Toad in the hole is a British classic and this recipe from Lisa Faulkner took my fancy so I thought I would share it.
Lets 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.
“Britain is known for its oddly named delicacies, from Bubble & Squeak to Spotted Dick, but Toad-in-the-Hole really takes the biscuit for bizarrely named food. There are plenty of tales and speculation for 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. Meat was expensive and families were large, so what little could be scraped together had to be bulked out with cheaper ingredients. The Yorkshire pudding had been invented earlier that century 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. 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”.
Far from popular belief, there is no record of the dish ever being baked with toads substituting the 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. It is certainly a peculiar name for a dish, not least because toads are considered unsavoury creatures and 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.
There is a tale that may explain the origin of the name, but there is nothing to tell that this is more than a local legend. Some say that Toad-in-the-Hole originates from the town of Alnmouth in Northumberland, where the local golf course was overrun with Natterjack toads. During a golf tournament, a golfer putted his ball only for it to leap back out before 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 –and thus Toad-in-the-Hole was born!”
Article courtesy of Emma Lavelle @ theculturetrip.com
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