There’s nothing like a grand meal of roast beef with all of the trimmings to set the stage for winter feasting. Ham and turkey tend to grab the spotlight at this time of year, but if you’re keen to switch things up, I highly recommend a flavourful beef roast, if only because it’s an excuse to make Yorkshire pudding.
You can decide how big you want to go when it comes to the beef. A prime rib roast is a thing of beauty, with a mighty fine price tag to match. Your family will be most impressed when they find out this is on the menu.
I’m more of a budget-minded cook and a sirloin tip roast cooked low and slow in the crockpot is not only delicious and tender, but the meat literally falls apart when transferred to a platter. Sure, there will be mashed potatoes and side dishes of seasonal vegetables, but what’s really going to make your dinner guest grin is the Yorkshire puddings, laced with a savoury gravy.
The exact origins of Yorkshire pudding are unknown, though there’s a general consensus that it is a dish associated with the North of England. Printed recipes for Yorkshire pudding go back as far as the mid-18th century, but the dish likely existed in kitchens long before that. The prefix “Yorkshire” was first used within a publication by Hannah Glasse in 1747, in “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple”. This distinguished the light and crispy character of the batter puddings made in this region from batter puddings created in other parts of England.
Yorkshire pudding is super simple in both its ingredients and process: Mix together eggs, milk and flour with a pinch of salt to form a batter (“as for pancakes,” according to the 1937 cookbook The Whole Duty of a Woman), then pour the batter in a hot pan with the drippings from a roast. Originally, that roast was mutton; these days, it’s more likely beef. Yorkshire puddings were traditionally cooked in large pans then cut into squares to be served, though most recipes today call for muffin tins or popover pans.
While they look most impressive, especially when pulled from the hot oven and deflation has yet to set in, Yorkshire puddings are also very easy to make. But, there are a couple of tricks for ensuring lofty, light and airy puddings with crispy edges. First off, plan ahead if you can. The longer the batter rests, the taller the Yorkies will be. However, if you only have 30 minutes to rest the batter, they will still turn out great. Once the batter is rested, be certain to pour it into screaming hot fat. You need to see and hear a good sizzle as the batter hits the hot beef drippings or canola oil. I like to place the muffin tin on top of a rimmed baking sheet so it can catch any oil spills in the oven, should they occur.
Be sure to not overfill the cups. If you pour too much batter into each compartment, the pudding will begin to rise, but will then collapse because it is too heavy. To avoid this, only fill each cup about 2/3 full. Bake until the puddings have risen quite a lot, are deeply golden brown, and crispy to the touch. To enjoy the Yorkshire puddings fully and completely, serve them immediately. Don’t forget the gravy.