Family folklore has it that Yorkshire pudding batter has always been somewhat of a mystique in my family.
It run the whole gamut of complexity from the picturesquely perfect to the plain pain in the arse, with so many trials and tribulations in the middle. It’s a strange concept too as you’d think that following a basic recipe will provide you with the same outcome every single time, but no Yorkshire pudding mixture will ever give you such certainty.
It’s a trial-and-error procedure, but a delicious one at that.
My grandmother had a bizarre recipe for Yorkshire pudding. I don’t actually know what the recipe is and in hindsight, maybe that was a good thing. I absolutely adored her Yorkshire pudding growing up, but even now, have no idea how it came to be. It would be baked in a cake tin, but it would not rise around the edges like a normal pudding but would insread, rise like a cake? It was then cut into triangular slices? But it would be soft and crumbly, but still thick and eggy? Like a thick, thick, thick pancake?
It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen.
Strange but delicious, nonetheless. My mother, who has always confessed that Yorkshire puddings has been a battle of hers, makes them in the smaller, rounder, cup-shaped puddings that have more crunch than that of my grandmothers, but delicious in an entirely different way.
Me, personally, have always used the same recipe which works for me every time, which I feel oddly achieves the best of both worlds. I detailed it in my book of Christmas recipes, Get Stuffed (which you can download for free here) and it was during this recipe testing that I dispelled the myth I believed for years that it mattered what order you whisked together ingredients. It really doesn’t matter.
Either way, Yorkshire puddings are there to provide us with a very British satisfaction and I do often feel quite proud that the quintessential savoury cake is ours to claim. While I know they are best fitted on a roast dinner and sometimes eating a Yorkshire pudding mid-week may seem uncouth, there is something about a Toad in the Hole that just fits the bill no matter when you eat them.
I call this recipe my Tadpoles in The Hole because it’s more of a meatball affair than the traditional sausage, which gives a cute, miniature dollhouse quality to it therefore I anointed them tadpoles, as opposed to full grown toads. Second, because it rhymed and it was funny to say. But that’s not for me to defend, I recommend this recipe because it worked for me.
There are two key aspects to remember with this technique. The first being that the batter is made ahead of time. This allows time for the flour to fully absorb the liquids, allowing for a much lighter pudding. The second component is piping hot fat – which is a given as you need it for a rise. Usually with Yorkshire puddings you would have the hot fats in the oven, which can be a bit anxiety provoking, having to wrangle the pan of hot fat out, quickly splash in the batter, and then back in the oven. Here in this method, it’s a relatively quick manoeuvre from the hob to the oven all in one pan, making the process much easier to glide through.
A note on making this meat free – there is nothing stopping you from using whole mushrooms in place of the meatballs. You could fry some mushrooms in butter, salt, pepper, and thyme until they are soft and glossy before pouring over the batter. You could also do the exact same recipe below but using veggie sausages in place of the pork ones.
And another note on serving – I love serving this with nothing more than a side of salty, buttery, sweet peas, and a quick Ale & Shallot Gravy (which is a meat free variation on the gravy featured in my breakdown of a Sunday Dinner). Basically, when your meatballs or mushrooms are frying, in a separate small pan, gently fry some slice shallots in oil, butter, and salt until they are soft and golden. Add a tablespoon of flour to this and stir to form a thick paste.
Pour in a small splash of dry ale and stir so that the paste loosens a little. Once the paste has turned into a lighter brown colour, pour in two cups of the ale, and whisk until a smooth but thick gravy forms. Keep this simmering gently as the pudding cooks, adding a further splash of ale if you wish to thin it slightly. Taste for seasoning, but I always stir through a small teaspoon of Marmite for colour and an extra deep hit of umami depth.
Serves 4 – 6
For the pudding
175ml full-fat milk
125g plain flour
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
For the tadpoles
6 or 7 pork sausages
1 clove garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
A grating of fresh nutmeg
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
- In a large jug, combine the milk and eggs, and whisk firmly until thoroughly combined.
- Now add the flour, a pinch of salt, and the thyme leaves, and whisk again until the flour amalgamates with the milk and eggs. Continue to whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. Leave this to one side for as long as you can, a few hours covered on the countertop is fine, but I prefer to leave it in the fridge overnight, giving it a quick whisk again before using.
- For the tadpoles, using your hands, squeeze the meat out of the sausages, and drop the naked pork into a large bowl with a little pinch of salt and pepper.
- Grate in the clove of garlic with a fine grater before adding the thyme leaves and grate in the fresh nutmeg. Maybe a little teaspoon of mixed herbs or dried oregano wouldn’t hurt either.
- Using your hands, pull apart, and push together the sausage meat so that it can take on the herbs, seasoning and garlic you added to the bowl. Don’t play with it too much though, as you only want to merge the ingredients – playing with the meat for too long will make it tough.
- Once combined, using your hands again, pluck teaspoon sized pieces of sausage meat from the mound and roll into small balls in your palms – keep going until you’ve used up all of the mixture. Pop these on to a plate and if you are keeping the batter in the fridge until tomorrow, just put the meatballs in the fridge alongside them.
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C.
- On a medium heat, warm the butter and the olive oil in a wide pan with high sides that is transferable from hob to oven.
- Once the butter has melted and is frothy, add the meatballs gently to the pan. Don’t start pushing them around yet, just keep them there untouched for a minute or so to cook the bottom, and then you can start gently pushing them around, firm enough to keep them from sticking to the pan, but not so forceful that they fall apart. Be gentle.
- Once the meatballs have browned all over, turn the heat up high for a few seconds just to get the oil, butter, and any sausage fat that’s escaped into the pan nice and hot.
- Now carefully pour the patiently waiting batter into the pan. I will say that speed is important here but don’t work so fast that you run the risk of burning yourself.
- Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 30 minutes, in which time the pudding will rise grandly around the little tadpoles, creating a little stadium around them. Don’t open the oven door in this time, just let it do its thing.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool just ever so slightly before serving.