Tricks with Yorkshire Pudding made in Ceylon, circa 1927

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Yorkshire Pudding recipe from the Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book. At page 56.

Are you mad? You might say. Yorkshire Pudding in Ceylon? What. Still in the colonial age? Actually not quite. This recipe comes from the Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book, first published in 1927. Since I could walk and talk this is the only cookbook that was at home and referred to often whenever guidance was needed. Not for roasting meat and eating strange puddings with it but for ghee rice, lamprais, milk toffee, high-trad sweetmeats, more rice and almost all the curries. A fascinating amalgam of  issaraha kaema and passa paththe kaema. What? No matter that’s another story. Point is the recipe posted above is not representative of the entire cook book. It was an amalgam of all the food you might want to create. From soups to nuts. Tamil, Malay, Sinahala and Kandyan recipes. Various toffees and even a fascinating section for Invalid Cookery. Jellies for when you are sick et al.  I have pored over this magical gem of a book since I could start to read and it is beloved in many a Sri Lankan home. Later as the family grew my mother’s expanding collection of recipe sources in Women and Home, a British magazine which got mailed to her and those she collected herself in her own handwritten recipe book supplemented our access. Every day during the week there was Housewife’s Choice on the radio where recipes were read out and my mother quickly managed to write down as it was read out too fast by the announcer. When the need for birthday cakes turned up she took  cooking classes where mostly Western fancy food was taught and those too have ended up in her recipe book. Back to Yorkshire.

I must have been in my teens when I tried this recipe. Once. I was not impressed. This was before the days of muffin tins or bun tins. I did not get the point of it at the time. But I tried and it was edible. I would have far preferred a fresh baked slice of bread from the bakery up the road. Because the recipe did not tell you about preheating the generously oiled baking tin to smoking; we missed out on the golden crusty glory that Yorkshire Pudding truly is. Then I forgot all about it.

In the early eighties when I set up house and wanted the mysteries of flesh fully unraveled I came across a Yorkshire pudding recipe once again but in a different book. Step by Step Guide to Meat Cookery by Audrey Ellis. Though once again not bothered with until I ended up in Canada. Meat was more plentiful and ingredients more accessible for a broader and varied culinary existence. Eggs were cheap and milk was cheaper. Most of all meat seemed more affordable. Especially beef. I probably had forgotten about both the meat cookery book and the old recipe from home for Yorkshire pudding by then.

Soon after I set up home here in Toronto, and almost by accident as I was reviewing what I call the Meat Cookery Book I came upon this recipe in the Audrey Ellis Book. It’s easy to miss as it is only mentioned in passing in a paragraph. By then I had accumulated at least one muffin tin and this is the perfect Yorkshire pudding recipe for me. I load the tins with lard or oil (almost a centimeter) and heat it up to high heavens before adding the batter to it. This is the key to the crispy wonder they become. The ubiquitous twelve a tray muffin tins really make this easy work. So make sure you have one (or two). This, in my books is the best recipe to accompany roasts that it has almost become sacred around here. It’s simple and basic but crisp and tender. It’s nothing fancy. The recipe makes a little under dozen small individual ones. I’ve come across recipes for huge ones on the internet but these are perfect. No other recipe will do and I now have a long relationship with this one and will not let go.

Yorkshire Pudding (Recipe  Adapted from Step by Step Guide to Meat Cookery by Audrey Ellis. Recipe at Page 10 hidden away in a paragraph.)  Makes about 10-12 small puddings which should serve two to four people easily as accompaniment to Roast Beef with usual trimmings and gravy and a good red.

Ingredients:

2 oz. (1/2 cup US) all purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 egg

1/4 pint (US 2/3 cup) milk or a mix of milk and water

In a large bowl whisk the flour with the salt using a balloon whisk so salt is fully incorporated. Or you may prefer to sift the flour into the bowl with the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the egg. Also pour the milk/water to the well. Using a wooden spoon or the whisk first combine the egg with the liquid and slowly draw in the flour surrounding the well. Go slow at first so there are no lumps. I feel a whisk does a better job of de-lumping in the early stages.

Anyhow the “well” in the middle technique is a basic batter skill that you already know about; very likely. It’s also how crepes are made.

