When I asked people to conjure up the thoughts that come to mind regarding Yorkshire Pudding they said:
“Crispy, delicious gravy receptacle.”
“The meaning of Sunday roast.”
“Tourists to Yorkshire must uphold the tradition that the Yorkshire pudding be worn as a hat prior to consumption.”
“Golden pillows of deliciousness.”
“The best gravy boat ever!”
“Starter.” (apparently with gravy)
“Bit of mash and gravy on it and you have love on a fork.”
“Basis only for toad in the hole.”
So you can see, it’s all pretty emotive stuff.
History of the Yorkshire Pudding
So where does our love of Yorkshire Pudding come from, and why does it elicit such strong feelings of love and desire? I always remember my mum’s Yorkshires, she made them in one big baking tin, none of these modern individual things, and thank God frozen pre-made ones weren’t even a thing when she was here. She would’ve been appalled; as am I. Just no. NO. I remember the sizzling fat as she poured the mix into the baking dish and then the great big pudding appearing out of the oven and being cut into several pieces for us kids and whoever else was round. Happy days.
‘Yorkshire’ as it’s coloquially known, deffo has the wow factor on a plate, and is seriously distracting, but its origins are actually quite humble.
In the 1700s in that Northern England (to me that’s anywhere north of Essex) a food revolution happened that would change the British Sunday roast forever. At the time, people of the middle classes were mainly scoffing roast and boiled meats, pies and puddings, while the poorer folk existed on dark bread (considered well chav in those days) and cake – IKR? Generally, wheat flour was becoming loads more affordable, and its robustness due to its higher gluten content meant it was fast becoming a favourite flour for the cooks of the time.
It was a frugal time of almost zero waste and they were after finding a good use for the leftover fat and juices from a meat joint. So a simple batter using cheap ingredients – eggs, flour and milk – was made and poured into the dripping pan underneath the roasting joint, this was usually mutton or beef. And so the ‘dripping pudding’ was born.
To go back to me mummy’s big single Yorkshires, traditionally, just like she did, the puddings were made in large shallow tins and cut into portions once cooked. By the way, at that time a pudding, for the masses at least, wasn’t a dessert as we think of puddings today; it was often meat-based, savoury rather than sweet. Sugar was still mega expensive and hard to get hold of, though funnily enough their teeth fell out on a more regular basis but that’s another blog.
The stodgy, flat, dripping pudding was served as a starter, with a thick gravy made from the meat juices. It filled you up so you didn’t need as much of the expensive meat and vegetables. Nowadays they’re usually eaten as part of the main course, typically as part of a roast beef dinner. But there’s a point, what’s wrong with having Yorkshire Pudding with any roast dinner, I mean does it actually matter? I don’t think so.
So why is it now called Yorkshire Pudding if it was originally called ‘Dripping Pudding’?
Well, in Yorkshire at this time, around 1747, Hannah Glasse, who was the ‘Nigella’ of the day, renamed it ‘Yorkshire pudding’. It’s thought that the use of coal in the ovens of Yorkshire, a perk of the job for the miners, meant the puddings actually rose due to the higher oven temperatures. Indeed, in 2008 the Royal Society of Chemistry stated that for a Yorkshire Pudding to be a Yorkshire Pudding it had to be at least 4 inches in height. So there you go, Aunt Bessie’s #fail.
Different ways of eating Yorkshire Pudding
The hardy traditionalist will only eat Yorkshire Pud with roast beef, but why limit your YP opportunities?! So beloved are Yorkshire Puddings in this day and age, that they’re served in many different ways, such as a large bowl-shape filled with anything from bangers and mash to chilli, to chicken tikka masala. You can also get Yorkshire Pud wraps, basically a flat Yorkshire filled with roast meat and veg and rolled up like a sandwich wrap; someone even tells me there’s Yorkshire Pud pizza – gah, not for me!
Some people still like them as a starter, some like them with jam. My mum used to make something called ‘apple batter’ which is a shed load of cooking apples with a ton of sugar tipped over them, covered in Yorkshire Pud batter and slowly baked til it’s a sticky sweet divine mess. OMG I’m actually crying from desire sat here.
What’s the best recipe for Yorkshire Pudding?
It’s my one, obvs!
Ha! But listen, there are so many variations, usually on the number of eggs and in fact I don’t actually measure anything these days, I just use 3 eggs and enough flour and milk to make the right-looking batter, with some salt – sea salt darlin’ because, this. I leave mine to stand for a couple of hours, just because that’s what my mum did, but I think it’s cos it allows the liquid to absorb into the flour, so you get nice squidginess in the middle. You absolutely must get the fat hellishly hot and do not open the oven door while it’s cooking or it’ll droop.
Talking about fat, well again there are so many different ideas here, I always use lard or goose fat, most definitely not the ghastly rapeseed oil. Beef dripping is magic, if you can get some. If I don’t use animal fat I suppose I just use sunflower oil, but not if I can help it. The story goes that enamel baking tins heat up fast and evenly, so they are a good bet. Even better is copper – my current obsession in cookware material, though you need to be Rockerfella to afford it, which I’m not, yet. eBay is a good bet for second hand French copper pans though, or antiques shops.
Any other stories, arguments or recipes to do with Yorkshire Puds please catch me on our Facebook page I’ll reply when I’m not in a field or in the kitchen cooking or writing the best meal plans in the world ever (which, incidentally, include Yorkshire Puddings occasionally).
Thank you millions to Nuush follower Carol Cooney for doing the historical research for this piece. I was always daydreaming in history, about cookery or donkeys.
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