Sunday has always been a family day to me. One traditional dish that I have fond memories of, especially on a wet and windy winter’s day, was a roast dinner with home made Yorkshire Puddings accompanied with a fresh mint sauce.
Although this lovely staple regional food is highly regarded it is very simple to do.
This is the recipe that has been passed on down through time to my Aunty Mary who then gave it to me.
The first recorded reference to this versatile savoury pudding was in the early eighteenth century, when it was described as ‘dripping pudding’ but I suspect it had been used for a long time before that. It started as a way of using up the dripping fat from the roast with a simple batter to make a filling accompaniment to the meal.
200 ml whole milk (you can use semi-skimmed)
200 grams plain flour
pinch of salt
one tablespoon of cold water
Heat up an oven to 200C
Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy in a bowl and then whisk in the milk. A hand whisk is all that is needed for this.
Then spoon in the sieved flour and add the pinch of salt until you have a smooth mixture that just coats the back of a spoon smoothly when poured over it. You can stir in a spoon of cold water or leave the mixture to stand a few hours in a fridge.
Prepare a 12 bun baking tin by coating each bun case with either lard, or a sunflower or vegetable oil that can take high temperatures. Place the tin in the hot oven and leave for 5 minutes until the oil is smoking and hot.
Remove the bun tin from the oven and pour in the batter evenly between the 12 indents. It should instantly begin to fry and bubble.
Replace the tin in the oven quickly and bake for for 15 to 20 minutes at 230C until the Yorkshires rise and are golden brown and crispy on the outside.
Their are all sorts of things written about the height and size of a Yorkshire pudding, but a simple recipe and a wholesome pudding should just be enjoyed as it has for many years.
Yorkshire pudding batter has been used in many variations over the years and I would love to learn of people’s favourite recipes as it is such a feel-good simple part of a meal.
The humble rhubarb has gone from being known as an ancient cure, to a favourite British dessert, to one that post WWII fell from grace. During the war years the price was controlled so that everyone could afford it and many, like my Aunty Mary learned how to use it in a variety of recipes from tarts to Rhubarb and Ginger Jam.
This article looks at the ever popular Rhubarb Crumble.
So what is it and how did it come to be linked so strongly with Yorkshire?
It is a large leafed herbaceous perennial growing from rhizomes – a vegetable, the stalk of which provides vitamins K and C but lacks sweetness and so is low in calories. However, the leaves are high in oxalic acid which can damage the kidneys.
Because it is not sweet sugar is used in recipes and this will affect some of the benefits eating the stalk can bring, when cooked properly. It is thought to have been used as far back as 2700 BC as a medicine. Claims that it could treat gut, lung and liver problems kept it popular. In recent years it has come back into fashion and there is still a Wakefield Rhubarb Festival held in February.
Rhubarb was a native crop in Siberia growing on the banks of the Volga. Marco Polo is attributed with bringing it to Europe. In the seventeenth century it is claimed to have been more valuable than opium.
The Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle began around 1877 when the method of forcing rhubarb was brought to West Yorkshire. Forcing had been discovered by accident in the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, in 1817, but the conditions of the sheltered area between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford in the shadows of the Pennines provided a perfect growing environment. The rain, cold and the high nitrogen available from ‘Shoddy’ – a by product of the successful woollen mill industry that also thrived in the area – all helped. The Yorkshire coalfields provided an ample supply of fuel to heat the sheds needed to grow the crop in the dark. Then excellent railways in the region linked to London and Covent Garden market as well.
Forced rhubarb was grown in sheds and the first crop early in the year was said to be the best.
The following recipe is for a simple dessert and not a health recommendation for this unique rhubarb crop.
When picking rhubarb go for early and straight, thin colourful stalks. If the stalks are limp they are not fresh. Later in the year you might need to strip off the tougher outer layer before cooking.
6 Stalks of rhubarb
Two teaspoonfuls of ground ginger
1 level tablespoon of Demerara sugar
For the Crumble
7 oz unsalted butter
7 oz golden caster sugar
14 oz plain flour
Rub butter and the flour together until crumble is fine. You can substitute some flour with oats to make the top crunchier.
Add in the sugar (to taste).
When finely mixed it should clump together when squeezed once and fall apart again a separate time.
Leave in the fridge to chill.
Top and tail the crunchy stalks of rhubarb.
Either soften in a pan with a knob of butter and the ginger and sugar until softer, or bake on a tray in the oven on 170C for ten minutes.
