Haylee Slater’s lovely piece below, “Six lessons my Great-Grandmother taught me about life”, inspired me to pass on a single lesson my Auntie Ruby taught me. Yorkshire puddings are an essential part of a traditional British Sunday roast dinner. Many people sadly resort to Aunt Bessie because of sticking, non-rising, gooey failures. It’s a shame because nothing can beat tipping a tray of piping hot crispy puddings into a serving bowl.
She was a homemaker born in the early years of the 20th Century. My grandfather died in the flu epidemic immediately after the Great War leaving my grandmother with two small children. As my grandmother got older she was ill and Ruby spent her early life as her carer even after marrying. She had no children of her own but looked after her two nephews regularly and hundreds of infant school children in her role as dinner lady.
She was a magnificent cook in the same way that many ladies of that vintage were. She could bake better than anyone I have known before or since; not fancy gateaux for entertaining but good everyday flavours. Her pieces de resistance were corned beef pie with the shortest shortcrust pastry imaginable, date slice, ginger cake, fudge, rice cake, meringue and…Yorkshire pudding. She made the finest Yorkshire puddings bar none. Crispy and light, towering out of the tray and she passed on her tricks to me. The ingredients for a Yorkshire pudding batter you can get from any recipe book but the execution is where the magic is. If you follow the three rules you really can’t go wrong.
1. Batter. Lots of recipes describe how you mustn’t overwhisk batters and this is a bit of a subjective thing – how much is too much? Ruby’s solution is brilliant and never fails – get a tightly sealed Tupperware container – put the ingredients in and shake the container rather than whisk. You may want to break the egg yolks with a knife to ease the process but nothing more. Then ‘rest’ the batter for half an hour before using it. As soon as any recipe says “batter” this is the method I now follow.
2. Frying -in the Yorkshire pudding tray use lard – never butter, olive oil or any other oil.
3. Heat the tin on the hob before adding the batter – until the lard smokes. This makes sure that the base of the Yorkshire forms a crust and helps the rest to rise while avoiding the Yorkshires sticking to the tin. A further benefit of this approach is that you only open the oven door once and therefore stand a better chance of retaining the essential very high temperature (take the roast out to rest while you cook the puddings but the roast potatoes will be just fine).
Because she made them so well she loved to eat them (or maybe because she loved to eat them she perfected her method). Either way she would expect them with any form of roast dinner, not just beef, and she maintained a tiny frame throughout her 89 years. She did serve the puddings regularly just with gravy as a starter (make sure your onion gravy is thick) and even occasionally tried them as a dessert with jam but with little enthusiasm. I hope you enjoy them as much as she did and we do.
As a footnote, Ruby died in 2007 after a relatively short battle with Alzheimer’s. I’m raising money and if the puddings work for you please feel free to make a donation to http://www.justgiving.com/ashbournevoice. It’s a worthy cause.