From as far back as I can remember through the day I read a since-deleted writeup claiming something else, here (something about frogs; precisely what, I cannot recall), I had thought that a toad in the hole was something my mom cooked for me for breakfast when I was a kid: a piece of bread with a hole cut in the middle, fried slightly, then had an egg broken into the hole, and cooked until the yolk was firm, with maybe a little salt and pepper, or some other spices added. Although I hear that some people think bread and egg isn't exciting enough, and add some bacon, along with the egg, or melt some cheese on top.1

Well, after using Google to search2, trying to find recipes that weren't Yorkshire pudding and pork sausages, it turns out that my mom had not, in fact, been deceiving me all these years; there are quite a few recipes out there like the one I gave. Although, I couldn't find any history of the dish, so I suppose that this version could just be a bastardized version of the other, created by amused Americans...

1 yes, that was a recipe, thinly disguised as a sentence..
2 in case you're curious, the search was:

"toad in the hole" -yorkshire -sausage egg -sausages bread

I've had a craving for toad-in-the-hole for a few weeks now. I blame it all on one of my friends who had it when we went out for a meal recently. (If you're really interested, I had fish and another friend had risotto. We washed it down with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Then we had an Italian Pinot Grigio. Then an Australian Chardonnay. No. None of us was hungover.) There's something about the combination of sticky-skinned sausages and crispy-edged Yorkshire pudding that I find irresistible, especially when served with horseradish-spiked mashed potato, onion gravy, and braised red cabbage.

No one seems to know the origins of toad-in-the-hole, or why sausages cooked in batter should be so termed. Mrs Beeton's eighteenth century version had any kind of meat tossed in with the Yorkshire pudding; the sausage alternative became de rigueur during the Second World War. There's no given recipe for it and what follows is the result of my fiddling (and to be fair, I usually make Yorkshire pudding by eye). Anyone who has ever been fed by me knows that I struggle to cook in quantities smaller than that sufficient to feed a regiment: adjust as necessary.


Ingrediments for between six and eight people, some vegetarian, some not

  • For the meat-eaters
    • 8 sausages (good ones, please, you know, ones that contain actual meat) - pork is of course traditional, but doesn't pass my portals; chicken, lamb, or beef also work and I don't see why you couldn't be really posh with venison or wild boar.
    • A red onion, cut into wedges and separated into layers
    • A few sprigs of thyme (if using pork or chicken) or rosemary (if using lamb)
    • 1 tbsp oil, sunflower or groundnut

  • For the vegetarians
    • 8 vegetarian sausages, whichever brand you prefer
    • A red onion, cut into wedges and separated into layers
    • A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary
    • 1 tbsp oil, sunflower or groundnut


Method

Begin by making the batter for the Yorkshire pudding. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre, sprinkle in the salt, and then add the eggs and milk. Mix together until the batter is smooth. You can use an electric or balloon whisk. Or you could just toss everything into a KitchenAid and whisk. Allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can manage it.

Preheat your oven to 220°Celsius. (That's gas mark Very Hot.)

Prick your meat sausages and place in an ovenproof container measuring 30cm by 25cm, and 5cm deep (12 x 10 x 2 inches). Add the onion and herb sprigs and coat everything with the oil.

Unless you're using very posh vegetarian sausages, the chances are that they are frozen and need to be cooked from frozen. Thus, put them in an ovenproof container roughly the same size as that containing the meat sausages with the herbs, onion, and oil. Shake it about a bit.

Place both pans in your very hot oven for about 20 minutes, or until the meat sausages are browned and the vegetarian sausages resemble cooked. You will need to turn the sausages at least once during the cooking time, more if you can.

When the sausages have roasted, the fat in the pan should be smoking hot. This is exactly how you want it, but please be careful. Divide the Yorkshire pudding batter equally between the two pans and return to the oven. Cook for a further 20-30 minutes, or until the pudding is golden, crispy, and risen.

My choice of wine for this meal would be largely dependent on the sausage variety. Sauvignon Blanc for the chicken (and maybe pork) sausages; Merlot for the lamb; Shiraz for the venison or wild boar; and the beef could handle either Merlot or Shiraz. I'm fairly certain that the vegetarian sausages could take whatever you throw at them. Of course, you might just prefer a really good ale.

And finally: if you need to make a dairy-free Yorkshire pudding batter, it is entirely possible. Substitute the milk with water, add an extra egg and mix in two tablespoons of flavourless oil, such as sunflower or groundnut, for every 125ml (4floz) of liquid. Cook using exactly the same method.


Music to cook to: Films About Ghosts, The Counting Crows

Addendum: Andrew Aguecheek informs me that substituting roughly one third of the milk for a good ale yielded a delicious batter. I can well believe this.

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