This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 9th November & the Gazette & Herald on 7th November 2018
For what, in your opinion, is Yorkshire most famous? Obviously, I would put Heartbeat up there, along with the Yorkshire Dales, Herriot country, Captain Cook, cricket, cycling…I could go on.
But at the top of the list has to be Yorkshire puddings. Can anyone who is not a born and bred Yorkshire person make them quite as well as us? If my attempts are anything to go by, then the answer might be ‘Yes’, as my success rate over the years has been hit and miss, and my Nana Smith will be turning in her grave knowing that her granddaughter is a bit rubbish at producing consistently decent Yorkshires.
My nana, who hailed from Egton Bridge on the North York Moors, was a pudding master and, unlike me, my mum has inherited her skill. When I was little, Dad would tell me that Nana Smith made the best ones in the whole wide world, which of course I took literally, and boasted about this international accolade to all my friends.
In his column from 11th November 1978, Dad talks about a visit from some Americans, and he wanted to show them how fine our county’s most famous food was. They explained that they had eaten it already somewhere down south, but that it hadn’t impressed them.
“That experience must have been horrific to say the least,” writes Dad, “because the Yorkshire pudding had been served with the main course; worse still, it had been a flat, thick, rubbery substance which might have been useful for soling shoes or upholstering chairs.” Oh dear.
He was eager to restore its reputation and took the visitors to a local hotel known for its excellent puddings. Like my nana, it served them in the way they were supposed to be, which is as a starter with gravy. The guests were instantly converted, and bestowed the greatest of compliments by asking for the recipe.
But simply knowing the recipe isn’t enough. Us natives understand that making great Yorkshires is an art that has to be perfected over years of practise. You don’t just need the right ingredients; you also you need the right tins, you need to know the foibles of your oven, and above all, you need experience.
The mistake many people make is to think that the rise of the Yorkshires is the most important element, and although some can look fabulous on the outside, they often taste like bland doughy buns. This is usually because they have been made with (brace yourself) self-raising flour! This is a cardinal sin, and you should never be tempted to go down that route just to ensure a rise.
I’m pleased to report that of late, I’ve nailed it, and my Yorkshires have come out perfectly risen, crisp on the outside, with a satisfyingly deep well in the middle. It’s taken years of trial and error, and so here are my tips on how to get the perfect Yorkshires (As for quantities, I can’t help as, like my mum and nana before me, I do it all by sight).
1. Make sure the oven is very hot (no less than 200C).
2. Sieve plain flour from a height into a bowl, and add a pinch of salt and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. Make a well in the centre, and add two eggs.
3. Whisk this up. Then add half milk, half water, until it is the consistency of cream of tomato soup.
4. Find an old greasy muffin tin that you never wash properly.
5. Grind a little black pepper into the bottom of each well (to prevent sticking), and add a dessert spoon of oil. I use plain vegetable oil (which is actually 100% rapeseed oil. I used to use lard, but I didn’t get as good results).
6. Put in the oven until it is literally smoking hot.
7. Then, as quick as you can, pour a little of the batter into each well (it should sizzle) and put straight back in the oven. Do not open the oven door again until they are well risen and golden brown, which will be about 20 minutes.
I have no idea if my nana would approve of this method, but it works for me. Good luck, and use my blog and Twitter (below) to send me pictures of your successes – and failures!
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