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Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest Anne Whitfield: Bringing the Past to Life

Linda Banche here. Today my guest is Anne Whitfield. Her latest book, The House of Women, is a Victorian historical novel set in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England in 1870. Anne's parents hail from Yorkshire, and here she tells us about the county and how to make Yorkshire Pudding.

Welcome, Anne!

Being a descendant from Yorkshire parents, my books are mostly set in Yorkshire, England.

Some of the places in Yorkshire that I have set my books are York, Gargrave, Hebden Bridge and Leeds, in West Yorkshire.

Leeds is only 9 miles from Wakefield where my family come from. There is belief that tribes roamed the area in Roman times and become more populated in the Anglo-Saxon period when it was called Loidis.

During the middle ages it started to become a famous wool making centre. By 1600 the population of Leeds was 4,000 and by 1661 its first Mayor was appointed. With the substantial River Aire flowing through it and trade links to the sea via River Humber, Leeds continued to grow and the cloth trade grew with it.

In 1724 Daniel Defoe visited Leeds and described the town's cloth market as 'a prodigy of its kind unequalled in the world'. In 1730 Leeds was described as one of the 'largest and most flourishing towns in the country'. Its expansion continued into the Victorian age.

Progress brought the building of industries such a weaving mills, sugar refineries, brick making and potteries. With the building and opening of the canals which linked Leeds to other major towns such as Liverpool, another sea port, the town grew rapidly. By 1841 the population of Leeds was eighty-eight thousand.

Today, Leeds is noted for its shopping and old Victorian buildings. The town was the starting point for merchandiser Marks & Spencer and Thornton’s chocolates. Four notable historic houses that can be found in the Leeds area are Harewood House, Temple Newsam, Bramham Park and Lotherton Hall.

Traditional Yorkshire Pudding recipe
(we had Yorkshire puddings every Sunday when I was growing up. It accompanied a full roast lamb dinner.)

Equipment and preparation: You will need a solid roasting tin measuring 28x23cm/11x9in.
· 175g/6oz plain flour
· 2 eggs
· 175ml/6fl oz milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
· 110ml/4fl oz water
· 2 tbsp beef dripping
· salt and freshly milled black pepper
Preparation method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

2. Begin by placing a sieve over a large mixing bowl, then sift the flour in, holding the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing as it goes down into the bowl. Now, with the back of a tablespoon, make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Add the salt and pepper.

3. Now measure the milk and water into a measuring jug. Then begin to whisk the eggs wth an electric whisk and as you beat them the flour around the edges will be slowly incorporated. When the mixture becomes stiff simply add the milk and water mixture gradually, keeping the whisk going. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that any lumps can be pushed down into the batter, then whisk again till all is smooth. Now the batter is ready for use and although it's been rumoured that batter left to stand is better, I have found no foundation for this - so just make it whenever is convenient.

4. To cook the Yorkshire pudding, remove the meat from the oven (or if it's not ready place it on a lower shelf) and turn the oven up to the above temperature. Spoon two tablespoons of beef fat into the roasting tin and allow it to pre-heat in the oven. When the oven is up to temperature remove the tin, using an oven glove, and place it over direct heat (turned to medium). Then, when the fat begins to shimmer and smoke a little, pour in the batter. Tip it evenly all round and then place the tin on a high shelf in the oven and cook the Yorkshire pudding for 40 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve it cut into squares presto pronto.

The House of Women

As the Victorian Age draws to a close, lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.

The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her.

Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.

Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life.

All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?

Available in paperback and ebook and can be ordered from these websites:

Contact Anne at


Debbie Brown said...

How interesting it must be to live in a place with so much history! Thanks for sharing it. I'll have to try out that recipe. :)

Anne Whitfield - author said...

Hi Debbie.
Yes do try the recipe. I grew up on it. LOL

Thanks to Linda and the hussies for hosting me!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Anne, and so interesting. I've been to York and some of the surrounds (I'm in Scotland) but not Leeds yet.

We usually have Yorkshire pudding with roast beef, but I haven't made my own up until now!

Kathy Otten said...

Interesting post. Ever since I read the series of books by James Herriot I wondered what Yorkshire pudding was.

Lu said...

Lovely post - and now I have another spot on my "must visit someday" list.

Now I'm off to the virtual bookstore.

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

Oh, this recipe makes me smile!
I tried this twice. My mother's family comes from Yorkshire and she had a recipe.
When I tried it, I smoked up my kitchen so badly (and my oven) and our eyes, that I never tried it again. I've had others' pudding and been told it can be done smokelessly!
I may summon my courage, open the windows and give yours a go!

Lynne Marshall said...

I love Yorkshire pudding, but the only time I get in the US is when we eat at Lawry's restaurant. Thank you for the fascinating history of your area. Also, I was wondering if there was something I could substitute for the "beef drippins" to make the pudding?
thanks for blogging.

Linda Banche said...

Hi Anne. I've never had Yorkshire Pudding, but it looks like something I'd like to try.

catslady said...

Oh, I have to admit it's a recipe that is beyond my cooking skills lol but I'd love to try it sometime. I don't believe I've ever seen it on a menu. I have a cyberpal that is from Yorkshire. She talks mostly of horses though. I love all the history and enjoyed your blurb!

Jennifer Ann Coffeen said...

Your book sounds wonderful! I'm also excited to try out the recipie. It sounds like the perfect thing for a cold Chicago winter.

Anne Whitfield - author said...

Thanks ladies for your lovely comments.
My mother was a whizz at making Yorkshire Puddings. She always said the key was a very hot oven and hot fat.
I'm not sure what you could use instead of beef drippings, as meat dripppings adds to the flavour. I'm sure something like plain lard could be used for vegetarians. I've never thought about it. It would have to be fat with some flavour though I would assume.
Thanks again.

Vonnie said...

Excellent and informative post, Anne. Different. Yes, even though not from England, in my childhood we always had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sundays at lunchtime.

Miriam Newman said...

This book sounds delightful, Anne, a definite addition to be TBR pile which is now a towering mountain. My grandfather was from Cornwall and I remember going most weekends to my grandparents' where a huge Yorkshire pudding cut into squares was almost a given, with roast beef or lamb. This takes me back in memory.

Fiona McGier said...

Me faither was from Glesga, and his Mom taught my Polish Mom to make it in muffin pans. We had it with beef tenderloin and gravy as a special treat for important holidays. It's quite tasty. (Except for the one year when my husband didn't realize he had grabbed the wrong container from the cabinet and he made it with powdered sugar instead of flour! That year it was yucky!)