Mary Berry's Country House Secrets (2017) s01e01 Episode Script

Highclere Castle

Britain is world-famous for its stately homes.
And when it comes to food, our country houses were the taste makers.
Curry and cockles.
It's an absolute first for me.
In this series, we'll sample delicious dishes They look wonderful, Mary.
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and enjoy the lavish hospitality that these homes were celebrated for.
You look absolutely stunning.
I'll show you how to cook tasty modern recipes inspired by the history of our great houses.
This is actually Napoleon's chair from Waterloo.
Mind you, I could do with a cushion! Join me as I meet the families who own these exceptional homes.
The best thing about the staircase, obviously, is going down on a tray, or on your bottom.
Oh! And find out what it's really like to live That looks quite saucy.
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work Oh, it's very like cutting a hedge.
I think you're better at baking! .
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and party in the nation's most beautiful stately homes.
I'm not going to drop it! This week, I'm visiting Highclere Castle, the home of the Victorian house party I feel just like Lady Mary.
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where I'll be joining a very special dinner.
This is your invitation to dine at some of Britain's grandest tables in some of the most beautiful houses in the land.
I'm in Hampshire, 60 miles west of London.
I'm on my way to explore one of the most significant houses in England.
It's Highclere Castle.
Although it's probably better known to millions of TV viewers around the world Wow! .
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as Downton Abbey.
There it is, peeping between the trees, Highclere Castle.
It is truly magnificent.
For nearly 200 years, Highclere has hosted some of the most glamorous and influential weekend house parties in British high society.
Now, I've been invited in, too.
Good morning.
Hello, good morning, welcome.
What a glorious day.
It is fantastic.
It feels so familiar from watching Downton, but it's also somehow different.
I'm here to find out what and who keeps a home like this going in today's world.
Can I take your coat and hat? Thank you.
I'm meeting Fiona, eighth Countess of Caernarvon, who lives here with her family and seven dogs.
Quite a welcome.
How lovely to meet you.
What a treat.
I am thrilled to be here.
Well, thank you for coming.
Hello! What a family you have! And this is one of your puppies.
This is little Evie, and she's just like a little lapdog.
Aren't you? She's very lovely.
Hello, poppet.
Well, you know why I love her, because I have Darcy at home, and you look as though you're her first cousin.
Isn't she lovely? So, how long have your family been here? Since 1679.
So the family have been here for, sort of, 350 years.
And before that, it was owned by the church.
People have lived here since 749 AD.
So, I'm looking after something which is stately, and something which is a home, which matters a lot to me.
And sharing it with friends and family, what is more important? It's living in the now for something I'm trying to preserve for the future.
And so, how many can you have to stay here? Hello, poppet, yes.
I'm happy having, I suppose, about 20 people to stay.
I think that's enough.
I'm not a hotel.
But there are 200-300 rooms in this house.
Wow! So, it's And there are.
So, what happens behind that gallery up there? The main bedrooms and guest bedrooms run all around this gallery.
You can walk round down the stairs and pretend you're Lady Mary, if you want to be, or some of the illustrious guests from the past.
In the Victorian era, Highclere Castle was renowned for hosting the most prestigious weekend house parties.
The weekends were partly for matchmaking among the gentry.
But the house parties also had a major influence on business and politics.
You're very famous for your house parties.
Tell me more about them.
I think the weekend house parties began because Highclere provided an environment where Cabinet ministers, politicians, diplomats, could sit and discuss over dinner challenging matters of the day.
For example, the fourth Earl drafted the Canadian constitution here, which became the Dominion of Canada on 1st July, 1867.
It's a home that oozes history.
And the fact that it's only a short distance from London, no doubt allowed the more powerful guests to come, and boosted the impact of the parties held here.
Mary, would you like to see some more of this house? I would love to.
Then let's go this way.
OK.
Come on, chaps.
Everybody come.
Highclere was designed with entertaining in mind.
From the grand saloon for receiving important guests, to the magnificent library .
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to the peaceful drawing-room, where the ladies retired after dinner.
This is a lovely room, isn't it? Absolutely.
And it's so light.
The person who decorated this drawing room, Mary, was Almina, and she's one of the most important figures in Highclere's history.
So, there's a photograph of her, when I think she was round about 19.
And she was the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild.
She was his only daughter.
He adored her.
So when she married the fifth Earl of Caernarvon, with whom she was madly in love, he gave her a dowry with some ã500,000, which in those days was such a lot of money.
Perhaps ã60 million in today's terms.
That'd do a lot of restoration and building and whatever, wouldn't it? The fifth Earl married an heiress.
Jolly useful thing to do.
In the 19th century, Highclere was the house to be invited to.
I'm told that Benjamin Disraeli, soon to be Prime Minister, and even Prince Bertie, the future King, have partied here.
But entertaining on that scale required more than beautiful rooms.
It required staff, and through an unassuming door in the corner of the saloon, lies another world.
