A few weeks ago I received a message on Instagram. Messages on Instagram normally mean one of three things: 1. Someone asking a recipe question or telling me how much they love a recipe, 2. Creepy ‘Hello Dear’ type of message, 3. Somebody trying to sell me supplements. This was different. This one was asking if I’d like to enter one of my recipes into a cooking competition. I’d toyed with the idea of entering a cooking competition (not Bake Off) and I decided to enter my recipe. Without votes there was no point entering so I mentioned the competition on my social media pages and managed to get some votes.
A week later an email popped into my Inbox telling me that I’d made it to the finals that happened to be taking place on Yorkshire Day, 1st August 2019. When I entered the recipe I hadn’t considered making it to the finals or cooking the recipe to be judged, so I had to start taking this seriously by cooking the recipe again at least once. Then I heard who the judges were. Andrew Dixon, Head Chef & Tutor at The Cookery School at The Grand Hotel York and Christopher Blackburn, World Yorkshire Pudding Champion – no pressure! I have to admit that I made several batches of the Yorkshire Pudding waffles just in case. As I said on one instagram story, I didn’t want to be that person who turned up and burnt my waffles under pressure.
It’s competition day and I think I’m all prepared. My recipe notes were printed off and on the table with my glasses (small labels are my nemesis), my TLC branded apron and of course my waffle iron. With my precious cargo packed, I kissed my sons goodbye and headed up to York with my ever suffering waffle tester…..I mean husband Chris! It was quite a nice drive up, stopping for a coffee before arriving in York. Nerves weren’t showing yet and we made our way to the hotel to get a lay of the land. We planned to arrive early in case of traffic issues so this meant we had time to grab lunch.
As we walk past the venue for the competition (the cookery school) my husband suggests we pop in to say ‘Hi’ and to drop off my bag with my waffle iron in. We met the organiser who I’d been chatting to on email along with Andrew (one of the judges) who was helping set-up the cooking stations with ingredients each finalist had specified – this was all starting to look pretty real! I noticed that each station had an induction hob and asked if my waffle iron would work, so we tried it out. NOPE. DISASTER.
With the main part of my recipe that I was being judged on – namely the waffle – this made the nerves kick in! Andrew had recently attended an event to do a cooking demo and he happened to use a camping stove, so he made the suggestion that we pick one up in town and he had some gas we could use. It was lucky that we popped in!
Instead of the long leisurely lunch we had envisaged, we marched to the nearest camping shop, picked up the stove and headed to a sandwich shop. Of course being Yorkshire Day the streets were packed with street entertainers; singers, acrobats, people in period dress, it was quite the event. York is such a beautiful city and we had next to no time to take in some of the sights. In the short time we had before we had to make it back to get ready for the competition, we had to at least see York Minster. All I can say is WOW. We have to come back and really spend some time seeing what York has to offer. So many quaint shops, cafes, bars, tea rooms and of course a proper tour of York Minster.
With our lunch break over we head back to the cookery school where Chris and Andrew get the camping stove set-up before the competition briefing takes place with all of the other finalists. The organiser Mel runs through the timings for cooking, presenting, judging and the appearance of BBC North to cover the event at the end of the day in time for the 6.30pm show – again no pressure!
We had 2 hours 30 minutes to cook and I had to go back to square one with my waffles. Not only did I have to try and figure out the timings on the camping stove, but I also had to convert my volumetric measurements to actual measurements in the absence of a measuring cup – and there was me thinking that having a recipe with just a cup measure would make life simple! Having enough ingredients for 1.5 batches I set out making a half batch to test my recipe and the new stove. As I start pouring the batter I suddenly find myself with an audience. Unbeknown to me the concept of a Yorkshire Pudding Waffle was quite controversial and there was quite a lot of interest to see how this would turn out. With the batter made and in the waffle iron, it was now down to me to time it to produce a waffle crispy on both sides (not burnt) and golden brown on both sides.
I don’t know how, but I managed to figure it out pretty much straight away. I made some notes and went again. This time the heat was a little high so I had to discard this attempt and go again. After 3 attempts I was as confident as I could be about my timings to make the waffle, but as it only takes just over an hour to make the dish I had lots of time to spare. As I’m finishing my final test batch I’m interviewed by Wayne Chadwick, founder of The York Roast Co who are running the competition and he is more than intrigued if what I’m making is a waffle or indeed a Yorkshire Pudding Waffle. There’s a stack of waffles going cold people are coming over and trying them. I had to state they were my test batch and not quite right, and of course there was no gravy yet for dipping, but I’m glad to see I’m bringing something different to the table.
