YORKSHIRE PUDDING: A LEGEND, A HISTORY AND A TASTY STARTER!
By Sheila Frampton
Tell anyone you come from Yorkshire and within the first few minutes, they’ll ask you if you can make Yorkshire puddings. Over the years, I’ve experienced this, not only elsewhere in the UK but also in Canada and the United States.
Yorkshire puddings have been on the menu in my home for as long as I can remember. My mother’s Yorkshire puddings were world-class – they’d rise high up out of the tin. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008, a Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding unless it’s at least 4 inches tall. My mother’s puddings would be higher than that and I never remember her having a disaster – ‘it’s all in the beating and getting the fat really hot,” she’d say. I think she’d agree with Chemical scientist, author and Yorkshireman that the ability to make good puds is ‘in the blood and instinct of people born and raised [in Yorkshire].’
Whilst most people have ‘Yorkshires’ as a side dish to the Sunday roast, we’d eat them the traditional Yorkshire way – as a starter. My mother would cook the Yorkshire pudding in a large rectangular tin, slice it up and we’d smother it in onion gravy.
The reason for this was that serving the Yorkshire pudding first would mean that those eating it would be filled up and wouldn’t eat so much of the main course – a good way of economising for the poor folk or those with tight Yorkshire purse strings!
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s ‘usual’ to eat Yorkshire puddings with jam and cream or ice-cream. Some do – but it’s not a true Yorkshire habit!
The legend of Yorkshire Puddings
The legend of the Yorkshire pudding is that an angel came down from Heaven and visited a poor old Yorkshire. After chatting for a while, the old woman realised she had to make her husband a meal and hadn’t got much in her cupboard. The angel took some flour and water, eggs and salt and set about making a Yorkshire pudding, light as a feather, before heading back to heaven.
The story features in a poem by Weston and Lee in 1935 and recorded by Stanley Holloway in 1940 – it’s worth checking this out on Youtube. My own gran knew of the story before the Weston and Lee poem, so we presume that they’d heard it somewhere too. According to the poem, “the real Yorkshire pudden’s a dream in batter, To make one’s an art, not a trade.”
The real history of Yorkshire Puddings
The first recipe for ‘dripping pudding’ was published in ‘The Whole Duty of A Woman,’ in 1737. This was a guide outlining how a woman should behave, combining the Duty of a Virgin, a Wife and A Widow. As well as cookery recipes, it touched on modesty, religion and ‘a wife’s behaviour to a drunkard.’ As for the pudding recipe, it was simple: ‘make a good batter as for pancakes, put in a hot toss-pan over the fire, add a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little, then put the pan instead of a dripping pan and under a shoulder of mutton, shake it frequently and it will be light and savoury. When the mutton is done, turn it in a dish and serve hot.’ Ten years later, Hannah Glasse reinvented and renamed the dripping pudding in ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple.’
The Best Yorkshire Pudding Recipe
Ingredients for the batter
- 4 large eggs (200g, 7oz)
- 150g all-purpose flour or plain flour (about 5 ¼ oz)
- 175g whole milk (6 fl oz)
- 25g water (0.85 fl oz, 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons)
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 100 ml beef dripping can use lard or sunflower oil but dripping is far the best
- For the best results, make the batter in advance and let it ‘rest’ for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before using it.
- The puddings will be lighter still if you make the batter, cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight. Give it another beating before you use it.
- Make sure you beat the batter very well, letting the air get into the mixture and making sure there are no lumps.
- Heat the oven to 230 degrees Centigrade (210 for a fan oven or gas mark 8). Put the dripping in the Yorkshire pudding tin (one large square or rectangle or what we call ‘bun tins’ in Yorkshire (muffin tins to most people).
- Make sure the fat is smoking before you add the batter. Some people put the tins on direct heat whilst adding the batter to ensure the tins stay hot but this isn’t really necessary.
- Put the puddings back in the oven at 230 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Do NOT open the oven door under any circumstance until the puddings are golden brown and are four times the size (about 4 inches/10 cm high).
- Serve straight away – or freeze for about a month.