This is the green baize door.
So this was to muffle the sound? It was.
So we're now in the staff part.
And these stairs go the whole way up.
So the housemaids and the footmen could operate with never being seen by the guests or family.
Look at the number of stairs up here, it's extraordinary.
Goodness gracious, it's almost to heaven! You didn't need the gin.
No! These stairs must have been busy.
I'm told there used to be more than 50 household staff.
There were chambermaids upstairs, and cooks in the basement kitchen where Lady Caernarvon takes me next.
An astonishing 60 metres away.
Goodness gracious.
This goes on for ever.
This part hasn't really been seen on television because Downton filmed all the kitchen scenes in Ealing Studios.
And our own kitchens have been where they've been for 1,000 years.
But they really are used today to cook for all our tours and dinners.
So, they chose to create the kitchen scenes elsewhere.
Well, I'm privileged.
I'm seeing something that the viewers didn't see.
It's the last part of the journey into the kitchen.
We're nearly there.
It's a fair sized kitchen.
It's a great kitchen.
It strikes me that it's an awful long way to the dining room.
I should think How you keep the food hot, I don't know.
I gather Mrs Mackie, one of the cooks of the '30s, used to chase the footman down the corridor, saying, "Run, run!".
Gosh.
It is very tall.
So the kitchen wouldn't get too hot.
And the windows are all quite high, so you've got maximum wall space.
In most old stately homes, the kitchen would be north facing cos then there was less light and the food was less likely to spoil.
It would stay cooler.
And you've then got an awful lot of space to cook in.
It's a very practical, well-designed kitchen.
And the plates there Now, is this the crest of the family? Yes.
We've just had them made again.
This is a brand-new set.
And I've copied Almina, the fifth Countess's design, more or less.
So it's quite fun, isn't it? I've done enough for a small group of friends.
I've done enough for 80 people to sit down.
80 people! But they're beautiful.
So, how important was the food for the reputation of the house? To me, the food we deliver, the dinners, the suppers, they matter enormously.
And I want people to enjoy it and to be impressed by Paul, our chef's cooking.
He's excellent.
And so, still today, you use this kitchen that's so far away? There's not a day that I don't come into this kitchen.
But now you're here, Mary, I really hope that you might cook with us as well.
And I really look forward to that.
I'm itching to get going.
Will you give me a hand? I would love to, Mary, thank you.
Since afternoon tea was an important part of the weekend house party, I think we should make an indulgent tea-time treat.
My raspberry tartlets with creme patisserie.
The creme patisserie couldn't be easier to make.
Start by warming 150ml of milk, with some vanilla extract.
Heat the milk until it's scalding hot, so you can just put your finger in and lift it out again.
Meanwhile, I'm going to put an egg in here.
Do you have hens here? I do have hens.
Nothing better than fresh eggs.
Different colours.
White eggs, blue eggs, brown eggs, and different sizes.
I used to have a hen which laid green eggs.
Did you? Very unusual.
Which was very good for boiled eggs for breakfast.
Add 25g of caster sugar and 25g of plain flour and whisk it all to a stiff paste.
Just until it's smooth.
There it is.
And then I'm going to put the milk into there in two lots.
That's because I don't want the egg to separate.
That looks smooth to me.
And then in goes the rest of the milk.
Now that looks like a thin custard.
But it will thicken up nicely as soon as I've put it back on the heat.
How about you giving it a jolly good beat? Fine.
A bit of welly in there.
You know, in earlier days, when we didn't have machines, the cooks used to have huge great muscles, didn't they? There's a fruit biscuit recipe from 1811, we've got, and in the middle it says, "stir for two hours".
Which seems a bit extraordinary when they're making it.
I think you've done really well.
I want it really thick.
And we'll put some cream in it.
How delicious.
Let the mixture cool thoroughly, then whisk in 75ml of double cream.
So, the creme patisserie is made, and I reckon it tastes Go on! Can I taste it? It's my special role! That's delicious, actually.
And the cream is absolutely scrummy.
I like to make my own shortcrust pastry, but you can buy ready cooked cases if you're in a hurry.
Then it's just a matter of placing fresh raspberries on top.
This is my smiley face.
There we go.
Two eyes and a mouth.
I'll do it properly, I promise! I can see you like having a good play with the children when they're all baking.
Yes.
And for the glaze, heap some raspberry jam with a little water.
And that will slacken it down and we just push it through the sieve so we don't get the seeds.
That's it.
The aim is to put, sort of, minimum on, and let it just run over.
It's really to give a shine.
That just looks perfect.
Well, it's been lovely having you as my sous-chef.
Oh, thank you, Mary.
Come along.
Now's my chance to really play at being in Downton Abbey.
Taking afternoon tea with a Countess.
This must be what it was like to be entertained here back in Highclere's house party heyday in the late 1800s.
They look wonderful, Mary.
You are clever.
Mmmm! That's delicious.
