa Heathcote is the woman behind every scone, soufflé, and ornamented pudding seen on-screen in the popular television series and now in the upcoming feature film, which premieres around the world on September 20, 2019. You may have seen her work in blockbuster films like The Dark Knight Rises, Les Misérables, Mamma Mia, and Disney’s new Aladdin, but no project has been closer to the Londoner’s heart than Downton Abbey.
Running for six seasons on PBS’s Masterpiece, Downton Abbey follows the lives of English aristocratic family the Crawleys and their servants. The first episode begins in 1912 at the end of the Victorian era, and the show continues through 1925 to post-World War I Europe. The series is almost entirely set in Highclere Castle, an ornate 17th-century estate in England’s Hampshire countryside located about 65 miles west of London. This grand Edwardian manor is used as the Crawleys’ country estate in the show, and they affectionately refer to it as “Downton.”
Lisa has been on set at Highclere’s majestic halls since day one of the show’s production in 2010, preparing authentic, turn-of-the-century English fare for the camera. From the very first episode, food is a driving force in Downton Abbey. Some of the show’s most pivotal scenes occur in the bustling kitchen downstairs or during tea or grand family dinners. Throughout her journey with Downton Abbey, Lisa expertly crafted food that elevated each scene and reflected changing times. Here, she shares one of her favorite English recipes she made for the movie: traditional English scones.
English scones have stood the test of time, starring on three-tiered platters during teatime for centuries. Today, they come in many different shapes (from wedges to rounds) and are dressed up with every mix-in imaginable. When it came to creating scones for the set of Downton Abbey, though, Lisa knew only traditional scones would do. They needed to be round, fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and have a beautifully golden top. This recipe checks every box.
Catch our exclusive interview with Lisa Heathcote in our September/October 2019 issue, as well as another one of Lisa’s favorite recipes made for the set of the movie!
- 1¾ cups plus 2 teaspoons (225 grams) self-rising flour
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup (57 grams) cold unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons (24 grams) castor sugar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) whole milk
- 1 large egg (50 grams), lightly beaten
- Apricot jam and clotted cream, to serve
- Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Lightly butter and flour 2 baking sheets.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt; gently rub in cold butter with fingertips, being careful not to overwork mixture. Stir in castor sugar. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead very gently. (Do not overwork.) Pat to ¾-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut dough without twisting cutter, re-patting scraps as necessary. Place on prepared pans. Brush top of scones with egg wash.
- Bake until well risen and golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, or serve warm. Serve with jam and clotted cream.