If the pan method is used, drain off some of the fluid. If the oven method is used then transfer to the serving dish once the rhubarb has been tested to make sure it is tender.
I would love to receive any other original recipes for the versatile and unique rhubarb.
Nothing felt more homely and welcoming when I was growing up in my home town of Redcar, North Yorkshire, than entering my Aunty Mary’s old terrace house and smelling the delights being created in her kitchen.
Artie, her friendly black spaniel, also shared my enthusiasm for her cheerful personality and her home cooking hospitality.
One such recipe, Parkin, is a traditional cake (not for the health conscious or diabetic) that is basically a ginger cake packed with oats and treacle. It is mentioned in my books, such as: For Richer, For Poorer, as its recipe has been passed down the generations.
It was certainly made during the Industrial Revolution and gained favour as the ideal snack to partake of in November on a cold Bonfire Night on the 5th. The first Sunday of that month is referred to as ‘Parkin Sunday’.
This rich cake, full of flavour, also helped to keep hardworking folk filled and warmed through the cold winter months.
Lancashire also has its own recipes for parkin, but there are differences between the two versions. Yorkshire includes oats and uses more black treacle (molasses) giving a darker distinct flavour. Lancashire Parkin tends to be lighter and sweeter using more golden syrup (not corn syrup, which is different) instead. Opinions on this vary, as much as the recipes because some people leave out the oats all together, but this version hits the mark when you want to feel re-energized on a cold and dreary day.
The recipe I have included here is the one my Aunty Mary used and the one that when I do indulge takes me back to my childhood, a warm and loving home with my aunt and of course dear old Artie.
5 oz oats
4 oz SR flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
5 oz black treacle
3 oz golden syrup
4 oz soft brown sugar 4 oz butter 2 large beaten eggs
1 tbsp milk
Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking paper or a paper loaf case.
Preheat oven to 150C
Assemble dry ingredients in a large bowl
Melt the brown sugar with the treacle, syrup and butter – DO NOT BOIL THEM – remove from heat once the sugar has melted. Allow to cool slightly.
Pour the hot mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.
Add eggs and milk – stir well. You should have a thick liquid batter mix.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for between 1 to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. The cake should be firm and springy.
Allow to cool in the baking tin.
The resulting cake should be dark, sticky, and spicy and has a flavour that improves if it is left in an airtight tin for 3-5 days after it has been allowed to cool.
Then enjoy a slice with a nice cup of tea – but in moderation!
If you know any other versions of this old favourite or more about the origins of it I would love to see your comments.
I could read before I started school so as long as I can remember I’ve loved books. Mum or Dad read to me every night and once they’d tucked me up, I would hide under the bedclothes with a torch, up late (a notoriously bad sleeper all my life), with a heap of books, looking at the pictures and making up stories until I could make out the text. I loved Ladybird books (which I still have on my bookshelves), Enid Blyton, especially Mr Pink-Whistle and Amelia Jane, and ‘Twinkle’, the comic I got every week as we lived above the newsagent’s run by my parents in Torquay.
When did you decide that you wanted to write your own?
I wrote a lot of stories when I was a child but that fizzled out by the time I reached secondary school when I was more concerned with Wham! and boys. At university I studied English and wrote bad poetry. It wasn’t until my children were small that I went to a creative writing class at the adult education college. By the end of that first lesson I was hooked, and knew I wanted to be a writer. I was 33. It was another ten years before I had my debut novel published.
What can a reader expect from a Sophie Duffy novel?
The reader can expect a nostalgia-fest with a few tears and laughs along the way. They will get a blended, dysfunctional family or group of friends, and a main character trying to negotiate their hazardous journey through the world with all its ups and downs.
Change and facing the difficulties that this presents is a strong theme in your novels. How much of an influence has change in your own life experience driven the empathy you create for your own protagonists?
The one certainty in life is that we will face change. It’s how we adapt to change that marks us as individuals. Sometimes we resist change, sometimes we embrace it. We might make bad decisions. We probably will. And it’s the repercussions of these decisions that echo down the years that I am interested in as a writer.
The award winning The Generation Game (The Yeovil Literary Prize 2006 and Luke Bitmead Bursary 2010) confronts many issues including childhood abandonment and buried secrets. Where did the idea for this acclaimed novel come from?