I can see people being very distracted with all the beauty of this room.
Well, it's quite a French room, isn't it? With all the gold.
So it's rather beautiful.
And the views! Who else has got a backdrop of the wonderful folly at the back? I know.
It is beautiful, isn't it? You know, I think people might imagine being a Countess, that every day you sit down and have tea, and you have Lewis serving you, even if nobody's about.
Is that so? Certainly not! I'm often making myself a really nice cup of tea.
But I'm having it often at my desk in my office.
It is a hands-on job, whether you're working in the office or finding that you need to ring an electrician, or you've got various great friends.
Steve the roofer's a great friend, you always need a good roofer.
The plumbers were here today.
There's marketing to be done, e-mails to be answered.
Laughter to be had, as we go about every day's business.
There's a long list.
And actually, I don't think my husband disclosed quite the length of the list when he asked me to marry him.
It's clear that taking on a house like this is a huge responsibility.
And I can imagine the maintenance bills are endless.
So this luxurious home has had to evolve partly into a business.
And to find out more, I'm meeting Fiona's husband Georgie, eighth Earl of Caernarvon.
We're introduced by the castle manager, in keeping with proper protocol.
Lord Caernarvon, Mary.
Hi, good afternoon, welcome to Highclere.
I'm very thrilled to be here.
The Earl is, after all, the Queen's godson.
Enjoy your visit.
Thank you.
Much of the 5,000 acre estate is a working farm.
We specialise in winter oats, which we process for feeding for performance horses like racehorses and polo ponies.
And then, for spring crops, like spring malting barley.
And this year we're doing spring beans.
And you have masses of sheep.
How many have you? Well, we have about 1,600 ewes, and there'll be about 2,500 lambs.
Nowadays, we very much use the sheep to help control all of this very big area of grassland we have in the park here.
This beautiful parkland, as well as being part of the house, is regularly opened to the public.
Highclere also has a long-standing reputation for hosting top-quality game shooting weekends.
Highclere's been involved with game shooting all the way back from the end of the Victorian and Edwardian period, when it was one of the heights of recreational entertainment for country house parties and that kind of thing.
So, is shooting the main part of the business here, or is it just a small part? Well, I wouldn't say it's a vast part of the business.
But I would say it's a relevant part of the business, especially with the seasons.
And also because the game does get used in restaurants.
And we serve game ourselves here in the castle.
And it's terribly good for us.
It is.
It's very low-fat, naturally low-cholesterol, and very tasty.
As you know, you can cook it in many different ways.
Pheasant shooting is out of season between March and October.
But the gamekeepers stay busy, clearing woodland, rearing birds, and training their dogs.
Lord Caernarvon introduces me to gamekeepers Eddie Hughes, Tom Hibberd, and Val Maskell.
Hello, Valerie.
I have never seen a bevy of spaniels behaving so beautifully.
Yes, they are perfectly disciplined and well behaved.
They're all so quiet and happy, aren't they? Hello, poppet! Like my Darcy, these dogs are all spaniels, a breed which originally came from Spain, hence the name spaniel.
They've been used as hunting dogs since at least the 15th century, with Springer spaniels trained to flush, or "spring" birds from their ground nests.
The smaller cocker spaniels tended to be used for hunting woodcock.
Val has been training and breeding gundogs all her life.
So, Val, how long have you been here at Highclere? Well, I've been here nearly 20 years on the estate, with Eddie.
Gosh, that's a good innings.
When do you start training the dogs? Do they have to be a certain age? Well, I start training them as soon as possible.
Ours live indoors because somebody tried to steal them one night when they were out in the kennels.
We don't want to take the risk of losing them.
I bet they'd rather be in your kitchen than anywhere else.
They certainly would, yes.
Lots more cuddles.
So, are you going to put them through their paces? Yes, we let them hunt around.
And then we'll fire a shot.
They all have to sit down.
And then we'll throw a dummy for them.
And then one dog is selected to fetch that dummy and bring it back to me and put it in my hand.
OK.
Wait! Marty.
Marty! Oh, you clever boy.
Good boy.
A wonderful job, Marty.
Well done.
That's a good boy.
Spending time with the gamekeepers has given me an idea for a recipe.
Game has been a prominent part of the menus at Highclere for 200 years.
So I'm going to make a rich pheasant casserole that could be used for the gamekeeper's lunch.
First of all, I'm using a big pan and I'm going to make sure that it's hot before I fry all the meat.
So I'm just turning that up.
And I've got a brace of pheasants here.
I've got prime birds.
A little bit of oil in the bottom, just enough to cover the base.
Expect a sizzle, cos I've got this pan hot.
Keep turning and just get them brown.
It all adds to the flavour.
Once the meat is browned, put it to one side, then in the same pan, fry the bacon.
I'm using smoked for extra flavour, along with a roughly chopped onion and celery.
In goes the celery.
Again, keep that stirring all the time.
