It’s the first Sunday in February which can only mean one thing… National Yorkshire Pudding Day is here!

Yes, such a thing really does exist, and why not? If nothing else it’s an opportunity to reflect how culinary tradition can affect cultural identity, and to spruce up your Yorkie-baking skills. Of course we’ve provided a recipe and some helpful hints to that end, but first a little exposition…

Although Britons must have been making them for centuries, the first recorded reference to “dripping pudding” appears in a 1737 recipe book, whose readers were instructed to add batter to the dripping pan when roasting mutton. It was another author, ten years later, who first coined the now ubiquitous term ‘Yorkshire pudding’. Whether their origins actually have anything to do with Yorkshire is a matter of debate, but the name is probably here to stay.

These ‘puddings’ were originally meant to be served before the main course. Meat was expensive, so batter infused with dripping (juices) was designed to fill people up before the meat arrived, so a single roast could be made to stretch a lot further. Many people still cite this practical purpose during the 1950s post-war rationing as the main reason for the Yorkie’s modern popularity. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and when it happens to be delicious that also helps.

No longer a mere substitute for meat, the modern Yorkshire pudding is often the centrepiece of a traditional British roast dinner. Ironic really. People take it extremely seriously, and a Sunday pub roast can stand or fall based on the quality of its puddings. The key is to heat the batter extremely quickly, converting moisture to steam and trapping it inside the cooked exterior, causing it to inflate.

Some years ago an Englishman living in the US sought help from the Royal Society of Chemistry in getting his Yorkies to rise properly. He suspected his location in the Rocky mountains was to blame, since pressure-loss at high altitudes affects the boiling point of water. The RSC did not ultimately solve his problem but, after some inquiry, ruled that a true Yorkshire pudding should be at least four inches tall. So there you have it.

Mini Yorkshire Puddings with Roast Beef and Horseradish Crème Fraiche

(makes 24)

You will need:
75 g plain flour
1 egg
75ml milk
50ml water
2tbl beef dripping or goose/duck fat
Salt and better
Chopped chives
100ml crème fraiche
Grated horseradish
Roasted beef

Pop the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center
Break the egg into the well and beat and gradually incorporate the flour, then the milk, followed by water, chives, horseradish, salt and pepper
Add the dripping to the roasting tin and place in a hot (220C) oven, get sizzling hot (10 minutes)
Pour the batter into the sizzling hot fat. Return to the oven immediately
The pudding will take 15-20 for mini yorkies, 20-30 minutes for individual yorkshire puddings for Sunday roast  to rise and become crisp and golden; if they are still limp, pop them back for another few minutes
To make the horseradish crème fraiche, combine the cream with freshly grated horseradish to taste
Serve as soon as possible: if it has to wait around too long it loses its crunchiness, but you can just flash it through the oven to crisp up again and freezes well.
Serve with beef and crème fraiche

If they have not risen it could be because:

the oven was not hot enough
the oil was not hot enough when you poured the batter in
the oven was opened before the pudding was set