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September 02, 2004

Toad in the Hole.

Ever eager to leap aboard the latest bandwagon I have decided to enter into the Carnival of the Recipes. This does present a few problems of course as the English are famed the world over for their inability to cook. Or indeed even recognise the existence of the possibility that food and dining can be pleasurable. That this is a foul canard put about by the French is actually well known in my home islands (although the Welsh habit of making bread out of seaweed does make one wonder occasionally) for there are fine traditional foods to be had. In order to prove this I offer you one of those traditional dishes, Toad in the Hole. I've had to cheat a bit as most of us lottery winners (Cecil Rhodes once said "To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life".) would not actually use a recipe. "Stick the toad in a pan, cover with Yorkshire Pudding, bake until done and serve with onion gravy and cabbage" is about all we would need to be told.
I recognise that there will be some unlucky enough not to already know how to prepare Yorkshire pudding, for example, so I've had to go and get a proper recipe giving all the details. This one is from Delia Smith who is famed for the minute attention to detail of her work. She's revered in the UK, so much so that supermarkets vie to find out what recipes she will feature on her TV show so that they can bulk order the ingredients. She once recommended a certain type of sea salt (Maldon) and the entire nation immediately sold out. Her first hit book actually had a recipe for soft boiled eggs. Ridiculous, yes, but it is a very good recipe. Completely idiot proof.
Anyway, onto the recipe itself. To prepare Toad in the Hole (to paraphrase Mrs Beeton, an earlier famous English cook), first you must catch your Toad.
Sorry, what's that Dear?
Don't tease the Americans?
Toad in the Hole does not, as such, contain any toads. Nor frogs. In fact, it has nothing to do with amphibians and absolutely no Bufonidae are used or hurt in its preparation. It's worse than that. It uses the Great British Sausage. Yes, that's right, the meatish tubule which should contain 12.5% bread. The purpose of this is to soak up the fat, as we all know that fat is where the flavour is in meat. If you can't find these in a store near you pretty much any pork or beef based sausage can be used. I've made it with Louisiana style andouille sausages, for example, and adding a little paprika to the gravy works well.
Please note though that frankfurters or hot dogs do not work.

The ingredients:

Serves 2-3
6 good-quality pork sausages - about 14 oz (400 g)
1 tablespoon groundnut or other flavourless oil (if necessary)
For the batter:
3 oz (75 g) plain flour
1 large egg
3 fl oz (75 ml) semi-skimmed milk
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the onion gravy:
8 oz (225 g) onions, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons groundnut or other flavourless oil
1 level teaspoon golden caster sugar
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 level teaspoon mustard powder
15 fl oz (425 ml) vegetable stock made from 11/2 level teaspoons Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder dissolved in 15 fl oz (425 ml) boiling water
1 rounded dessertspoon plain flour
salt and freshly milled black pepper
You will also need a solid-based, flameproof roasting tin with a base of 9 x 6 inches (23 x 15 cm), 2 inches (5 cm) deep, and a baking tray 14 x 10 inches (35 x 25.5 cm).
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C).

If you can't get Coleman's mustard powder (I can't remember whether it is generally available in the US, sorry) then using any English mustard, the yellow strongly flavoured stuff, works just fine. Similarly, don't worry about the brand of vegetable stock. Anything works.
The method:

Begin by making the batter, and to do this sieve the flour into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Now, with the back of a spoon, make a well in the centre, break the egg into it and add some salt and pepper. Now, measure the milk and 2 fl oz (55 ml) water in a measuring jug, then, using an electric hand whisk on a slow speed, begin to whisk the egg into the flour - as you whisk, the flour around the edges will slowly be incorporated. Then add the liquid gradually, stopping to scrape the flour into the mixture. Whisk until the batter is smooth. Now the batter is ready for use, and although it's been rumoured that batter left to stand is better, I have never found this, so just make it whenever it's convenient.
Now place the sliced onions in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of the oil and the sugar and toss the onions around to get the lightest coating, then spread them on the baking tray. Next arrange the sausages in the roasting tin, then place the onions on a high shelf in the oven, with the sausages on a lower shelf, and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the sausages from the oven but leave the onions in for a further 4-5 minutes - they need to be nicely blackened round the edges. When they are ready, remove them and leave to one side.
Now place the roasting tin containing the sausages over direct heat turned to medium and, if the sausages haven't released much fat, add the tablespoon of oil. When the tin is really hot and the oil is beginning to shimmer - it must be searing hot - quickly pour the batter in all around the sausages. Immediately return the roasting tin to the oven, this time on the highest shelf, and cook the whole thing for 30 minutes.
Now for the gravy. First add the Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder to the stock, then add the onions from the baking tray to a medium-sized pan. Now add the second teaspoon of oil, then, using a wooden spoon, stir in the plain flour. Stir all this together over a medium heat and then switch to a whisk, then gradually add the stock to the pan, whisking all the time, until it's all in. Then bring it up to simmering point and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, then pour into a warmed serving jug. When the toad is ready, it should be puffed brown and crisp and the centre should look cooked and not too squidgy. Serve it immediately with the gravy, and it's absolutely wonderful with mashed potato.