And when it's all very, very hot, I'll add the flour.
Sprinkle that in.
And it's important to make sure every bit is covered in the flour.
Don't worry about that deep golden brown at the bottom.
That will all come up when I add the stock.
I'm using pheasant stock, but you can use chicken if you prefer.
And you could use cider, although I find cloudy apple juice gives it a warmer, fuller flavour.
Right, we need a little bit of Worcester sauce.
That just sharpens it up.
A little redcurrant jelly.
Any fruit jelly will do.
Just whichever one you've got in the cupboard.
It doesn't really matter.
Add seasoning.
And fresh bay leaves.
There they are, then I'm going to tip all the meat in there.
That is quite a good colour, but it's a little bit grey so I'm going to do a little bit of gravy browning.
Just a dash.
Go easy on it, because it's quite dark and it's just caramel colouring.
And that really does look rich and good.
Then it needs simmering on a low heat for around one and a half to two hours, until really tender.
Mushrooms go in for the last half-hour, so they stay firm.
Then it's ready for the gamekeepers.
I'm serving it simply with green veg and mash, to let the pheasant flavour shine.
I hope you're starving! I've been toiling away all morning and I want you to eat it all! Right, can you take this? It's blooming hot.
There we are, Val.
I know you went without breakfast this morning, so you must be starving.
Thank you! Pass it down the line.
Wonderful, thank you, Mary.
I'm told at the end of the 19th century, there could have been up to 100 gamekeepers, helpers and staff on a single shoot weekend.
I'm glad I haven't got to cook for all that lot.
So, when you have a shoot here, how many people come? Probably got 25 to 30 people, have been here last time.
Yeah, yeah.
And there must be some very well behaved dogs here, I should think, cos it could be chaos! There is occasionally! Most of you have been working here for many, many years and what is it that you like, cos none of you seem to leave? Well, it's the atmosphere of the place.
We all get on well together, don't we? Yeah.
All of us.
Camaraderie.
Eddie does a shooter's meal.
Sorry, Eddie and Valerie do a shooter's meal.
Sorry, Val.
They prepare a meal for what we call the team, or the family.
Eddie's a very good cook.
I carry the things in and out mainly.
Very nice, Mary.
Is it? Very nice.
Very good, yeah.
Oh, good.
Thank you very much, Mary.
It's delicious.
Thank you.
The top-class shoots were a key feature of the weekend house parties that made Highclere such an influential and sought after place to visit.
And it was the fifth countess, the young Lady Almina who, just months into her new life here, had to host perhaps the most influential guest of all.
Her father wanted to make sure that she was fully accepted into high society, and he arranged for the Prince of Wales, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who was going to become later Edward VII, came to stay at Highclere, so it was an extraordinary, extravagant three-day party and shoot.
That's what she was in charge of at just 19.
Lady Caernarvon shows me the bedroom that Almina had redecorated especially for the future king.
All in red, very royal.
So these are the original silk wall hangings from 1895.
Good gracious.
It's lovely.
They must have been of very good quality to have stayed like this.
And I think this bed was brought in for the Prince of Wales.
It doesn't look so big today, but yet, king-size sheets don't necessarily fit it very well.
It is quite a large bed.
The Prince was a very robust man, was he? Yes, he was quite a large man, with a girth that testified to his love of food, I think you might say.
Yes.
And he would have been waited on hand, foot and finger.
Completely.
He demanded the best, so the best bedrooms, the best decorations, the best food, champagne, wine, so if you had him to stay quite often, or longer than a weekend, you know, you could find yourself dipping deep into your pockets to try to pay for it all.
Luckily, with Almina's huge wealth, she was able to go to town for this very special weekend house party.
Delving deep into the family's private archives reveals what it takes to entertain a demanding 44-year-old Prince.
Mary, we're so lucky to have this account book of the special entertainments with HRH the Prince of Wales, December 1895.
It just shows you the quantity of foods, of provisions, the amount of decorating, refurbishment that was done, the carpets, the hire of marquees, it's just endless.
I mean, I think in today's terms, Almina spent about ã500,000 on entertaining the Prince of Wales for three days.
All for just one weekend.
Which was just two evenings, if you think about it! And then he was on the train again.
Have you any idea what was actually served on the main evening dinner? So from my research on this particular weekend, I've constructed what I think is the very likely selection of dishes.
The Prince of Wales was very keen on oysters.
It was a very good safe starting point.
There were always two soups, a thin soup and a thick soup.
So it was consomme clair and cock-a-leekie.
The soups were followed by six further courses, served one after the other, as was the new fashion.
There could have been more than 20 different dishes.
Finally ending with a buffet.
A buffet.
I bet there were some good leftovers! Yes, I think the staff must have ate well, and of course, the Prince of Wales then had a small buffet up in his bedroom, in case he became hungry during the evening.
With food as her secret weapon, the visit was a triumph for Lady Almina, securing her a place in English society, and cementing Highclere's reputation for distinguished parties.
