Sweet Yorkshires like mother made.
As I was whipping up a jug of Yorkshire pudding batter the other day, to go with roast beef, parsnips, creamed spinach, cabbage, carrots, gravy and roasties, I thought of Mum (it is almost two years ago that she died). Now Mum might not have approved of the fact this dinner for friends was to be followed by an evening of poker that finished at 6am, but she would have been proud of my puffed and golden batter puddings.

Mrs Hoppy - a moniker she was always most happy with; from friends, her devoted school pupils or chums of mine who were never quite sure when they were old enough to call her Dorothie - was the most natural of cooks, being able to turn her hand to anything. I fondly remember a dish of braised steak and onions, sensibly cooked in the oven with baked potatoes alongside (apart from the two suiting each other admirably, economy of fuel was equally significant). Delicious rissoles, hand-minced in a contraption clamped to the kitchen table, which I was allowed to crank when eventually entrusted not to make a silly mess. These crumbly crusted cakes were made from a left-over joint and eaten with home-made chips. Hake cutlets baked with milk, parsley and butter, served with mashed potatoes, or a strongly flavoured wild rabbit pie (cheap, oh so cheap!) would similarly appear from the oven to be eaten without fuss and with gusto.

And there would always be a pudding, too. A sweet jam omelette, pancakes with lemon and caster sugar - at any time of the year, simply because they were good to eat, and all sorts of milk puddings. But it was the Yorkshire puddings that we sometimes used to have as a pudding that amused and bemused my poker friends when I told them of this curious shift from its more usual savoury slot.

Those many Yorkshire folk who know will tell you: "Oh well, yes. We never 'ad the batters with the beef, it were always ate before the roast, wi' gravy an' that. Or p'rhaps as a puddin', wi' white sauce."

Oh, I just loved that white sauce, lactic sweet and flowing; not a hint of vanilla, nor with the familiar shade of a yellow custard. It used to be served in the school canteen at Bury Grammar School (where Mum taught), poured from a tall tin jug over spotted dick, steamed jam roly-poly (also known as dead man's leg or dead baby) and treacle pudding. I used to ask for the skin, too - disgusting to most, but sheer heaven to the diminutive and greedy Hoppy.

When Mum made batter puddings for us at home, we would have golden syrup with it as well as the white sauce. Now this is truly wonderful. Put aside - only for a moment, you understand - your favourite sticky toffee and luxury bread-and-butter puddings and just try this gorgeous mess. We used to have generously sized individual Yorkshire pudding tins rather than making it in the large baking tin, but it's up to you. The advantage of the singular tin is that, while baking, the puddings form an outer crust that rises up their deep sides and, simultaneously, creates a well within, ready and waiting to receive a copious welter of sauce and a sticky slick of golden syrup. The marbling effect between the two may not have been quite in the style effected by a three-star pastry chef, but, my word, it was a star dish at our table.

Yorkshire pudding with sweet white sauce and golden syrup serves 6

For the batter:

2 eggs

150g plain flour

175ml milk

75ml cold water (I sometimes use fizzy mineral water, thinking it may add more air to the puddings, but I may be talking absolute rubbish)

pinch of salt

For the sweet white sauce:

50g butter

50g plain flour

600ml full-cream milk

150ml whipping cream

75g caster sugar

tiny pinch of salt

2-3 tbsp warmed golden syrup

a little plain oil or dripping

First make the batter. If you have a method for making Yorkshire puddings that you are already happy with, then use that. I find the easiest way is to put everything into the bowl of a food processor or liquidiser and switch on. Blend until very smooth and then pass through a sieve into a suitable jug. Leave to rest for at least half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 425F/ 220C/gas mark 7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. First, scald the milk. Melt the butter in another pan and stir in the flour. Allow to cook together, without colouring, for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the milk, whisking or stirring in until smooth and glossy. Stir in the cream, sugar and salt. Leave to simmer and blip, controlling the heat with a diffuser pad if you have one, for 7-10 minutes, so the sauce mellows and the flour cooks through. Keep warm, covered, until the puddings are cooked.

Take your favourite six large pudding tins or a tray with 12 smaller moulds in it, and add a scant teaspoon of oil or the equivalent amount of dripping to each one. Place on the top shelf of the oven to heat until smoking. Remove, and then pour in the batter to fill to about three-quarters of the tins or moulds. Immediately put back on to the top shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and well puffed up. Serve without delay, swamped with sauce and trickled with a little syrup - not too much, or the thing becomes intolerably sweet

Comments