A TASTE OF YORKSHIRE:
Pudding, Parkin and Pomfret Cakes
by Dawn Copeman
Do you fancy a Toad in the Hole followed by some Fat Rascals? No? How about some Spotted Dick then? Okay, I admit they don't sound very appetising and that's the problem with British food -- great dishes, weird names, and that can put people off. So let me take you on a culinary tour of Britain, let me reassure you that we don't actually eat toads, let me guide you through the specialities of each of our regions and help you to taste the best of Britain, past and present and demystify British food for you as we go along.
As we're in York, I'll begin with Yorkshire pudding. The word pudding conjures up images of desserts, cream, sweetness and whilst Yorkshire puddings can be eaten as a dessert, they are mainly a savoury dish. Confused? I'll explain. Yorkshire puddings are made from a batter, similar to pancakes. They have been in existence since the middle ages when they were made by placing the tin containing the batter underneath the meat roasting on a spit. The reasoning being that the dripping fat would add more flavour to the pudding. They were at that time known as Dripping Puddings. Incidentally, if Yorkshire puddings weren't being made, a tin would be placed underneath the meat to catch the fat. Once this fat had cooled, it was called Dripping and spread onto bread as a savoury filling. Tubs of dripping can still be bought in butcher shops today. As a child I regularly ate dripping sandwiches and they taste better than they sound.
The modern recipe has its origins in a recipe developed in the eighteenth century by a cook named Hannah Glasse, and from that point on dripping puddings became known as Yorkshire puddings.
There are two varieties of Yorkshire pudding: small, individual ones -- often known as popovers, which are eaten alongside the meat -- and flat, large ones, the size of a dinner plate. The traditional way to eat a Yorkshire pudding is to have a large, flat one filled with gravy and vegetables as a starter. Then when the meal is over, any unused puddings should be served with jam or ice-cream as a dessert. This is certainly the way we ate them when I was growing up and delicious they were too, both as starter and dessert.
Yorkshire pudding batter is the main ingredient in that famous and confusing British dish, Toad in the Hole. The toad simply means the meat filling. Originally it was a means of stretching expensive meat so that it would feed more people, (there's an 18th century recipe for toad in the hole using fillet steak), then the toad became a means of using up left-over meat, and now the toad is sausages.
Obviously there's more to Yorkshire food than Yorkshire pudding. Wensleydale cheese, for example, has been made in Hawes, West Yorkshire since the French Cistercian monks arrived there in the twelfth century. Traditionally two types of Wensleydale were produced -- White Wensleydale -- a hard cheese with a crumbly, moist texture, which is ripened for three weeks; and Blue veined Wensleydale, which is ripened for six months and is similar to Stilton, but mellower and creamier. Today however, a wide variety of Wensleydale cheese is produced. Go and see for yourself, the Hawes creamery is open to visitors every day except Christmas day.
If you fancy something sweet then why not try Pontefract cakes? These sweets were developed as a result of the liquorice plants brought to Yorkshire by Crusaders returning from the Mediterranean in the 15th century. These plants were then grown and used by monks at Pontefract priory in West Yorkshire. Then in the eighteenth century an apothecary from Pontefract called George Dunhill, decided to use this liquorice to make small, round liquorice sweets, stamped with the image of a castle and thus Pontefract cakes, or as they're also known, Pomfret cakes were born. By the 19th Century liquorice was being grown all over Pontefract, there were 4 factories producing Pontefract cakes and liquorice was the largest employer in the town. There is still one factory producing the sweets today and the importance of liquorice to the town is celebrated by an annual liquorice festival.
The Vikings are said to have invented our next Yorkshire food. Parkin is a type of ginger tea-bread, known as a 'cut and come again cake', because it is an economical cake that lasts for a long time. Many versions of Parkin were made around the country, but the Yorkshire one, made with just a little fat is the one which is still made today.