And today is little different.
Current royalty have also been entertained here.
Lady Caernarvon is inviting a few friends to a house party.
I've been asked to join them, and also to suggest a recipe to serve at the main dinner.
All this talk of royalty makes me think of the perfect dish.
My succulent cannon of lamb, served on a crispy celeriac potato cake, with a luxurious fresh mint gravy.
Now cannon of lamb is the saddle of lamb, it's the eye of the meat, and it's very expensive, but it is something that is so special, so tender, and quite easy to serve.
It's for a great celebration.
Having seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, and lightly brushed it with oil, I'm browning it in a really hot pan.
I want to do this as quickly as possible.
You can see by the smoke, it's really, really, really hot.
Now already, I need to be turning it.
The reason for sealing the meat before I roast it, it gives a wonderful colour so you have to stand there and let it smoke straight in your hair, it doesn't matter.
I've got some rosemary here.
There's an abundance of herbs to choose from here, which is wonderful.
So, put that underneath each piece, so that will permeate through the meat, and that will be browned.
There.
That is beautifully sealed, just what I wanted.
Done really, really fast.
I'm going to sit those on the top.
It's got to have eight minutes' roasting.
So in it goes, to a hot oven at 200 fan.
To go with that very glamorous cannon of lamb, I've decided to make potato cakes but with a difference, with celeriac.
The two flavours go very well together.
So, you need 350g of potatoes, and 250g of celeriac.
I've grated the potato and the celeriac, using the coarse grater, put it in a tea towel to get every little bit of wet out of it.
This is something that's got to be done at the last minute, otherwise the celeriac goes brown.
So, salt and pepper.
Divide the grated veg into equal sized piles and squash them down to make patties.
You've got to be firm, and you've got to use force.
It will begin to stick together.
That's it.
It's the starch in the potato which is holding it all together.
Then they're ready for frying, but make sure your pan is nowhere near as hot as it was for the lamb.
Notice how I'm pushing the sides in, so that they don't all join up, and good news, you can make these ahead and reheat them.
Fry them until golden brown on each side.
Cook them too quickly and you'll find that they will burn underneath and it won't be done in the middle, so I've turned the heat down, and doing them very, very gently.
Serve with a traditional gravy enriched with port and freshly chopped mint from the garden.
That that looks pretty good to me, so that needs to go into the gravy, like that.
I'm going to taste it and see that it really is sheer perfection to serve with that lamb.
That's pretty good.
To me, that's a dish fit for a prince.
I can't tell you how thrilled I am that I'm going to be at this great dinner party that Lady Caernarvon is going to give, and she's chosen to have this wonderful lamb dish.
I so hope they enjoy it.
Whether the guests are visiting royalty, weekend house guests, or paying public, the rooms here have to be kept in first-rate condition.
There is a never-ending list of jobs that keeps the 14 household staff rather busy.
It'll look much more spectacular here.
It was rather hidden round a corner before.
It's got really good light there.
It's lovely.
I think it's pretty good to keep out of the way here.
It must be very, very heavy.
It's the frame My goodness, David, that's very high.
Yeah.
And then at the top is a picture rail, is it? It will hook over.
There is.
That's it, down.
That's it.
The other down! OK.
Happy? No, left a bit with your left hand, David.
It's not quite vertical.
Is it tipping down on the top left-hand corner a little bit? Yes.
It's a bit cockeyed.
Happy? Yeah, I think so, actually, John.
Brilliant.
Thank you, very, very much.
You've got a great team of people here.
Who are they all and what do they all do? I have.
Well, I don't know, Matthew, you do multitasking, afternoon teas, helping with dogs, feed the chickens when I can't do that.
I can't think what you came here to do, but that's what you do now! I don't think I'm doing what I came here to do! What was the job description when you came? I think it was pretty much whatever I needed to do.
Oh, good.
Walking the dogs, helping to butler in the castle, and then it's just grown since then.
And which part do you enjoy most? All of it.
It's very varied, so it's fun.
It is really good fun working here.
And then, Pat, I don't know how long you've been here for, which way exceeds me, doesn't it? Yeah.
57 years now.
57 years?! Yes, yes.
Gosh.
We do painting and decorating all the way around, whether it's in the castle, or around the estate.
I hope you're not going up ladders.
No, thanks to Lady Caernarvon.
No, I don't, not any more.
She banned me.
So, how many have you got in your team? There's three of us.
Mike is one, and young Richard's the other.
Mind you, I call them the boys.
The boys.
Well, one's coming 80, and the other's coming 48.
One's coming? 80.
I come for 75.
And no sign of retirement? No.
Not allowed to! No! I was just going to say that! I understand that, I can tell you.
You just keep going.
It's much better.
And on a Friday every so often, we have fish and chips together.
Pat goes and gets fish and chips from our local fish and chip shop.
We sit down and wherever we are We hide.
Well, that's good.
