Yorkshire pudding. Glorious plate-filling towers of crisp, airy perfection erupting Vesuvius-like from the tin – no traditional Sunday roast is complete without them. And they’re not just for having with your roast beef either. Their association with beef is a relatively recent one so your roast chicken, roast pork and vegetarian roasts can feel the Yorkie love too – there are no rules. Apart from gravy – you’ve got to have gravy.
What do you mean they’re not from Yorkshire?
Well, nobody knows for sure, but batter puddings in various forms have been made in the British Isles since the Middle Ages. Back in the days when meat was roasted on a spit, the pudding was cooked in a tin underneath, catching all the flavourful fat and meat juice dripping down from above, and was known, rather unimaginatively, as ‘dripping pudding’. The earliest known written recipe appeared in 1737 in a book called The Whole Duty of a Woman – or, to give it its full title: ‘The whole duty of a woman: or, an infallible guide to the fair sex. Containing, rules, directions, and observations, for their conduct and behaviour … of life, as virgins, wives, or widows.’ Phew!
It wasn’t until 1747 that batter pudding was first called Yorkshire pudding, by a cookery writer called Hannah Glasse (her version included grated nutmeg and ginger) in her book The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy – it was the most popular cookbook in Georgian England and was a bestseller for over a century. Think of her as an 18th century cross between Delia and Nigella (no surnames necessary) and you’ll begin to understand her status. Why she added the prefix ‘Yorkshire’ is unknown. She was from Northumberland and lived most of her life in London. These earlier, fat-laden puddings were much flatter than the fluffy puddings we know and love today – more like pancakes: they share the same basic ingredients after all – flour, milk and eggs.
First eat your pudding
The true Yorkshire pudding (according to Yorkshire folk) is always made in a rectangular tin and divided up before serving. Individual round puddings came much later and were originally known as ‘Yorkshire puffs’, developing first as a way to save precious oven space – cooks would drop spoonfuls of batter into the gaps around the roasting meat. It’s much easier, and less messy, to use a tin these days, though.
Traditionally Yorkshire pudding was not served with the main course, it was dished up first, with gravy, to take the edge off diners’ appetites so that only smaller portions of the more expensive meat and vegetables made it to the plate, often with a cream or parsley sauce. If you were unlucky enough to be a child in a poorer household, you might only get the pudding and gravy – the meat being reserved to fill the bellies of the men that went out to work.
Yorkshire pudding for afters – yes, really
Apparently, it’s still common in some places (mostly in the north) to serve leftover (it can happen) Yorkshire pudding for dessert. We’re all in favour of making it for dessert from scratch, though. Try our recipe for Plum Delicious Batter Pudding – it’s a bit like the classic French clafoutis, with plums replacing the usual cherries in our version.
Cheating on Aunt Bessie – how to make the perfect pudding
Of course it’s more convenient buying pre-prepared puddings from the supermarket for heating up in the oven, but it’s much more satisfying and delicious when you make your own. Sorry, Aunt Bessie.
There are various schools of thought on the matter, but one thing everyone agrees on is that, whether you rest your batter or don’t, use water instead of milk, or a combination of the two, your oil (or should it be dripping?) must be hot. Sizzlingly hot. And no opening the oven to keep checking on them either; otherwise they won’t rise to the officially recognised height of 4” – as designated by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008. Anything less than 4” is not worthy of the name. All harmless fun, of course, but hotter oil makes for better, taller puddings.
Here’s our simple recipe for Yorkshire pudding perfection.
- 250g plain flour
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 150ml milk
- 150ml water
- Pinch of salt
- In a bowl, sift the flour and add the salt.
- In a jug, combine the milk and water.
- Make a well in the flour and add the eggs.
- Start adding the milk and water mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until your batter has the consistency of single cream.
- Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
- Grease the holes in your tin with dripping or oil and put into a very hot oven.
- When the oil or dripping is hot – and we mean really hot – pour your batter into the holes. If the batter doesn’t sizzle, your oil isn’t hot enough.
- Cook for 20 minutes until risen and golden brown. And remember, don’t open the oven door until they’re done.
Now you’ve mastered basic batter, you’re ready to expand your Yorkshire pudding repertoire. We’ve put together a few recipes – savoury and sweet, big and small – to get you started. You can find a recipe for mini Yorkshire pudding with beef and horseradish – ideal for serving as canapés – here, and more inspiration, including twists on some old favourites, here.
That’s a wrap
Believe it or not, you don’t have to sit down at the dinner table to enjoy your Sunday roast. Behold, the Yorkshire pudding wrap. A café in Chester has been selling them to eager customers faster than they can make them and has become a social media sensation. We’re not sure Hannah Glasse would approve but we can’t wait to have a go at making our own.
Flattened Yorkshire pudding filled with meat, potatoes, veg (not too much), stuffing and gravy, and rolled up to eat with your hands. Now that’s our kind of street food!