The idea for ‘The Generation Game’ came from a short story wot I wrote. The idea for the story came from my early childhood when we lived above the newsagent’s (also a sweetshop/tobacconist’s) in the early 70s. Sadly, my father took his own life when I was ten which I suppose counts as abandonment of sorts, so maybe that is why I am drawn to this as a theme. Love and loss go hand in hand but I truly believe that love – often from unexpected places – conquers all. I have bitter sweet memories (if you’ll pardon the pun) from this era, as do most of Generation X who grew up in the golden years of Saturday night television. We have seen several of our childhood icons fall by the wayside in the wake of Operation Yewtree. Thank goodness for Sir Brucie is all I can say.
This Holey Life (runner up of The Harry Bowling Prize 2008) is another successful novel that looks at change and faith with humour, yet balanced reality. What was the greatest challenge this project posed?
I was worried that readers might be put off by a vicar’s wife as a main character but felt encouraged when I saw ‘Rev’ on the television, a sitcom which looks at life in the church and all the eccentric characters that make up a spiritual community. It’s not a ‘Christian’ book as such but a story that embraces life with all its flaws and imperfections.
You are part of the Creative Writing Matters team. How much do you enjoy sharing what you have learned with new writers?
It’s brilliant! I know how much I have learned and continue to learn from other writers. I know that being a writer is a life long process and that I receive more from my students than they get from me. Administering the Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize has also been a revelation. Having read hundreds of thousands of words over the years, I understand more about what makes good writing and good storytelling. I hope this feeds into my own work!
What key piece of advice would you give to an, as yet, unpublished author?
If it’s what you really want, then keep trying. Don’t give up. Enter competitions where your writing will be both read and considered. Keep writing. Read a lot. Listen to feedback, sit on it, and when it rings true, rewrite, edit, submit.
What is next for Sophie?
I have just signed a contract for the next book. All I can say for now is the novel involves two ninety year old ladies, one of whom is the queen. Watch this space…
One of my fondest memories of growing up in the coastal town of Redcar was walking along the promenade with my father and seeing the flat-bottomed fishing boats being pulled up onto the beach after they crashed through the breakers on the shore-line.
People went down to meet them on the fine sand of the beach to see what they had to sell of their catch. I would eagerly peer inside. Fresh fish meant just that: mackerel, cod or crab to name but a few, depending on the season.
Sadly, this scene is no longer common. The boats that once lined the promenade are few. All along the bay towns of the northeast coast, the fishing industry has diminished.
In Phoebe’s Challenge, she instantly looks upon the distant boats and the sweeping bay as a scene of beauty when she sees the bay open up before her for the very first time. This story is based on a village I call Ebton, which has striking resemblances to Saltburn.
In my previous blog post on Cobles and Contraband, I talked about the versatility of the cobles (often called cobbles locally) and their use in smuggling at the turn of the nineteenth century. When the sea wall was being built at the end of the eighteenth century many men were housed in the small towns of Coatham and Redcar. They supplemented their income, like the local people, by working in gangs to bring contraband ashore from the colliers and luggers that would hover illegally off the coast. They would then distribute it before the beleaguered customs service could catch them. They would have been vastly outnumbered anyway.
One historic boat, which does still have pride of place in its own museum, is the Zetland Lifeboat.
In October 1802 this oldest surviving lifeboat in the world arrived at the small coastal town of Redcar in North Yorkshire. In its time it has been used to save over 500 lives and the service that began with it has continued to work in the exceptionally dangerous conditions of rescues in the North Sea. Grace Darling was an exceptionally brave lady who risked her own life to save others. The RNLI continues to save lives. These days their boats do not need pulling down to the edge of the water, but they face the same dangerous, treacherous seas as their forefathers.
My earliest memories from my young life in the small coastal town in North Yorkshire include running into my Aunty Mary’s house and smelling the fresh baking coming from her kitchen. She was a lovely lady who would bake a cake for anyone in need, simply as a gift to share, or to have something in to offer a visitor with a cup of tea.
She was not wealthy, her home was ordinary, but the feel of homeliness within it was something money cannot buy. Among her many recipes was my favourite chocolate cake with lovely icing that seemed to dissolve on your tongue as the cake melted away. The next memorable taste sensation, which I always associated with November, was her sumptuous ginger cake – Parkin.
This warming winter treat was rich in spices, sugar, ginger, oats and treacle. It was not for a calorie controlled diet, but for a comfort food that when warmed would leave you full for hours.
In my stories, cooks occasionally share their treats with the young miss of the households – like Hannah and Abigail. Parkin is often linked to Guy Fawkes night and bonfires, but to me it is a trip into nostalgia and many lovely visits to a lady who taught me the meaning of giving and a loving home.