Yes.
My husband doesn't think I should have fish and chips, but I think it's excellent! Well, it's a great thing to share.
And then, John Gunter, who's our castle manager.
I'm not quite sure what's on your CV, either.
I'm not quite sure I've got a true job description either, but it does include everything.
We do some large events and that takes a lot of planning.
The team are a relatively small team, very hard-working, and you've got to have some good humour and good nature, otherwise it just doesn't gel and that's the magic gel that makes it work for us all, I think.
And, after a hard week, everybody has some fish and chips.
I like that idea.
I've never been invited, so I wouldn't know.
Hope for an invitation! I will look more diligently on Friday lunchtimes for my fish and chip invitation.
Have I put the cat amongst the pigeons? Yes, I think you have! It looks as though you might have to have somebody else.
Yes, I think I might, Mary.
Cut! Now, there's one more member of the team I really must meet.
Paul Brooke-Taylor cooks for the family as well as for public events.
Right place, right time? Absolutely.
Lovely to meet you.
You, too, Mary.
Thank you.
So how did you come to get here? I was in a very big hotel corporation chain and I found that as soon as you become head chef, you stop cooking.
I wanted to get my hands dirty.
I wanted to cook but nine years ago.
.
It's flown by, to be honest.
So you got the job? I did, yeah.
I took over a sleepy little castle.
It was lovely.
We did the odd posh wedding and then they did a TV show here and my life changed.
What's the biggest number you have for tea? A wedding, we'll cap at 120.
If it's family dining, we'll do 30.
Afternoon teas, we do over 110 a day when we're open to the general public.
And you're two chefs now.
Going back 100 years ago, how many would have been in here? I have this conversation with Lord Caernarvon a lot.
I've got to be honest, his team back then was a lot bigger.
But it was one chef per job.
I think now, we have more equipment, we have better ovens.
It's not such manual labour.
And it was a totally different environment.
This house has had to change to match today's society, and make some money.
Opening the house to the public is a relatively recent change, but the Caernarvon family have been in the public eye throughout their history.
None more so, perhaps, than Lord Caernarvon's great-grandfather, George Herbert, the fifth Earl.
He was an early pioneer in travel photography.
And there's that rather wonderful drawing of him with his lucky hat on and his cigarette in his right hand.
Oh, how lovely.
What I like is the lucky hat.
It's looking pretty worn and dented there.
That portrait does have a touch of Indiana Jones about it, but you can see the extraordinary character of the man.
He was the late Victorian, Edwardian eccentric adventurer.
One great friend of his and a regular visitor here was the famed archaeologist Howard Carter.
I'm told that, together, in these very rooms, they would plan their expeditions to Egypt, where they made one of the world's most significant archaeological discoveries, the tomb of Tutankhamun.
This is very much the area he worked in, because here we are now in the Valley of the Kings.
I think in very early 1923, just only within two months of him actually discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922 with Howard Carter.
And there's the famous steps down to the tomb.
And there's my great-grandfather, the fifth Earl, on the left Right.
And Howard Carter on the right, looking very dapper.
The two men's stoic persistence in the heat and dust and flies of the dessert paid off in the greatest archaeological find.
Look at the huge smiles! And also look at their dress.
I mean, they've got waistcoats on in this heat! Yes, I think there was a strong tradition of rather wintry British dress in rather a warm climate, even in Egypt.
Can you imagine when they first break down the door of the antechamber of the tomb, my great-grandfather says to Carter, "Can you see anything? Can you see anything? What's happening?" They're all in a high state of excitement, because actually, they'd found all this rubbish had been piled up everywhere, and Carter had been in previous tombs, where there was nothing the other side, but this time, he says, "Yes, I see wonderful things.
" And there's everywhere the glint of gold.
Well, I shall not forget the look on their faces.
I mean, it's magical, isn't it? The whole thing is, it was such a time of such excitement and it was such bad luck for my great-grandfather that he didn't live to see so many of the wonderful objects that finally came out of the tomb.
He went off to take a few days' rest down the river, which was when he was bitten by the fateful mosquito in March 1923.
And what happened after that? Eventually, he returned to Cairo with blood poisoning but sadly, in the end, succumbed to pneumonia and he died in the hour of his triumph, and, of course, he never actually saw the wonderful golden mask.
Nonetheless, Lord Caernarvon was assured of a place in archaeological history.
When you were a boy, was it very exciting growing up with all these stories? Well, the strange thing was, I used to wonder a lot about all this, but my grandfather was very reticent about it.
Really? And he was the one that hid quite a number of these incredible objects that we have here in dark cupboards, between two rooms, and no-one was ever allowed to see them and he blocked up the entrance either side.
I think he was very upset by the fact that his father had suddenly died when he really was quite, quite young and Egypt had, out of the blue, taken something away from him and totally changed his life.
And my grandfather was just quite quiet about his father's work.
