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Film Released: 2002
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Crime
Directed by: Robert Altman
Cast/Actors:  Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren,  Kristin Scott Thomas,  Kelly Macdonald, Alan Bates


Set in the 1930's the story takes place in an English country house and focuses on the lives of the entire household.

Upstairs the McCordle family indulge themselves with a very comfortable lifestyle made up of shooting, dinners and parties with their circle of friends and family, most of whom want something from Sir William who has become benefactor to many them. Sir William (played by Michael Gambon) is an older wealthy but uncouth industrialist who is married to a much younger wife Lady Sylvia (played by Kristin Scott Thomas).

Downstairs, the servants go about their work under the watchful eye of the butler, Mr. Jennings (played by Alan Bates) and the house keeper Mrs. Wilson (played by Helen Mirren).

In accordance with an orderly run home, everyone knows their place, both upstairs and downstairs however when the family holds a shooting party, the arrival of friends and family together with their servants, the order is disrupted and as the weekend goes on, a cauldron of secrets, deceit, lies, hatred and revenge gradually boils over ending up in murder.

As with most upper class households of the times, food features prominently in the everyday run of things and is featured throughout the film from breakfasts to teas to dinners to al fresco lunches. The recipe we’ve chosen was mentioned twice, albeit in relation to the same meal.

Amongst the guests is Lady Trentham (played by Maggie Smith) who has brought along her new maid Mary (played by Kelly Macdonald).  Soon after their arrival at the house Mrs Wilson asks Mary about Lady Trentham’s breakfast for the next morning:

“Does she have to have marmalade? Only Dorothy made too little of it last January and we've run out of the homemade. I don't suppose she'd care for strawberry jam instead? No, I thought not."

Upon being served breakfast in her room the next morning, Lady Trentham comments:

“Oh, dear. Bought marmalade. Dear me, I call that very feeble. Well, I suppose one can't have everything."

As this marmalade was being served to a Lady, we’ve decided to feature a rather special and unusual one which would have utilised some lovely fresh fruit from the orchards and conservatories on the Estate. Besides, you know how partial the gentry are to speciality foods.


Happy Cooking!




Pear Marmalade    Veg CD ACC        

Vegetarian Cold Accompaniment Jam Preserve Preserves Preserving

2.2kg/5lb Pears, cut into chunks
2.2kg/5lb Sugar
The Juice and thinly sliced rind of 3 Oranges
The Juice and thinly sliced rind of 2 Lemons
Chopped walnuts & Maraschino Cherries (Optional)


1. Place the pears and sugar in a large saucepan and mix well. Leave to stand until some juice forms then over a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook until is starts to thicken slightly.

2. Meanwhile, steam the orange and lemon peel until soft.


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3. Add lemon and orange juice to the pears together with the softened rind, bring to the boil and continue to boil for about 30 minutes, stirring.

4. Remove from the heat and test for a set (see notes below) .

5. Skim any scum from the surface, add the nuts and cherries if using, mixing well, and ladle into warm jars. Cover, seal and label.



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