Monday, November 8, 2010

Toad in the hole

My buddy Rick popped into my office the other day, and for some reason that escapes my memory we launched into a discussion about toad in the hole. Rick is quite a character. From what I gather, he was expelled from the U.K. for a parking ticket, hung out with Cat Stevens, stole a tie from Frank Sinatra, and also had toad in the hole every Friday at boarding school (right after the weekly beating). I don't know if I’ll have it every Friday, but this recipe is definitely a repeat.

Toad in the hole is basically roasted sausages that get doused in Yorkshire pudding batter and the whole thing cooks up into a kind of sausage cake. I presume the name hails from the way the sausages look like toads poking their heads out of the mud, but for all I know, and knowing England, maybe it was really made with toads at one time. (Don't tell Mr. Jackson, although I'm sure Mrs. Tittlemouse would be relieved -- appropriately appalled, but relieved.)

As I write, I realise that Rick actually hails from Yorkshire, so this is all the more intriguing. In fact, the beer I am about to have is from there too! Rumour has it that dear Rick’s elementary school was right beside this very brewery. This explains a lot, I think, but we’ll leave it at that and get on with the recipe.

This particular recipe is a mash-up of a couple from the web. The rosemary idea is from Jamie Oliver, the batter is pretty standard, and the gravy from the BBC. First thing is to get the oven heated to 450.

Oil your pan and roast the sausages for about 20 minutes. I recommend cast iron pans here -- you never can tell with ceramic (just like bees), especially when you're going to dump some cold batter on there later. Toss some onions on top if you want. I used some nice andouille sausage from The Piggy Market. English bangers are an obviously good choice, but pick whatever you like, I’m sure it will all be brilliant. Our dear friends at the BBC suggest wrapping each sausage in bacon, which I am profoundly in favour of. It suits my over-the-top approach to cooking and eating just fine! One bit of advice, poke the sausage casings with a toothpick (that comes all the way from China – if you have one) – this will help prevent an explosion in the oven.

While the sausage is plugging away, whip up some Yorkshire pudding batter. This is basically a thin pancake batter that’s extra eggy so it puffs up a lot – it cooks up a lot like our old friend the Dutch Baby pancake. You'll need 115 g of flour (hilarious, this is just less than a cup), 285 ml of milk (even more hilarious -- try and measure that! -- aim for somewhere between 275 and 300 ml), 3 eggs (I am surprised it isn't 2.87 eggs), and a pinch (a gabillion molecules) of salt. Mix the eggs and milk first, then whisk in the flour. Put it in a big measuring cup while you wait for the rest of your 20 minutes to go by -- this will make it easier to pour.

There are a couple of schools of thought on Yorkshire pudding batter. One says it's essential that you let it rest for half-an-hour or so, the other says it makes no difference. I belong to the Whatever school which states that if you have about half-an-hour to wait anyway, you might as well make the batter early, then if there is a benefit you get it and if there isn't then it doesn't matter. Right? Right!

When the sausage is ready, get your oven mitts on (and keep them on) and haul the pan out.

Pour the Yorkshire pudding batter over the sausage, toss about 4 sprigs of rosemary on there, and fire the whole mess back in the oven (good thing you kept your oven mitts on). Don't worry about that ocean of fat -- it makes the Yorkshire pudding better. Honest. By the way, this is another one of those moments when it’s wise to wear an apron -- you may want to wear one while you eat too, just in case. Let this bake away for about 30 minutes.

While that’s happening you can make some gravy – this is British after all. You'll need an onion, some mustard, about 2 cups of chicken stock, a bit of flour, and some Worchestershire sauce (I spelled Worchestershire right the first time! but I spelled sauce wrong right after). See how fast this recipe is? My beer isn't even done yet!

Thinly slice the onion and fry it in about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium low until it starts to get soft and brown.  Then add 2 teaspoons of flour and mix that in evenly (this is basically a bechamel kind of sauce).

Mix 2 teaspoons of English mustard with 2 teaspoons of Worchestershire sauce and some of the chicken stock, and add this to the frying pan. Mix that around a bit, and then add the rest of the chicken stock and let the gravy simmer down over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

I didn't happen to have any English mustard on hand, and was about to go for Grey Poupon, but realised that this would never cut it (nice stuff, but too frou-frou for this dish). So, I went 50/50 with G.P. and a Russian mustard. If you've never had good Russian mustard, I HIGHLY recommend you try it. The first blast as it blows through your nasal passages will make you think death is the only possible outcome of the experince. If you live, you'll have some good laffs!

And voilà!!! I laughed out loud when this came out of the oven -- it is so completely awesome (ok, I don't see the whole toad thing, but whatever)! You can serve with some red cabbage, and/or mashed potatoes, or if you want to be truly authentic, peas that have been boiled into oblivion. I’ll leave all that up to you – my preferred side dish is … a beer!

Cheers, Rick! Shall we do kippers next?

p.s. If you happen to be attending the Resource Modelling conference that Rick is hosting in Ottawa this coming summer, you may know by now that I have volunteered to be the barbecue pit boss at the event. This is exacly the kind of heart-healthy fare you can expect, so bring your nitro glycerine tablets, Pepto Bismol, Tums, and minty gum and get ready to party!!


  1. That explains the talk of Yorkshire pudding that I heard wafting down the hall... thanks for making me hungry first thing in the am, by the way. :)

  2. I like how you include the shots of the beer (in all stages of being consumed).

  3. You're to friggin good.

  4. Hey daddy!!!! That really doesn't look like a toad in a hole, but i hope you enjoyed your beer!!! i like the piggy market also!!
    love, little my