You will end up with a smooth batter with tiny bubbles in it. Cover and let it rest for about an hour or even a bit more if you are too busy cooking up a storm.

Oil a 12 tin non-stick (ideally) muffin pan with lard or cooking oil. I usually also make sure to leave about 1/4 cm of oil in bottom of each pan. Preheat oven to 425F and place rack in middle. Heat the oiled muffin tin till it starts to smoke. Remove from oven and divide the batter equally into each of the tins. (Sometimes I only fill about ten tins). Best to use a 2 cup measure with a spout to pour the batter as it gives you more control that way.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes till crisp and golden brown. Keep an eye on things after 12 minutes so they don’t burn. (It might smoke a bit). I recently learned a trick where you make a slit in each pudding in the last 5 minutes of the cooking time and you put it back in the oven so it does not fall when it comes out of the oven. Also makes the entire confection even crisper which I loved.

Serve straight out of oven and piping hot. It’s important to time this and plan in advance so it’s ready to go minutes before serving with the rest of the meal. Perfect with a good roast beef, veg and gravy. The classics. You can easily let the batter sit outside at room temperature for an hour. If you need more time let it sit in the fridge and bring it out about an hour prior so the batter is not too cold when baked.

Over time I’ve also loved to make these Yorkshire puddings for midnight snacks.  They are marvelous with butter and Marmite. Not habitually but a wonderful go to  treat if you are pulling an all-nighter or watching cricket coming to you from the other side of the world which usually happens while most people are asleep in EST.

Which brings me to the real tricks. And now I digress. Perhaps you will forgive me for not posting a photo of the basic puddings because what I really wanted to talk about was this. Here goes.

Twitter is a dangerous place. As I stayed up all night reading I kept getting distracted pining for late night snacks to go with a good read. What to do. You go on twitter and run into pornographic photos of golden brown Yorkshire puddings rising in the oven making matters worse. Surely I should just have a little yogurt and carry on reading. Or should I perhaps whip up some gougères with a little cheddar (this is at about 2.30a.m.) or isn’t Yorkshire pudding simpler. Whip up some batter and into the oven. Keep reading and out it pops straight into my tummy. Late night yorkies with butter and Marmite. The last one saved to have with a little strawberry jam for desert. This is an entirely other Yorkshire pudding experience which is not conventional. No roast meat involved and usually done in your night clothes while the world sleeps. Can we call them Yorkies then because that’s what we call them around here.

The thin crispy outside is unique in the realm of crispy treats and your teeth sing biting into it cracking up it’s crisp cover. Soft creamy insides are heart melting and sinfully good yet sweetly comforting. Most of all it’s all so irresistible in the wee hours of the morning when you’re a little peckish. My taste buds bamboozled wondering if it’s gougères with cheddar or plain Yorkies. But wait, surely there’s a way to add cheddar to Yorkies batter to make a treat. Who wants to be stirring a pot of desnse choux pastry at 2:30a.m. when batter is easier. Is it possible? Does the science permit it?

That is how in the wee hours I took a break from reading about a foetal Hamlet’s shenanigans (or more from his mother to be precise) and did a quick google search for “Yorkshire pudding variants.” Try it. It’s madness out there. Eight ways to flavour your Yorkshire pudding batter. And so it goes. Why didn’t I ever think of it all these years. Decades. Not even a toad in the hole. Uniquely reserved for roast beef and for last resort late night snacking. The only variant allowed was adding some butter and Marmite on it. Tradition you see. But that night in the company of said foetal Hamlet by way of a certain Mr. McEwan, a little drunk, I broke with tradition.

Of course I know toad in the hole is related. Same thing with a sausage in it. Yorkshire pudding though is a bit too sacred to muddy it with nonsense like some people have been doing of late with hoppers. Colouring it with beetroot to make it look red like red velvet cup cakes, using it as a salad bowl etc. I like consistency in things that have worked for a long time. Things like hoppers, pol roti and definitely Yorkshire pudding.