With time to spare I cooked my potatoes early, just as well because I really was struggling to get to grips with the induction hob – not to self not to every have one in my own kitchen! Steak seasoned and at room temperature I had to turn my attention to the batter for the competition batch of waffles. I knew what I had to do, it was simple enough but I was worried that the batter wasn’t quite right so I spent more time making sure the seasoning was OK and that I had the right texture. One of my fellow finalists was struggling with the unfamiliar oven and I didn’t want to be with one who on the day couldn’t get the batter right let along cook them without burning!
I had to glance at my watch because even though I had time to spare, at some point I had to start cooking the rest of my dish and I knew that the waffles were the most time consuming part so I needed to allow plenty of time to get at least 3 batches made as often the 1st batch isn’t right. Suddenly the room is filled with a new voice. It’s Christopher Blackburn, the Yorkshire Pudding World Champion and he’s briefed as to what’s happening before he makes his way around all of the finalists. As well as being one of the judges, the World Champion, he’s also a Yorkshire man so I’m going to have to convince him that this waffle passes as a Yorkshire Pudding. Questions about how I’ve seasoned the steak and how I’m going to cook it without burning the butter, another about the fat I’m using to cook the waffle, but of course this is different to a normal Yorkshire Pudding and it only needs a small amount of oil in the cooking. There’s still a small amount of the test batch left and he tries one. I think he’s surprised and I’m messing with his head. It tastes like a Yorkshire Pudding but it’s a waffle. Unfortunately there’s still no gravy for dipping, he’ll have to wait until the final judging.
Time marches on and I’ve been interviewed by the local press and it always seems to coincide with me making the waffles so that they can see what all the fuss is about, but at least I’m doing something towards making the final dish. Before I know it, it’s time to make the actual waffles I’m going to be judged on and I’ve got my game face on. I’m calm and I know what I’m doing, so as long as I’m not distracted alls good!
Each batch comes out better than the previous so I keep on making them knowing full well that there was only the steak to cook, broccoli to blanch and the gravy to make – all in the final 30 minutes. I have to tell you that Chris was getting worried about me getting it all done on time. I decided to get the steak on, so I warmed a pan on the dreaded hob. It seemed hot enough so in went the steak and to my amazement not much happened. Worried that I was about to steam my steak Chris went and called Andrew over who was helping the contestants with any questions regarding the hob, oven or getting any extra equipment. He assured me everything was working ok and when I checked the underside of the steak, it was as it should be, so in went the butter.
I was on the final 15 minutes with only the broccoli to blanch and the gravy to finish now that the steak was resting so as long as I hadn’t set the oven that was keeping the waffles warm too high I knew I could be done in the time.
Plates were warmed, gravy made and poured in a jug and Chris was keeping an eye on the broccoli which meant I could concentrate on slicing the steak and plating up. Deep breath, I knew how it had to look and I replicated my original recipe. PLUS I had a stack of waffles to present.
Time was up. Nothing more to do than let the judges do what they were there to do. It was so hot in there unsurprisingly but it suddenly got hotter. All the dishes were up at the pass ready for judging and as each dish was tasted we had to go up and talk about our dish and how we came up with it’s concept. My dish was created in August 2018. I wanted a roast dinner in the middle of a hot summer without having the oven on, so I decided to make a summer version of a roast dinner with new potatoes, steak and of course my controversial Yorkshire Pudding Waffle.
My plate was the second to be judged so up I went. I gave my explanation and let the judges do their thing. A generous glug of gravy was poured and in they went. They were silent. They kept eating and still nothing. Then Wayne pressed them for comments which I honestly don’t recall but they went back in for more, so for me I’m happy that I presented the best dish that I could.
The judging continued before they went off to make their decision. In all we had 4 savoury and 2 sweet dishes. Mine wasn’t the only controversial dish. Across the table from me was Tom who was making a Lancashire Hot Pot Yorkshire Pudding and his creation was called War of the Roses. It was thanks to Tom that we had so much cooking time – thanks Tom!!
The BBC turned up just as the judging finished and they had the idea to reveal the winner LIVE on the BBC North News. We ran through where we had to stand before they cut to VT (that stands for video tape) and then we had only 1 minute 30 seconds left of the piece to find out the winner.
And the winner is……….Tom from Rate Good Roasts with his creation War of the Roses.
I came a respectable 3rd place and had an amazing time. Everyone worked their socks off to put their creations in front of the judges. The team at the cookery school were brilliant and a special thank you goes to Andrew for saving my bacon otherwise that would have been such a wasted trip. Mel who organised us all was totally amazing so a massive thanks goes to her too! Wayne did say that it’s going to be an annual event so they will be looking for new creations for next years competition. My head is buzzing with ideas for Yorkshire Pudding delights, but I need to eat something different for a while before I can eat a Yorkie.
See you next year perhaps? Tom the winner is below on the right. Click here if you’d like to try the recipe.