It wasn't all bad, you see. I've already mentioned fish and chips as an example of good grub that was available back in seventies Britain, but it wasn't necessary for me to leave the house in order to get enjoyable food. My mother was a pretty good cook. Yes, she worked within the limitations and prejudices of the time and yes, she tended to overcook vegetables just like everyone else back then, but there were certain things she cooked which I remember fondly. Some were odd little dishes she found in women's magazines (and I'll be posting about one of those soon) but most were British standards, such as Yorkshire pudding.
Yorkshire pudding is both easy to make and easy to screw up. My mother taught me that there were just a few key things you have to get absolutely right to ensure success. A successful Yorkshire pudding should be light, nicely risen, just a little moist on the base, well-browned and above all, tasty. A screwed-up Yorkshire pudding can be burnt, soggy, flat or jaundiced-looking, but it will always be completely inedible. Even a Yorkshire terrier will turn his nose up at a ruined Yorkshire.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving and Ann's three kids (plus one girlfriend) came round to be fed a fairly traditional Thanksgiving meal. Of course we had a big fat turkey. We had corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry... but there was also a British interloper. I made six little Yorkshire puds, following mum's recipe (given below), and in spite of our temperamental and capricious oven they turned out pretty well. There they are in the picture above.
Mum's take on the perfect Yorkshire involves, frankly, witchcraft. She insists that it is vital that the batter is beaten with a wooden spoon; no other implement will give the same results. Further, it must be beaten for five wrist-cramping minutes. She swears that the final addition of a teaspoonful of warm water makes all the difference. I do not believe any of this. I'm a rationalist. Why on earth shouldn't the batter be beaten with a whisk? Such nonsense! On the other hand, I know my mother's Yorkshires are peerless. I used a wooden spoon. I beat the mixture for five minutes. I added that teaspoon of warm water. Don't mess with witchcraft.
Jack's Mum's Yorkshire Pudding
For four individual puds (You'll need a non-stick cooking tin similar to this):
2 oz plain flour
5oz full milk
Pinch of salt
Lard, cooking fat or shortening such as Crisco
Mix the egg, sifted flour and salt thoroughly, and beat a little if you can (it will be very stiff). Gradually stir in half the milk, beating all the while. Add the remainder of the milk and beat for five minutes or as long as you can stand. Get plenty of air in there. If you do this right there will be no lumps. If you fail, get a nearby friend to chastise you and then put the mixture through a sieve. Shame on you.
Leave the mixture to stand for 1-2 hours.
Put a knob of the cooking fat into each dish of your Yorkshire tin. How much is a knob, you ask? Oh... about a rounded teaspoonful, I guess. Enough to cover the base of the dish when it melts. Put the tin into a HOT oven and leave it for around ten minutes, or until the fat is really hot. This is important. Your batter needs to sizzle when you pour it in.
Just before putting the batter in, beat that magic teaspoonful of warm water into the mix (and yes, you can probably leave this bit out, even though I lack the courage) Divide the mixture between the four pans. Each one should contain enough to comfortably cover the base and maybe a little bit over, but don't make it too deep or you'll end up with a sloppy bottom. And nobody likes a sloppy bottom, do they?
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Resist the urge to open the oven door to check on things until at least 15 minutes have passed otherwise you risk the collapsed soufflé effect. Your puds will be done when they have risen nicely and look medium-to-dark brown at the edges. Serve with any roast dinner and gravy. Nothing beats a good thick gravy over a Yorkshire.