Parkin was often traditionally eaten on Bonfire night, the 5th November, when we remember the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament. In parts of West Yorkshire the 5th November is known as Parkin Day. One place where Parkin is reputedly not eaten on Bonfire Night is St Peter's School in York, where a certain Guy Fawkes was educated.
Whilst a slice of Parkin and a cup of tea make a wonderful little snack whilst out shopping in the Shambles, maybe a few Fat Rascals would be more to your liking. These are rich, large, fruit scones made with almonds, cherries and citrus peel. Perhaps you'd like to try a Yorkshire Curd Tart. This type of cheesecake has been made in Yorkshire for over 250 years and was originally made from the fresh curds left over from the making of cheese such as Wensleydale. The traditional version was made using Rosewater, the modern version is usually made with currants. In either case the dish is mild, creamy and sweet a perfect tea time treat!
I hope I've given you a flavor of the best Yorkshire food. Why not try it at home, or, if you're in York, visit one of the many tea rooms. My personal recommendations are:
- Betty's of York, 6-8 St Helens Square (good but pricey at around $50 for two people)
- Baileys Tea Rooms (also sell roast meals), 7 Museum Street.
- Reeds Tea Rooms (again does hot meals), 20-22 High Petergate.
When making Yorkshire pudding, ensure the batter is cold and the oven is very hot! Ensure you've heated the dripping in the pan before you put the batter in.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk (or water)
1/2 stick lard or dripping or 3 fl oz olive oil
A pinch of salt
An eight inch round or square tin for a large pudding, or small tins for individual puddings.
- Pre heat the oven at 230°C, 450°F or Gas Mark 8. Put the dripping into the tin(s) and let it get very hot.
- Mix flour and salt in a bowl, make a dip in the middle and add the eggs.
- Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually adding milk or water, until all the flour has been absorbed.
- Add remaining liquid and beat well. It should be fairly runny, similar in consistency to single cream.
- Pour batter into hot dripping in the tins.
- Bake a large pudding for 30 mins, small puddings for 20 mins.
As a variation on this try my dad's Christmas Yorkshire puddings. All year my mum made the Yorkshire puddings for our meals, except on Christmas day, when my dad made the Christmas lunch. It took me years to persuade him to tell me what made his puddings taste so fantastic, and here is his secret ingredient Ð just add a tablespoon of sage and onion stuffing mix to the dry ingredients, and add a drop more liquid (about a tablespoon) to compensate. Go on, try it.
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup black treacle
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup milk
1 seven inch square tin greased & lined with greaseproof paper.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together.
- In a pan, warm milk, treacle and butter, then remove from heat add all the dry ingredients and the egg and beat well.
- Pour mixture into tin and bake for 50 - 55 minutes in the middle of the oven at 160°C, 325°F or Gas Mark 3.
Toad in the Hole
Yorkshire pudding batter
8 oz sausages
Large square tin or lasagne dish.
- Skin the sausages and shape into smaller sausages.
- Place in tin with melted dripping or oil.
- Cook in a pre-heated oven 220°C, 425°F or Gas Mark 7, for 10 minutes.
- Pour Yorkshire pudding batter over partly cooked sausages and cook for 30 minutes more.
For additional recipes, visit:
An e-Book of Recipes for Yorkshire puddings can be bought for £1.49 at http://www.bpic.co.uk/bookrevs/puddings.html
- For more great recipes, see the rest of Dawn Copeman's Taste of Britain series.
- The Treasures of York, by Pearl Harris
- Jorvik: The Viking City of York, by Brenda Ralph Lewis
- York Timeline
- The Ghosts of York, by Jillian Schedneck
Dawn Copeman is a freelance writer and commercial writer who has had more than 100 articles published on travel, history, cookery, health and writing. She currently lives in Lincolnshire, where she is
working on her first fiction book. She started her career as a freelance
writer in 2004 and has been a contributing editor for several publications, including TimeTravel-Britain.com and Writing-World.com .
Article © 2005 Dawn Copeman