Despite all the strictness and rules I surprized myself when a slew of recipe ideas talked of throwing a little pesto into the middle of the batter, or a little grated cheddar. Why waste pesto on this. Pesto belongs with pasta and even better in the lustiest sexiest oozing grilled cheese (more on that later except to say it’s homemade bread, mozzarella and a little more of some extremely pungent cheese or the other for depth along with a thin layer of pesto). Since I had some feta floating about in a jar of brine since New Year’s might as well use it, I said to myself. Mushed it up with a little fresh mined parsley. A touch of chilli flakes for heat. Once the batter was in the pan (in little muffin tins) I plopped about a teaspoon each of the feta mixture right in the middle of each pan and baked it as normal. Don’t over-brown it because it will take away the flavour of the feta and parsley. So it’s a bit of a fine balance in the last minutes of baking time. Mine should have come out about two minutes before and is a touch too brown yet scrumptious.

This is also a tiny birthday present for my Yorkshire pudding friend, Saskia. She notices these things and jumped on it when I posted a photo of these Feta Yorkies in some other social media joint and it also happened to be her birthday. I promised to write this up that day but you know how it is.

So this is to February girls. And to Yorkshire pudding. I’ve already posted what I first encountered in our beloved Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book as well as the true recipe for Yorkshire pudding which is the base for the variants below. What follows are two variants. Feta. Cheddar.

When you add things to the batter it does not rise into giants nor is it too rich so expect that. It’s not like this is Tim Hortons. The recipe I use also does not have too many eggs and is very basic which makes the perfect canvas for the flavours, or indeed to sit side by side with a roast. On the issue of too many eggs. I’ve seen many different recipes on line but I believe too many eggs makes it too rich under any circumstances. Why over-egg the pudding.

Parsley Feta Yorkies. Cheddar Yorkies. Perfect for a late night snack or if you’re burning the midnight oil. Or make it for a party straight out of the oven and serve with something bubbly or that ever obliging Vinho Verde. It will be sensational.

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Cheddar Yorkies

Cheddar Yorkies – Makes a meaty dozen

Double recipe of Yorkshire pudding batter.

1/2 – 1/3rd cup of good quality old cheddar, grated using medium holes.

Prepare batter. Cover and let batter rest for about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425F. Prepare the muffin pan as instructed, preheat and fill the muffin tins. Immediately, working quickly and fast add about a teaspoon (divide your cheese to roughly twelve portions) of grated cheddar into the centre of each tin. Bake for 15 minutes watching to make sure they do not over-brown or burn but do not disturb the oven for the first 12 minutes or so.

In the last 3-5 minutes of baking remove the tin and make quarter to half inch slits to let out any steam using a sharp knife and immediately put it back in the oven for a further 3-5 minutes being careful not to let it over-brown.

Bake until golden brown. Remove to a tray lined with paper towels and eat immediately while still hot.

Optional: You may use this recipe without doubling it. You will get smaller and crisper cheddar Yorkies and will have to shorten the baking time a little. I prefer not doubling it.

Parsley Feta Yorkies here from my night with Nutshell:

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Parsley Feta Yorkies – Makes a dozen

One recipe of Yorkshire pudding batter. Do not double.

1/2 – 1/3rd cup of good quality Greek feta, mushed up and broken using the back of a fork.

2-4 tablespoons of fresh minced flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley) or to taste

Dry red chillie flakes to taste

Prepare batter. Cover and let batter rest for about 20-30 minutes.

For filling: Mix the feta with parsley and chillie flakes.

Preheat oven, prepare the muffin pan, preheat as instructed and add fill the muffin tins. Immediately, working quickly and fast add about a teaspoon (divide your feta mixture to roughly twelve portions) of grated cheddar into the centre of each tin. Bake for 15 minutes watching to make sure they do not over-brown or burn but do not disturb the oven for the first 12 minutes or so.

In the last 3-5 minutes of baking remove the tin and make quarter to half inch slits using a sharp knife and immediately put it back in the oven for a further 3-5 minutes being careful not to let it over-brown.

Bake until golden brown. Remove to a tray lined with paper towels and eat immediately while still hot.

Renuka Mendis, Toronto

February 25, 2017.

References:

Deutrom, Hilda. Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book. Revised Fifth Edition. Lake House Bookshop. 1964. (at page 56).

Ellis, Audrey. Step by Step Guide to Meat Cookery.  UK Edition. The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. 1974.

McEwan, Ian. Nutshell. Alfred A. Knopf Canada. 2016

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