Celebrating British Food & Cooking
Toad in the hole is a British classic. This version from Lisa Faulkner took my fancy so I thought I would share it.
⚠️ Let’s make something clear from the start. This dish does not contain any toads, nor any holes for that matter.
To explain, a little bit of history.
Let’s face it, we Brits have some oddly named delicacies. We have Bubble & Squeak and Spotted Dick, but Toad-in-the-Hole really takes the biscuit for bizarrely named food. Plenty of tales and speculation exist about how this dish got its name, but are any of them actually true?
Dating back to the 18th century, it is widely assumed that toad-in-the-hole was created as a way to stretch out meat in poor households. Large families had to bulk out what little meat could be scraped together with cheaper ingredients. Invented earlier that century, Yorkshire pudding and batter-based dishes were a popular way of filling the family at a low cost. By combining meat (rump steak, pigeon and kidneys were all suggested prior to the use of sausages) with a filling batter and a tasty gravy, you could cook a tasty and affordable meal.
The first reference to the dish by name is in a book named A Provincial Glossary published in 1787, although it is also referred to as ‘meat boiled in a crust’ in the book. Perhaps the most important mention, however, is in Mrs Beeton’s iconic Book of Household Management, first published in 1861. Following on, several recipes suggest different meats which can be used to make Toad-in-the-Hole, including beef, kidneys and mutton. Although the dish is mentioned in various other cookery books in the same era, the only reference to its name is in 1900, in a publication called Notes & Queries that refers to a “batter-pudding with a hole in the middle containing meat”.
Unsurprisingly, no record can be found of a dish ever being baked with toads as a substitute for meat. The reference to toads is believed to be referring to the similarity in appearance to toads lying in wait of prey in their burrows, their heads visible against the earth. Considered unsavoury creatures, toads are not at all something that would whet the appetite. Perhaps the mention of toads was a tongue-in-cheek comment that for some reason stuck.
A tale exists that may explain the origin of the name, but this may be nothing is more than a local legend. Some say that Toad-in-the-Hole originates from the town of Alnmouth in Northumberland. Natterjack toads had overrun the local golf course. During a golf tournament, a golfer putted his ball only for it to leap back out. An angry toad raised its head, peering out of the hole that it had been sleeping in. The chef at the hotel the golfers were staying in devised a dish to resemble this humorous moment, baking sausages in batter to appear like toads poking their heads out of the golf holes. Thus Toad-in-the-Hole was born!”
Article courtesy of Emma Lavelle @ theculturetrip.com
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Recipe – Toad in the Hole
Toad in the Hole
For the batter
- 1 egg
- 300 ml milk
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp mustard powder optional
- 120 g plain flour
For the filling
- 6-8 sausages or vegetarian sausage meatballs
- 90 ml olive oil
- 2 leeks sliced
- 20 g butter
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6
- Make the batter by beating the egg into the milk with a little salt. Add the mustard powder to the flour and then make a well in the centre of the flour and beat in the milk/egg mixture. Season and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
- Remove the sausages from their skins and roll each into 2 little balls
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and brown the sausage balls until golden. Set aside.
- Next soften the leeks in the same pan using the oil from the sausages and add a little knob of butter once soft and slightly golden. Set aside with the sausages.
- Put the remaining olive oil into an ovenproof dish and heat in the oven for a good few minutes until piping hot. Add the leeks and sausage balls and then pour over the batter. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown and puffy.
- Serve with vegetables of your choice with lots of hot onion gravy