The 2017 Dock Pudding World Championship took place on Sunday 23rd April in the Mytholmroyd Community Centre in West Yorkshire. For many local people it was their first visit to the centre since it was devastated by the 2015 Boxing Day flood. On Sunday, the centre proudly showed off its rebuilt and renovated facilities with the annual event.
Nine competitors prepared their own versions of the traditional Calderdale Valley breakfast dish in front of a crowd of spectators, to be judged anonymously by a panel of five experts. A good dock pudding is welcomed into the judging room with much enthusiasm and cries of “leave something for me”, while a plate containing “something you’d find in a cow field” is met with groans and reluctance to tuck in. But: “You’ve got to try them all, otherwise it isn’t fair”. Contestants gain points for puddings with an “authentic taste”, as only standard ingredients are allowed in the World Championship puddings. “A few years ago we had a special meeting to discuss whether we should allow garlic. We looked at the nationally agreed recipe and garlic isn’t in it”. Some years ago actor and TV personality Robbie Coltrane took part in the championship, when he visited Mytholmroyd for his ‘B Roads of Britain’ programme. He secretly added a chunk of Stilton cheese to his dock pudding; he didn’t win.
The small, sweet dock leaves (Polygonum Bistorta) used for the pudding grow in the Calderdale Valley and are not to be confused with the bigger, more common dock used to rub on painful nettle stings. The organisers like to make this very clear, after a visitor from Newcastle was inspired to recreate the local dish at home and ended up with an upset stomach, rather than a Yorkshire delicacy. The leaves are best picked when they are young, in March, in local fields or along the canal and river bank. Traditionalists say that the leaves taste different since the trains on the track along the waterways stopped running on coal.
The judges are clearly delighted when they hear that the dock pudding they unanimously declared as the winner was made by previous winner Doris Hirst. “I’m thrilled to bits” said Doris (88), holding the cup which will now have her name on it for the third time. “I make it how my mother made it, and she made it how my grandmother made it. And now my daughter makes it how I make it”, she explains. Doris and her family all love dock pudding. They make as much as they can each year, and freeze a batch to have for their Christmas Day breakfast. This year, Doris and her daughter also made a big pan of dock pudding for festival goers to try. For many visitors it will be their first experience of the local delicacy. For some perhaps, it may also be their last, as one man quietly explained to his son: “Perhaps you have to be from Yorkshire to appreciate the delicate taste”
words: Hetty Verhagen
Picture: NIgel Hillier