I would recommend serving this with crisply cooked cabbage anointed with further black pepper and a knob of butter.
Now, for next week I'm going to try finding a real proper recipe for steak and kidney pudding. Takes 8-10 hours to cook and contains oysters, anchovies and all sorts of other wiggly and squishy things that people don't like to go along with the kidneys that so many find disgusting. And lamb fat (suet) in the pastry. Yum Yum!

September 2, 2004 in Food and Drink | Permalink


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"Meatish tubule" is the best description of British 'sausage' I have ever heard. And yes, Coleman's mustard powder is readily available in the US and is a staple of well-stocked kitchens across the land-- it's only here in Europe that I've tended to have problems getting a hold of it.

Posted by: Kat | Sep 3, 2004 3:42:31 PM

Thank you for that fine compliment. I think I can actually claim it as a first, an actual invention. A Google search for "meatish tubule" found no matches. Just wait 'till they spider this blog!

Posted by: Tim Worstall | Sep 3, 2004 4:03:08 PM

That is an interesting recipe. I may be coerced into trying it. And if you can use andouille sausage, so much the better...

I may have to re-think my opinion of the fabled dearth of English culinary arts. Of course, I am a BIG fan of Stilton cheese, though...

Posted by: mostly cajun | Sep 4, 2004 12:28:36 AM

Can any one tell me about the history of Toad in the Hole? Why is it called this name?

Posted by: jenny stevens | May 10, 2005 12:27:13 PM

It is called "toad in the hole" because it looks like a toad sticking its little head out of its hole...when the sausage cooks, it pokes its "head" out of the batter...Don't know the history though...(psst..I have been to England and I thought the food was great...Hugs to all the Brits!) :)

Posted by: Cara | Jul 26, 2005 5:39:56 PM

Yes, yes, yes, we Brits have heard it all before that our food is terrible, I concede there is some truth to this 'historical' legend,(some), but, after years of hearing it, especially now I'm in the States, I have to raise an eyebrow when the 'yanks' (you know, those who invented the fast food, the double cheeseburgers, the squeezable cheese, the twinkies, ho-ho's, and last but by no means least, that 'play-doh' they call 'wonderbread!') can hardly talk! They aint the fattest, heart clogging nation on earth cos they liked a head of fresh lettuce in their diet. (Worse, they imported this stuff!!)

Posted by: Jan Marney | Oct 7, 2005 8:21:25 PM

Whoops! I guess that should read, "exported!" Ah well, I suppose we can add that the Brits can't figure their words out either!

Posted by: Jan Marney | Oct 7, 2005 8:25:07 PM

I've been hunting high and low for the origin's of toad-in-the-hole and so far, no luck. I take Cara's answer on board but to be fair, it doesn't do it for me.

My hunt will continue though...


Posted by: Vince Russell | Oct 27, 2005 8:53:18 AM

i LOVE toadin the hole!!!!!!! its sooooooo nice, i live in england, essex and i eat them all the time, and i made one in cooking lesson today, it was soooooooooo fun! (hugs back to the americans) my best friend is american, shes from alabama, she moved here when she was eight, i've never been to america, but i'm guessing its cool.(or awsome if u want) we dont use the word awesome here!? what have al u lot got agaisnt us brits?? we rock! apart from the fact that it rains and its cold a lot here, its well alright to live here! dont diss any countries unless u've been there, cos everyone here says that all americans are dizzy blondes! but i dont know, are u? o well, bye

Posted by: laura wiffen | Nov 14, 2006 4:01:40 PM

if u dont like our food stop eatin it!!!!!!!!!! dont diss us, we're cool! u suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: laura wiffen | Nov 14, 2006 4:09:26 PM

add my msn addie, its bwiffen@5carolina.freeserve.co.uk! i need people to talk to! joking, but it wud be nice tpo talk to u lot, since u has some very ''nice'' things to say about us brits

Posted by: laura | Nov 14, 2006 4:14:48 PM