Downton Abbey: lavender shortbread hearts fit for a Dowager

A TV dinner even Mrs Patmore would approve of... try these 1920s-inspired afternoon tea delights today

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RadioTimes.com’s TV Dinners series is designed to test your culinary mettle, whilst taking inspiration from some of your favourite television shows. From filling your empty belly with X Factor’s Chico-ry salad to an adventurous Bear Grylls insect treateat along with Homeland, or perhaps a slice of the supermodel lifestyle to enjoy with BINTM – each time the culinary magicians at Sous Chef will devise a new and exciting recipe for you to try…

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If Downton Abbey were to run a course on how to match-make, Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, would surely be the most qualified to lead it by far. In the most delightfully entertaining of ways she is the only one who can really get away with meddling in other people’s love lives.

In series five she seems to have turned her attention to match-making the community’s more elderly members. Isobel caught the eye of the wealthy Lord Merton at the end of series four, and Violet seemed set on pushing them together until she realised such a union would jeopardise her own position of power. With all the match-making cunning of Emma Woodhouse she rapidly changes course, instead trying to unite her with Doctor Clarkson whilst distracting Lord Merton with the frisky Lady Shackleton.

At her luncheon in episode one we saw Violet at her best, darting between her guests and strategically playing them off on one another to achieve the pairings that won’t threaten her own position. These lavender shortbread hearts would be the perfect end to her sexagenarian double-date luncheon. The lavender brings a delicate, floral aroma to the biscuits whilst also adding a little texture. And they are of course, speckled with violet. Downton, as well as these biscuits, just wouldn’t be the same without her…

Lavender Shortbread Recipe

Makes 12-15 biscuits

1 tbsp dried lavender
25g granulated sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
200g plain flour
Heart pastry cutter

1. Whizz together the lavender and granulated sugar in a food processor.

2. Cream together the butter and the caster sugar until pale and fluffy.

3. Fold in the plain flour and the lavender sugar. Knead until the dough comes together.

4. Flatten the dough using the palm of your hand, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 3 hours, or overnight.

5. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 170 °C/350F/Gas 4.

7. Roll the dough out between two pieces of cling film to a thickness of 6mm. Refrigerate until firm then use the cutter to press out the heart-shaped shortbreads and transfer to the baking tray.

8. Bake for 8-10 minutes until pale golden. Transfer to a cooling rack.

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For hard to find ingredients and more recipe ideas, visit www.souschef.co.uk