Mike Laycock takes on a tough Yorkshire Pudding challenge at a battlefield pub

JUST an arrow’s flight away from the Crooked Billet is the site of the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. About 28,000 men are thought to have died in the War of the Roses Battle of Towton on Palm Sunday, 1461.

Nowadays, the biggest conflict facing diners at the pub near Tadcaster is trying to win its Yorkshire Pudding Challenge, and this struggle certainly won’t help any dieters win their own Battle of the Bulge.

Basically, for just £15, you sit down to a three-course meal with a pudding at the heart of every course.

Readers, I did my utmost to win this culinary conflict, with some strategic military planning beforehand and a series of precautionary measures. I fasted from breakfast until we sat down for our mid-afternoon meal. I went for a morning jog to build up an appetite. I sought assistance from my allies sitting around the table. But I was always fighting a losing battle..

We had gone to the pub to celebrate my son’s birthday. It’s an easy drive there from York, straight down the A64 to Tadcaster and then along the A162 to Towton, where you turn right and head across the battlefield. You drive past a memorial to the battle, which is worth stopping at to have a look if you’ve any interest in British or military history, and then you reach the pub. It’s a very popular place, and you really need to book a table, especially if you’re going at a popular time.

It’s also worth considering going for walk on the battlefield before or after the meal, if the weather is kind, but it was all too cloudy and cold during our visit to even consider a short stroll.

Instead we sat down and I pondered the history of puddings with a little help from Google while my fellow diners scrutinised the menu. Apparently, the prefix “Yorkshire” dates back to a publication by a Hannah Glasse in 1747, called “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple”, which distinguished the light and crispy batter puddings made in this region from those created elsewhere.

They weren’t served as part of a roast dinner in those days, as is now the norm, but rather as an appetiser, with gravy, as a means of blunting the appetites of working men and allowing the more expensive main course meat to stretch further.

And the pub’s first course followed in this tradition, with homemade Yorkshire Pudding, filled with meat and onion gravy.

Now YP is a little bland, so the gravy had to taste good and it did: rich, brown and packed with meaty flavour. To ensure I had plenty of room for mains, I passed segments to my son and wife, who weren't having their own starters.

The main course was a giant of a YP. Some experts apparently believe that if your pudding is not four-inches tall, it’s not a real pud. Well, this one was so tall it could have served as a chef’s hat, and it was filled with mashed potatoes, gravy and a choice of fillings. The choice was sausages, roast meat, Caribbean jambalaya, steak and kidney, chilli con carne and chicken curry. I went for the steak and kidney, and didn’t regret it. Plenty of tender meat and a thick, meaty gravy. But my goodness, the amount – there was enough for my son and my wife as well, but they had their own battles to fight. My son was enjoying a very good and sizeable beer-battered haddock and chips, served with mushy peas and a lemon wedge, for £11.50, while my wife had oven-baked chicken breast served on orange and sage sautéed potatoes with a flambeed brandy and peppercorn sauce and seasonal vegetables, all again for £11.50. She said it was delicious and would have it again if we paid a return visit.

I tried, my goodness I tried, but there was no way I could finish all of the dish – not with pudding still to come.

And yes, pudding was, yet again, Yorkshire Pudding, filled this time with creamy vanilla ice cream and a sticky toffee sauce. I wasn't sure about that but do you know what? It was really rather nice – the YP more like a sweet pastry accompaniment to the ice cream, and I finished the lot, assisted again by fellow diners who nobly surrendered their right to their own sweet. It had been good value food for £38 for the three of us. I was given a little badge proclaiming: 'I’m a Crooked Billet Yorkshire Pudding,' and then I staggered out and drove home and didn’t want to eat another darned thing until a late breakfast the following day.

The Crooked Billet, Saxton, near Tadcaster

T: 01937 557389

W: crooked-billet.co.uk

Food: Filling: 4/5

Ambience: Busy 3/5

Service: Friendly 4/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews are independent and paid for by The Press