A Brief History of Some Traditional Yorkshire Dishes
Some of the nicest travel experiences happen during mealtimes; sampling local and traditional dishes can expand one’s culinary horizons exponentially, as well as teach you a little something about the region, its produce, and its inhabitants. Although it could easily be argued that in this modern age of the internet there is virtually nothing you cannot get at a moments notice, the reality is that more and more, we are drawn to the traditional. Freshly-sourced, local foods are all the rage these days, and restaurants ranging from Michelin-starred fine dining establishments to small local eateries are all jumping on the bandwagon, offering locally-sourced meat and produce transformed into modern twists on classic dishes.
Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in Yorkshire. Yorkshire has long been known for its green rolling countryside, spectacular landscapes, and ability to either raise of grow any number of agricultural products. With the holiday season quickly approaching, Yorkshire also features quite heavily on tables all across the UK. There are a great number of classic British delicacies that have their origins in Yorkshire; some of which are well-known, others less so. If you are planning on spending some time in Yorkshire for your upcoming holiday, make sure to check them out!
Anyone who has ever spent any time in the UK will likely have had a Yorkshire pudding pass his or her lips. This savoury pastry made of butter, flour, eggs, and milk has been a fixture on dinner plates across the UK for ages. Although today they are purposely made as an accompanying dish for a roast dinner (great for mopping-up that gravy), there was a time when Yorkshire puddings were a bit of an afterthought of a food item. Originally, Yorkshire puddings were conceived-of as a way to make better use of the fat that would drip down from a roast while it was in the oven. Home cooks would make a batter similar to that of pancake batter, butter the bottom of a pan, and place the pan underneath a roast that was cooking in the oven. The drippings would then run down off of the roast and into the Yorkshire puddings, lending to them a deep, golden-brown colour and delicious aroma that proved to be irresistible to diners. It has been said that traditionally, serving Yorkshire puddings was an inexpensive way for innkeepers and families alike to fill-up their diners, stretching the more expensive ingredient, the meat, over a greater number of diners.
Parkin is a type of cake that historically is made from oatmeal and treacle, a refined dark sugar product similar to molasses. Traditionally, parkin is associated with the Yorkshire area (Leeds in particular). Parkin also has a strong association with Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th of November, sometimes also referred to as Bonfire Night. The origins of parkin trace back to the working classes of the late 18th and 19th Centuries, where limited means and supplies meant that would-be bakers had to be inventive with their supplies, using either what they already had on hand or what they could afford. In addition to the oatmeal and treacle, ingredients included flour, lard, and seasonings; usually brandy and ginger. Flavour wise, to compare gingerbread and parkin, one could say they are indeed quite similar. Like gingerbread, parkin also retains its texture and keeps well for a longer period of time than other types of baked goods, so it is a popular choice for the holiday season.
Wensleydale cheese, named for the village in which it is made, has a long history on Northern Yorkshire. Originally made by French monks who settled in Wensleydale, the cheese was made from an original recipe that they had brought to Yorkshire with them that used sheep’s milk. Over the years, the type of milk used in making the cheese switched from the milk of sheep to cow’s milk, thus subtly changing the flavour of the cheese and giving it a very regional identity. The flavour of this, the new Wensleydale, lives on, and has become a very popular choice for multi-course dinners and holidays. The flavour of Wensleydale lends itself well to being mixed with something sweet during a cheese course after dinner, and often will be served with slices of fruit, figs, or atop a biscuit. In Yorkshire, one is likely to find Wensleydale being served atop a home-baked apple pie. One of the most common (not to mention delicious) varieties of Wensleydale cheese is white Wensleydale with cranberries; this variety can be found all over the UK in grocery stores, speciality cheese shops, and delicatessens
Yorkshire Curd Tart
Yorkshire curd tart is a variety of cheesecake that utilises fresh curd. It is a recipe that was invented in years gone by in order to use the leftover cheese curd from the cheese making process. To look at a Yorkshire curd tart, one might not find it very appealing to the eye. Usually, it is baked in a simple short crust and filled with a lumpy mixture of fresh cheese curd, fruit, and spices. Though it sounds simple, actually creating a truly traditional Yorkshire curd tart can be a bit of a challenge. These days, it is more difficult to get hold of fresh cheese curd than it was in days gone by, but some dairies do still supply them. Oftentimes, modern day cooks will make their own curd, requiring a little forward-planning time, as usually this process needs to sit overnight to set. Traditionally, in addition to the fresh cheese curd, the filling of a Yorkshire curd tart also contains currants, egg, butter, sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind, and perhaps most uniquely, rosewater. Rosewater as a flavouring dates back to Elizabethan England, although there is some debate about whether or not it actually arrived there with the Romans who came before. No matter where the tradition originated, the Yorkshire curd tart is a delightful traditional pudding that truly captures the “waste not, want not” sentiment of the Yorkshire countryside.
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