British food has a tendency to be derided. It is not elevated like French, Italian, or Spanish cuisine. When choosing a restaurant for the evening, people I know rarely decide on British food. Maybe it’s also because French restaurants tend to have names like Rue de Jean, Gaulart & Maliclet, and La Fourchette, and British restaurants tend to have names like My Father’s Mustache.
But when you really think about it, doesn’t British food have some of your favorite flavors? Doesn’t British food have deeply soul-satisfying dishes? Consider the following brief list:
- Steak and Ale Pie
- Cornish Pasty
- Fish and Chips
- Full English (breakfast)
- Cottage Pie
- Shortbread, Scones, and Crumpets
Done right, with an appropriate amount of love and butter, these foods are incredible. So it was with confidence that I attempted preparing Toad in the Hole for the first time. I hoped it would be light and fluffy. I hoped I would be transported to a dusty, stone pub with a creaky door, stools full of regulars smoking fragrant pipes, and a proprietress who asks, “What’ll it be, luv?”
Is that a little too specific? I got lost in my fantasy for a minute there. I can’t find a better way of describing my high hopes for how this dish would transport me. Essentially sausages baked inside a giant popover, topped with onion gravy, Toad in the Hole is a comfort superfood.
Toad in the Hole
Adapted from BBC Good Food
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp Coleman’s or other mustard powder
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
8 pork sausages (non-breakfast variety)
2 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon flour
500ml beef stock
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Add flour to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the mustard powder with a good pinch of salt. Make a well in the middle, crack in the egg, then pour in a dribble of milk. Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating some of the flour, until you have a smooth batter in the well. Add a bit more milk and continue stirring with the spoon and whisk until all the milk and flour has been mixed together. You should now have a smooth, lump-free batter that is the consistency of double cream. Stir in the thyme.
Place sausages into a 9x11in roasting tin. Add 1 tbsp of the oil, tossing the sausages in it to thoroughly coat the base of the tin, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the hot tray from the oven, then quickly pour in the batter – it should sizzle and bubble a little when it first hits the hot fat. Put it back into the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the batter is cooked through (well risen and crisp). If you poke the tip of a knife into the batter in the middle of the tray it should be set, not sticky or runny.
While the pastry bakes, make the gravy. Soften the onions with the remaining oil in a large nonstick frying pan for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the teaspoon of flour and cook, constantly stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually pour in the stock, stirring or whisking well to make a smooth gravy. Simmer for 4-5 minutes to thicken, then season with salt and pepper. Cut the toad in the hole into large wedges and serve with the gravy spooned over.
To you it may not be the loveliest item to dish out to guests, but I think it has simple beauty. A few basic ingredients, an hour or so of prep/cook time and POW! Toad in the hole.