The first pro-am Great Yorkshire Pudding Challenge took place at the Cooking School, Dean Clough, Halifax yesterday and Mandy and I were judges along with Elaine Lemm, author of The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding.
What a day. Professional chefs from four corners of the county were in the running: Tim Bilton of the Butcher’s Arms, Hepworth representing West Yorkshire; Stephanie Moon of Rudding Park, Harrogate for North Yorkshire and Ben Cox of the Star at Sancton for East Yorkshire. James Wallace from Sheffield’s Milestone had to pull out at the last minute – a crisis in the kitchen – so no South Yorkshire competitor. The starting bell was rung by guest of honour, Deputy Mayor of Calderdale, Peter Wardhough, then gamely put on his pinny and pitched in
As the mixing got underway, Stephanie Moon and Tim Bilton kept up the banter. Tim, ever the showman, shouted the odds for West Yorkshire while Steph told us of the time she offered to cook roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to an audience of Germans, ‘You mean Yorkshire pudding mit custard?’
The two of them have competed together on BBC2’s Great British Menu so they were coping with the pressure. Ben Cox was the dark horse. A man never known to leave his stove at the Star, he looked as if he was quietly worrying about lunchtime service rather than the state of his Yorkshire’s.
The amateurs were a good humoured bunch but they took their recipes very seriously and while the ingredients: flour milk, eggs and salt, hardly varied, there was much debate about fats, cooking temperatures and tins.
There were crusty old tins that looked as if they’d been in the family for generations, bun tins and muffin tins, even an old ‘Fray Bentos’ pie tin. Some measured their ingredients to the gram and others trusted to their eye and experience. Fats varied from lard to duck fat but everyone swore by a hot oven, though hot ranged from Ben Cox’s 200C to Stephen who whacked his up to 275C and almost set off the smoke alarms.
We judged all the puddings anonymously on appearance, taste and texture. Surprisingly despite everyone using the same ingredients, they all looked very different. Some were smooth and shiny while others were craggy and rustic. Texture ranged from soft and eggy to dry and crisp. Taste depended as much on the fat used as the amount of seasoning. Many of them woefully under salted
And the winner? The best Yorkshire pudding in the amateur class was made by Christopher Blackburn of Copley in Halifax whose secret was beef dripping, a hot oven and muffin tins which made a lovely rustic well risen pudding, crispy on top but with bags of taste and texture.
The winner in the professional class, whose puddings were cooked in duck fat, flavoured with a touch of sage and a drop of light vegetable stock and were by far and away the best I’ve ever eaten were made by Ben Cox of the Star at Sancton, a win then for East Yorkshire.
Me, I went home and made the best Yorkshire puddings I’ve ever made, to Ben Cox’s recipe. But they didn’t look a bit like his.