Monday, February 25, 2008

Toad in the Hole

I haven't been cooking much this week, as it happens. Or rather, I have been cooking but the results have hardly merited a mention on the blog. I've had a really bad cold which has made me lazy and slow in the kitchen. I started the week with a few hot and spicy dishes in the hope that vast quantities of chilli and ginger would shoo the germs away. I did make my thai pork burgers which are truly delicious. I also made a fairly tasty chicken Thai green curry and a tuna pasta dish with added chilli too! But by Wednesday I was really feeling very grotty and it is here I have a confession to make. A big one. I hope you will forgive me. I went to Marks and Spencers and bought myself a tub of their 'ultimate mashed potato' and a packet of their 'Ceaser style green vegetables', stuck both in the microwave and ate those. Very lazy indeed (...though actually really rather good!).

The weekend was better food-wise as I had my mother staying for the weekend and we had some serious treats lined up. On Friday night, we went to the theatre to see The Importance of Being Earnest with Penelope Keith playing the role of Lady Bracknell. She was just made for that part. We had a great pre-theatre meal at Sofra which is a small chain of Turkish restaurants in London serving up great mezze platters of fresh salads, grilled meats, wonderful dips, falafel etc. Perfect grazing food. The highlight though came on Saturday night when I took my mother to Chez Bruce for her birthday. This is my second visit to this fantastic Michelin starred restaurant in London's Wandsworth and it was even better the second time around. My starter of smoked eel on a potato pancake with beetroot remoulade and herbs was so delicious that I could hardly bear to eat the last mouthful for fear of the dish being finished! The service was first class - attentive without being obtrusive and the wine was excellent too. I would recommend this place to anyone who has something special to celebrate and wants to splash out on a truly wonderful meal in great surroundings.

Last night, I felt I really should get back into the kitchen. First though, I decided to pack up my parcel for my 'blogging by mail' partner, Pam from Cave Cibum. This great event is organised by Stephanie at The Happy Sorceress and pairs food bloggers up around the world to exchange packages of foodie gifts. This time around, the theme is 'little things' (though my things don't look all that little from the picture). I hope that Pam will enjoy this package - I'l be sending it later this week...

I've been sticking to comfort food in a big way recently and last night was no exception - I decided to make the classic British dish of 'toad in the hole'. For those who are unfamiliar with this dish, it does not involve a single toad. Or frog. It is a dish which combines two British classics - the good old pork banger and the wonder that is Yorkshire pudding. Not selling it to you? I think you just need to try it and then you will see. It is really very delicious (...if not altogether slimming...). I'm not sure where the name comes from. Even the usually very reliable wikipedia fails to give a truly satisfactory answer on this one.

The basic idea is that you brown your sausages first, then pour Yorkshire pudding batter into the hot pan with the sausages and bake in a hot oven until the batter is risen and gorgeously fluffy. I like to tamper with this just a little. Firstly, I like a little mustard in my batter. Sometimes English for true authenticity and sometimes wholegrain for a milder flavour. I also like to add a few onions to the pan and the odd sprig of rosemary for extra flavour. I'd also like to stress that you should use good sausages for this - nice plump, really flavoursome British bangers with herbs and good-quality pork meat.

You may well have a favourite Yorkshire pudding batter that works well, in which case, stick with that. I made a mistake last night and veered away from my usual. For toad in the hole I usually base my batter on a Jamie Oliver recipe from 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef' which works a treat. But I was cooking for one last night and his version for four uses three eggs. Hmmm. Kind of hard to halve the recipe (dividing by four, even harder!) so I decided to use another. I wasn't so impressed with the results as the batter didn't rise much. Several reasons for this (not just the recipe). Firstly, I didn't add any fat to the pan after I'd browned the sausages - Yorkshire puddings like to be poured into a pan with a thin layer of very hot oil. They really do. I did say this wasn't a recipe for dieters! Secondly, my pan was rather too large for just one so the batter had to spread itself quite thin. Nonetheless, next time I'm reverting to my usual batter and it is that recipe that I give here (with thanks to Jamie Oliver). I'm also suggesting you serve this with some kind of onion gravy - delicious!

