Is it any wonder that British food has a bad reputation with dubious-sounding dishes such as Bubble n Squeak, Wet Nelly, Clapshot, Huffkins, Singing Hinnies, Tiddy Oggies, Spotted Dick, and my own particular favourite, Toad-In-The-Hole.
I steered well clear of Toad for many years because I thought it might be named after its filling. However, I have since discovered that Toad-In-The-Hole is a Yorkshire-type batter, embedded with meaty sausages, all smothered in onion gravy. Like the nursery rhyme, when it’s good, it’s very, very good and when it’s bad it’s horrid!
Toad is traditionally made in a large roasting tin and a soggy bottom is very difficult to avoid. The edges rise beautifully but the middle can be thick and stodgy and rather bleagh! Some recipes advise adding half the batter to the tin and letting it cook for a few minutes before adding the sausages and the rest of the batter. This doesn’t work.
I have made many, many Toads in pursuit of Toad excellence and have discovered several key elements:
|'Toad' in a pond of creamy batter - hold your nerve and fill the cups to the brim|
1) Use more eggs than most recipes tell you to, but less than the 8 eggs Heston Blumenthal suggests in his recipe.
2) Use a metal tin, preheat the oven and preheat the fat
3) The only way around the soggy bottom issue is to use a muffin tin and make mini Toads.
4) Use good meaty sausages – I use pork mostly, but have been known to use beef or lamb when I find a particularly good product.
For 4 servings you will need...
3 large onions, halved and sliced thinly (approximately 500g prepared weight)
A teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons plain flour
350mls chicken stock
100mls red wine (something drinkable but not your best Bordeaux)
1 Start by making the onion gravy. Melt the butter in a pan and add the sliced onions and thyme. Cook over a low heat. The onions will first become soft and translucent and after about 25-30 mins will begin to brown. Keep an eye on them that they don’t burn and continue to cook slowly until they are a deep golden colour. (You can make the batter while the onions are cooking.) Sprinkle the flour over the onions and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add the stock and red wine, stirring until the gravy begins to simmer. Lower the heat and allow the gravy to continue simmering gently while you make the batter. (This gravy is also great with chops and the Sunday roast.)
|And not a soggy bottom in sight!|
150g plain flour
½ teaspoon of salt and a shake of white pepper
4 medium eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
150mls cold water
8 good quality pork sausages (approximately 300g in total)
4 rashers of rindless bacon or 8 slices of prosciutto (optional)
3 tablespoons of olive oil, goose fat, or lard
2 For the batter: Measure the flour into a bowl. Add the salt and pepper. Add the eggs and mustard and begin to whisk into the flour. Add the milk and water, whisking until the batter is without lumps and the consistency of pouring cream. Refrigerate until needed.
3 Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Divide the fat evenly between 8 deep muffin cups (I only have a 12-hole muffin tin so I just use 8 holes and that works fine) and place in the hot oven.
4 Meanwhile, lay the rashers out on a chopping board and running the back of a knife over them, stretch them out slightly. Cut in half lengthways and wrap each sausage in a spiral of bacon (or a slice of prosciutto if using). Make a ‘hinge’ in each sausage by making a cut halfway across – this makes it easier to fit them into the muffin tins.
5 When the roasting tin has been in the oven for about ten minutes, remove it and pour in the batter which will sizzle as it hits the hot fat. Place the bacon-wrapped sausages in the batter and return the tin to the oven for 20-25 minutes or until well-risen and golden. (You may need to lower the temperature to 190°C if your oven is very hot.) Serve immediately with a generous helping of onion gravy.Pin It