Yorkshires Call it Pudding.
Story and Photos by Lindsay Sterling
Josephine Morris, from York, England, is whirring around her kitchen in New Gloucester, Maine faster than I can take notes. I ask her who taught her how to cook. “Me mum,” she answers. “And then me self.” I guess I can skip the DNA test to prove she’s from Yorkshire. Watching her move so assuredly in the kitchen makes me doubt the poor reputation of English food. When a cook moves like that, only good can come of it. She has gravy cooking in one pot, cabbage and green beans steaming in another, a beef roast and potatoes in the oven, a cheese sauce forming, a blender full of batter… Whatever she’s making is basically the opposite of a one-pot meal.
Yorkshires call it Sunday dinner. At Josephine’s house, though, Sunday dinner could be any day. “Nikky always wants me to do Yorkshire puddings and a roast when her family’s comin’.” Nikky is her daughter. Over a decade ago, Nikky came to the U.S. for a job in occupational therapy. While here, she fell in love with a native Mainer, Scott Howard, the founder of Olivia’s Garden. (You might have seen his roots-on basil, lettuce, and tomatoes at Portland Farmer’s Market, Hannaford, or in the greenhouses at Pineland Farms. Olivia’s Garden is not to be confused with Olivia’s Organics, a different company from out of state). After Scott and Nikky had kids, Nikky would send plane tickets to her mom to come visit from England. “I’d get back [from Maine],” Josephine says, “And she’d send me more tickets.”
Maybe Nikky couldn’t live without her mother’s Yorkshire pudding. “Nikky would never make Yorkshire puddings [herself]. They’re temperamental. I hope I don’t have a failure.” Josephine says, laughing. She makes sure to start with room temperature milk and eggs, and then to preheat the muffin tin with a teaspoon of oil in each hole before pouring the batter in. “If you haven’t got your fat quite right, or your oven’s off, they might be a bit stodgy.” Stodgy? “They wouldn’t rise,” she clarifies. “It wouldn’t be light. A Yorkshire pudding should be crisp on the outside and almost air in the middle.”
Made of just eggs, flour, milk, salt, and a little oil, Yorkshire pudding is the lightest bun you’ll ever eat. It’s fun to eat food filled with air. Josephine teaches me to not pick it up like it’s a bun, but to keep it on my plate, break it open and pour gravy into the cavity. “More.” She directs the gravy boat until my popover is half-filled and swimming. You use a knife and fork to sweep up pieces soaked in gravy. No worries about having a heart attack. Josephine has thickened her gravy with pureed roasted carrot, green pepper, and tomatoes instead of melted beef fat. It’s a brilliant trick if you ask me. I swear the gravy tastes better than full fat versions I remember. “Is that something your mother taught you?” I ask. “No, that is me.”
Basically, Yorkshire pudding is crepe batter, oven-fried in a muffin tin. In the 1800’s Americans changed the name because they thought, I presume: hey, these things are just not pudding. Calling them “popovers” made sense because they popped over the edge of the pan as the batter rose in the oven. Call them what you will, but make them. If you don’t, and you end up sending for a home cook in Yorkshire instead, well, you wouldn’t be the first.