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English Puddings: Sweet and Savoury
by Mary Norwak
This pudding originated as a 'dripping pudding', cooked in the pan that normally stood under the meat rotating on the spit to catch the meat juices and fat. When wheat flour came into common use at the beginning of the eighteenth century, northern cooks used this rich fat for cooking batters. A recipe of 1737 in 'The Whole Duty of a Woman' specified a pancake batter put into a hot toss-pan (frying-pan) with a bit of butter in the bottom. This pan was to be placed under the meat instead of a dripping-pan, and the pan was to be shaken frequently by the handle to make the pudding light and savoury. The pudding was eaten with all kinds of meat, and sometimes dried fruit was added to the batter, when the pudding was known as a Lincolnshire Pudding. The batter pudding could be eaten right through a meal: first with gravy to diminish the appetite, then with the meat as is customary today, and finally the leftovers were eaten with treacle or butter and sugar to finish a meal.
In 1747 Hannah Glasse recommended that the pudding should be dried out over a hot fire, as it must have been rather soggy when cooked under the meat, and it was then served with melted butter. A hundred years later Eliza Acton observed that a Yorkshire Pudding was thinner than the kind made in the south, and was cooked 'at an enormous fire' and was not turned. She said that the pudding would be double in size and much lighter if turned when firm and cooked on the other side as well.
Today the pudding has to be baked in the top of the oven over the meat. Fat from the meat is used to grease the pan and give flavour to the batter, and according to tradition the pudding should be cooked in a large tin and cut into slices. To make sure of a light pudding with well-risen crisp sides, the batter should be thin, the baking tin large, and the fat hot before pouring in the batter, which must be baked at a high temperature. A slightly thicker batter will give a heavier pudding.
• 4 oz (100 g) plain flour
• Pinch of salt
• 1 egg
• 1/2 pint (300 ml) milk
Stir the salt and flour in a mixing bowl. Break the egg into the centre of the bowl and gradually work in half the milk, beating well to make a smooth batter. Beat in the remaining milk.
Set the oven at 425°F/220°C/Gas Mark 7.
Put a tablespoon of fat from the roasting meat (or lard) into a 12 x 8 in (30 x 20 cm) baking tin. Put into the oven until smoking hot. Pour in the batter and put at the top of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes until well-risen, crisp and golden. If the meat is cooked on a rack in a roasting tin, the batter may be poured into the tin 40 minutes before serving time, and cooked in the old way under the meat.
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