Thankfully, the currant Lord Caernarvon keeps replicas of his great-grandfather's finds in a public museum deep in the basement, a tribute to this remarkable chapter in Highclere's history.
Gosh, that is sheer magnificence.
Well, this is the glorious middle coffin.
Of course, the actual embalmed body was found vested inside three golden coffins and this one's known as the middle one and it was absolutely covered in an effect of semiprecious stones.
Can you see all the glory of all the colours? The reds, the blues, and the gold.
Well, it is absolutely spectacular.
Wow! There it is, I know it's a replica, but isn't it magnificent? It's an extraordinary replica to scale of the real golden mask.
And this weighs around 11 kilos and it's an extraordinary amount of gold on one beautiful artistic object, of the face of the boy king.
Remember, he died when he was only about 19, or so.
It's so beautiful and gentle and the actual features.
Yes, they really are extraordinary.
It's one of the world's greatest objects.
But the days of grand discoveries, sumptuous living and weekend house parties at Highclere were numbered.
The Second World War brought turbulent times and the current Lady Caernarvon, a keen historian, has been unearthing some of the castle's wartime stories.
She's arranged an expedition to show me evidence of an aeroplane that crashed here.
Her team of plane hunters includes metal detector enthusiasts Paul McTaggart and Robert Coleman, and retired Concorde pilot Steve Bowhill Smith.
What are you looking for? What are you expecting? Well, we've got some photographs to show you.
That's a B-17, which was called a flying Fortress.
It crashed up on the top of the hill.
They were usually about ten people on board but this was a training flight, and they had only seven on board.
And to search for it, we had to get permission from the MoD.
You have to have a licence.
Really, on your own land? Yes, it's called the Protection Of Military Remains Act, so we had to do it properly.
We had to get the landowner's permission and then we had to get the MoD's permission as well.
I'm told the main bulk of the American plane was recovered a few days after the crash.
But, over the last few years, Lady Caernarvon and her team have collected dozens of smaller pieces of the wreckage that have been lying here untouched since the Second World War.
Perhaps I should explain what we think happened.
They hit the trees, those big cedar trees up on the top, and they just came crashing down through the trees here, down the slope and it basically exploded into a million bits.
So you can walk along amongst the trees here and you can actually see things in the undergrowth from the aircraft.
OK, Mary.
This is a metal detector.
Put your arm in there and all you do is, basically, just wave it backwards and forwards.
What am I waiting for? A noise? You're waiting for a noise.
As soon as you go over a piece of metal, it'll squeak at you and you'll know exactly.
That's it.
Close to the ground.
The lower to the ground, the better it is.
What was that? That was the signal.
Right in the middle of that.
There, look.
It's all over the place.
Just underneath the surface.
That wasn't digging for it.
It was just there.
No, there was no digging, because there's so much of it, just up in the woods.
What have you found? Well, this was just on the bank up there.
It looks like a hatch of some description.
There's a hinge there and there will be another hinge somewhere else up there.
It's airframe, definitely.
It's amazing to think that this has been here 70-odd years.
And it was only three days before the end of the war.
So absolutely tragic, really.
They'd done their 30-odd missions, so this is where it all came to an end.
Rather sad.
Rather sad, terrible, yeah.
But, for me, it's something about understanding what happened to these young men who gave so much and doing some sort of memorial for them over in the castle gardens, looking up at this hill.
It's the stories of husbands, of brothers, of sons, who died fighting for all of us.
We're heading to one of Highclere's follies, known as Heaven's Gate.
It was built over 250 years ago .
.
by the current Earl's great, great, great, great, great, great great uncle! With truly breathtaking views over the estate, it's a fitting place to reflect on the changing fortunes of Highclere since the Second World War.
What was the impact of the war on Highclere? Highclere was commandeered by the Ministry of Health and it became home for evacuee children so, suddenly, there were between 25 and 50 tiny children aged three to five, living on the top floor of the castle, throughout the war with their teachers, nursing assistants.
So the chef, therefore, was now cooking for 80 people a day, breakfast, lunch, and high tea for the children.
It was a time of hardship.
You had to really look after the food you were growing.
Nothing was wasted.
I mean, the vegetable garden here, the kitchen garden was invaluable, because it was very successful and it not only supplied the castle and the children but it could also supply beyond that, as well.
After the war, things changed for the great estates.
Is that right? It did.
There was no money, no resources, rationing still continued.
It was a very tough time so no-one could afford to employ anybody either and nor could you repair anything, because there was nothing to repair anything with.
It's amazing this house survived, because, I think, during the 1950s, a lot of great houses of England were knocked down or destroyed.
What a sadness that is.
The post-war era marked a turning point for Highclere's lavish house parties.
The prestigious and glamorous weekends that sparked off adventure, shaped politics, and even created a country.
In order to survive and prosper in the modern world, the house had to change.
It had to become more businesslike and open its doors to the public.
Nonetheless, this is still a home and Lord and Lady Caernarvon still host house parties, albeit on a smaller scale than during Almina's time.
