I attended an elegant luncheon in Queen Anne recently, and instead of the usual rolls and butter to accompany the entrée, we were served dark brown popovers with butter and jam. Everyone was most impressed and enjoyed the change until a very local lady from Yorkshire loudly proclaimed, "Ee by gum lass, 'tis cold Yorkshire pudden!"
You know, she was quite correct.
But first of all, I should explain about British pudding. It is not the instant, custard-like variety that comes in packages and plastic cups. British pudding has a longstanding tradition evolving from early Saxon times.
It was during the 17th century that pudding came into its own.
To the basic English diet of bread, beef and ale was added the incomparable English pudding, made with milk, eggs, flour, sugar, butter, suet marrow, raisins and other fruit. The concoction was a delicious and substantial addition to the basic meal. The pudding could be boiled, baked, steamed, even fried, and came in dozens of varieties: sweet, savory, part of the main course or a delicious dessert to make a fitting end to a meal. In fact, in some parts of England, the dessert course is called "pudding."
There is steak and kidney pudding (a suet pudding filled with steak and kidney), black pudding (a form of sausage made with pig's blood), cabinet pudding, Queen's pudding (created for Queen Charlotte), roly-poly pudding and dozens of other savory and sweet varieties, culminating in the famous Christmas or plum pudding, which was boiled in a tied cloth for hours and hours.
There are songs, odes and monologues dedicated to puddings. Perhaps the best-known piece is from Scotland, dedicated to the Scottish haggis, which bears the title "Master of the Pudding Race."
But back to our renowned Yorkshire pudding, a culinary masterpiece and a traditional accomplishment to the roast beef of thousands of British Sunday dinners. There are as many variations of Yorkshire pudding as there are of the mums that produce them, even if they do not all hail from Yorkshire.
Yorkshire is the shire (or county) of York in northern England, home of the Yorkshire moors and dales, and the setting for James Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small."
York is the largest county in England, the Texas of Britain, where everything is considered bigger, better and older. York claims the oldest man in the world, who lived to 110, having breathed the good Yorkshire air as well as drinking fine Yorkshire ale and doubtless consuming vast quantities of Yorkshire pudding.
Yorkshire pudding actually did originate in Yorkshire. With a Victorian reci-pe of 1878 as basis, the thrifty housewives who lived in the mining areas prepared the pudding as an inexpensive and nutritious meal (lunch) for the men to take down the mines.
They used different fillings but always added a tasty meat gravy. This was topped with another pudding to cut into squares to fit into the miner's lunch buckets. Bread would have turned into a soggy mess, so the pudding was the answer.
Yorkshire pudding has evolved from what was simple country fare to add bulk to the miner's diet into a gourmet delight, with recipes to be found in fancy French cookbooks under the title of Larousse de Yorkshire.
English country pubs are famous for their toad-in-the-hole - sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding. The recipes are various and confusing.
We are instructed to use flour and one, three, five, up to six eggs. Beat it all with a whisk briefly until the first bubble appears. Stir well or gently. Use the result quickly or let it rest. Prepare in a square, oval or round tin, or individual muffin trays. Allow the fat and the meat juices to drip into the pudding. Add gravy. Cook until crisp and light, or thick and solid. Serve with beef or as a side dish with gravy and as a meal in itself. I have even enjoyed Yorkshire puddings served as a dessert with raisins, powdered sugar and jam.
However you slice it, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Try it: you'll like it! Whether it's an accompaniment to your roast beef, popovers, toad-in-the-hole, hot, cold, sweet or savory, it's all Yorkshire pudding and it's delicious. I have a very simple recipe I would be happy to share; just drop me a line.
Meanwhile, this will get you started:
six ounces of flour, cup of milk, two eggs, and half a tablespoon of salt.
Method: Preheat the oven to 375degrees. Grease muffin tins with beef dripping and keep it hot until it sizzles.
Beat the eggs and salt and a third of the cup of milk. Gradually add flour and the remainder of the milk. Blend well and let it stand covered in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Give it a final mix and pour it into the sizzling fat in the muffin trays. Fill them two-thirds full.
Bake for half an hour or until golden brown. Do not open the oven, and allow to cool in oven before serving.
Serve with roast beef, roast potatoes, and don't forget the gravy.