Toad in the Hole

(serves 4)


8-12 sausages (depending on their size and how hungry you are)

sunflower oil

1 large (or 2 small) onions, sliced

sprigs of rosemary

For the batter:

1/2 pint of milk

4oz plain flour

3 eggs

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Mix together the batter ingredients with a balloon whisk and set to one side.

2. Take a baking tin or deep-sided roasting tin (or whatever dish you wish to cook the toad in, remembering that the oil will need to get nice and hot). Pour in a reasonably generous amount of sunflower oil so that the entire tin is covered in oil. Place in the oven to heat up.

3. Once the oil is hot, add the sausages and sliced onion and brown in the oven for around 10-15 minutes (they should be lightly brown all over so do give them the odd shake, or turn).

4. Remove the tray from the oven and check that there is still a little hot oil in the bottom. If not, you'll need to add a touch more and heat up again. Then pour over the batter (it should sizzle and spit a little).

5. Throw in the sprigs of rosemary and return immediately to the oven for around half an hour, when the batter should be golden brown and nicely risen. Do not open the oven for at least 2o minutes as this could halt the puffing up of the batter.

6. Remove from oven and serve with vegetables and onion gravy. I made a quick sticky red onion gravy by sweating red onions and a little garlic, then adding redcurrant jelly and some red wine and allowing to reduce and bubble. I served the toad in the hole with mashed swede and carrot and peas.


Peter M said...

This is still a pub classic here too...the colonies are holding the flag proud!

Bellini Valli said...

I come from a British background and yet have only just read about Toad in the dad is also vegetarian. I will give it a try with some nice British sausage from down the road :D

LisaRene said...

I have to laugh, we have completely different taste in food! I'm quite happy that BBM paired me with you as it is fun to see and read about other peoples food passions. How boring life would be if we were all the same. You may find my current post "English Breakfast" amusing :)

Thank your for your suggestions for wines to pair with smoked salmon and strong horseradish or Dijon. On Friday, I made a pasta dish with a white wine mustard sauce and served it with maple smoked goat cheese and some smoked salmon for my husband (which he proceed to crumble into the pasta). Ironically I had a bottle of Alsace Riesling and use that in the sauce as well as in our glasses!

We attended a wine tasting on Saturday and I had the owner pick out a Alsace pinot gris and a Sancerre for future smoked salmon meals. Thank you!

Antonia said...

Peter - good to hear this dish is still alive and well over the pond. Pure comfort food!

Val - We used to have this quite a bit as children so it is a really nostalgic dish for me. Delicious! Hope you find some nice sausages.

LisaRene - I know! It is quite funny really as our food styles couldn't really be more different. Having said that, I love the kinds of foods that you blog about too. I'll look forward to checking out your post on English breakfast...

I hope the wine suggestions work well for you - perhaps we have the same tastes on that front?!

Rosie said...

I hope you are feeling much better now Antonia! I so love the classic toad in the hole and yours does look a real eye catcher to me!

Rosie x

Joy said...

Hi Antonia,

I love Sofra. I tend to go to the one in Exmouth market and eat far too much of the meze starters! Good work on the Toad in the Hole. A real British classic and trust us Brits to give it such a kooky name. Bubble and Squeak anyone?


Pixie said...

I've yet to try toad in the hole and I've been here long enough! Perhaps, I can get my husband to cook it for me?

Antonia said...

Rosie - thank you! Unfortunately, I just can't seem to shift this cold... This toad in the hole cheered me up though!

Joy - welcome! And thank you for visiting. I always eat too many starters at Sofra too - so delicious! And so true about all those names - bubble and squeak, spotted dick, pigs in blankets... I love them all!

Pixie - you should definately get him to cook it for you. I wonder if you will like it?

Ben Porterfield said...

Just a tip for anyone near Atlanta, GA (Austell). If you want real Bangers and you dont want frozen you need to go to Patak Meats 4107 Ewing Rd
Austell, GA 30106
This is by far the best meat market in Atlants and maybe the surrounding states. The quality is amazing and its all fresh! Not to mention I believe they have the ability to communicate in many diffrent languages. I was just happy to find fresh Brats and Bangers! The hours are a little weird so call first. they are open monday through Friday and the first Saturday of every month.