And so, tonight, I will be able to witness this wonderful home in all its dinner party glory but, first, I've been asked to choose our pud.
So for the grand finale for this special dinner party, I'm going to make gooseberry and elderflower fool.
It's luxurious, it's British, very, very special.
It's a classic English pudding, served at country house dining tables for hundreds of years.
I'll be serving it with a delicate honey biscuit, made with local honey.
In the pan, I've got 500g of gooseberries, 100g of caster sugar - a bit less, if you like it sharp.
And three tablespoons of Lady Caernarvon's home-made elderflower cordial.
Though, of course, you could buy it.
I'm gently cooking that, squashing them down.
You notice that I've got green gooseberries.
If you're cooking with gooseberries, always pick them young and green.
They're very bitter to eat like that, freshly, but they're much better for cooking.
When they're soft, take the pan off the heat, remove about a quarter of the mixture to use later as a topping, then blitz the rest into a mush.
There we are.
That's a mush.
But if you put that just with the cream for a fool, you would have lots of pips which aren't very nice to eat, so that's why we're going to sieve it.
You just need to force it through, so keep pressing.
Now look at that.
That is just pips and I'll just discard it to one side.
There we are.
Before you can mix it with the cream to make the fool, you'll have to chill the puree in the fridge until it's nice and firm.
Traditionally, you would add all double cream.
But I've decided to make it a little bit sharper by adding yoghurt and I've got 100ml of full-fat yoghurt and 200ml of whipped double cream.
Start with pouring cream.
It's easier to whip.
So in it goes.
Then I'm going to add the cream, so just beat that in like that.
Just until you've got no streaks.
That's it.
That looks perfect.
A lovely smooth consistency and I can smell the elderflower.
Serve in elegant glasses and top with the reserved compote.
And then, just to finish it, a little mint, fresh from the garden.
Don't always think of mint as being always to go with lamb.
It's lovely to have on a pud.
Just gives it a lift.
So there you have it - our wonderful, luxurious British pud, all ready for that very special dinner party.
Talking of which, the household is starting to prepare for this evening's extravaganza.
There's much to do, everything from seating plans, flower displays to laying the table, which the butler, Luis Coelho, is in charge of.
Luis, I've come to see what you're up to.
How's it all going? It's going very well.
I think we're pretty much set.
Well, it's all looking pretty magnificent.
The glasses come from Italy and they are hand painted in gold.
They do look really special.
Now, you're the butler.
I am indeed.
What is it like to work here? It's a great responsibility and we've got a lot of standards and we're serving like they served many years ago.
So it's a tradition, as well.
It's looking really lovely.
All that's missing are the flowers.
Five acres of gardens and greenhouses at Highclere provide a ready source of fresh flowers and plants to decorate the staterooms on special occasions.
The gardens used to be attended by a team of over 20 gardeners.
Nowadays, it's just Paul Barker and his team of two, who ensure a year-round supply of floral colour.
Lady Caernarvon has been arranging flowers from the garden to provide a centrepiece for the sumptuous dining table.
As the household prepares to receive this evening's guests, there's only one thing left for me to do, dress for the occasion.
I feel just like Lady Mary in Downton Abbey.
At the end of the 19th century, Highclere was the epitome of luxurious entertaining.
The gatherings here had defined a generation.
The parties have evolved since then but they still bring people together to talk, laugh, to dine in an elegant style.
Mary, you look absolutely stunning! How lovely to see you.
Very exciting to see the salon so alive with people.
Can I offer you a drink before you go any further? There's a nonalcoholic or a champagne cocktail.
Oh, I shall.
To keep up my reputation.
Okey doke.
Compared to the house parties from a bygone era, this dinner party is more modest.
But the guest list is just as varied.
Including a bishop, a gardener, and a cook.
As the guests are summoned into the dining room, we are reminded of the special history of this house.
The place names are written in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Gracious me.
I can explain, right-to-left.
Meanwhile, chef Paul and his team have been cooking in the distant kitchens.
Have you got half a lemon? Then they whiz the cooked food along the long corridor to a plating room near the dining room.
That's Paul's secret to serving my cannon of lamb while it's really piping hot.
Ready, Josh? Let's go.
It's like a military operation.
Centuries-old traditions of hospitality meet entertaining in the modern world.
It's a rare glimpse into the private side of a very public house.
You are a wonderful family and thank you for welcoming me.
You're so kind and we've really enjoyed this week, as well.
It's been great to have you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
I will leave Highclere with great memories, especially of the people who work behind the scenes to keep this great house alive for everyone to enjoy.
Next time, I visit Scone Palace, Scotland's crowning glory.
They were crowned on this very stone? I'll cook up a feast fit for royalty.
I reckon you might have topped the chart with that.
And get a taste of the sport of kings.
Look! I'm reeling with excitement Woohoo! .
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for my Highland adventure.