Toad in the Hole … my way!

For  hubby, this is comfort food to end all comfort foods!  Toad in the Hole … really?  Who am I to say what is comfort food.  For me, it’s Mac ‘n Cheese!  At least with Mac ‘n Cheese you have an idea of what it is. Toad in the Hole . Bubble ‘n Squeak . Jam Roly Poly . Spotted Dick . where do the Brits get these names?

The origins of Toad in the Hole, which are sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding (aka Popover) batter, generally served with onion gravy, are sketchy.  Some food historians theorize that this dish originated in the late 1600’s when a flour and egg batter (now known as Yorkshire Pudding) was placed under the meat while it was cooking on an open spit, in order to catch the drippings. Others say that “no, it wasn’t until the early 1800’s” that this type of batter was used.

Today this very economical dish is traditionally made with bangers (sausages).  But in The Modern Housewife by Alexis Soyer (1850), she suggests using “any remains of cooked beef, veal, mutton, pork, roasted or boiled, salt or fresh, game and fowl”.  As a result, you can see that this dish was probably not served to the aristocrats or royalty, but rather to the working class and poor. Dishes like this, however, are what we have all come to love.  Comfort food!

Where did the name come from?  No one is really certain.  Does the finished dish look like toads poking up out of a quagmire?  Was the dish originally made using toads or frogs?  Or was it named after a pub game of tossing discs into holes in a pub table?

All I know is, tonight I’m making Toad in the Hole – My Way!  Why am I calling it My Way? Because I think the original recipe is a little bland, so I am kicking it up just a bit with Harissa and adding onions coated in a mixture of Ketchup and Chili Sauce.  Like many family recipes, there are quite a few variations. Give this one a try and let me know what you think.

1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
salt and pepper
1 tsp Harissa seasoning (or more to taste)
8 to 10 good quality pork sausages (sweet or spicy)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 onions, sliced
olive oil
4 tablespoons sausage drippings

Make the batter first  and then set it aside for at least 30 minutes (up to 3 or 4 hours).

Into a bowl sift 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and the Harissa seasoning.

Mix together and make a well in the center.  Add 4 eggs and beat well.

Add the milk while beating the mixture.  Be s ure to beat til smooth and lump free.  Set aside.


Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the sausages.  I prefer spicy sausages, but you can use sweet, or flavoured.

When nicely browned put the sausages into an ovenproof baking dish (approx. 13″ x 9″).

In the same saute pan add a bit more olive oil and, over medium heat, saute the sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper. When they are soft (about 10 minutes) add the ketchup and sweet chili sauce, coating the onions well.  Pour this over the sausages in the baking dish.

If you do not have 4 tablespoons of drippings after cooking the sausages and onions, make up the difference with olive oil.  Add it to the baking dish and then put the baking dish into the 400° oven for 5 minutes until everything gets very hot.

Remove the dish from the oven and quickly pour the batter over the sausages and onions.  Pop the dish back into the oven and bake for 35 minutes.  Don’t peek!  You want the Yorkshire Pudding to puff up and if you are opening and closing the door, it will deflate.

When the pudding is golden brown, and still a bit soft in the middle, it is ready.  Serve immediately with a crisp green salad.  Hot, crisp and soft with a bit of heat from the Harissa … English comfort food!!

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References:  BBC Food, The Telegraph, Britain Explorer,

Soup’s On!

When I was a little girl I used to love to go to the library.  It was such a fascinating place.  I loved the high ceilings, the wood paneling and, to my amazement, they had a section just for kids with child-sized tables and chairs, and books … so-o-o many  books!  I’d spend hours at the library completely entertained.  On long holiday weekends and over summer vacation, we used to take a trip to visit my grandparents.  On one visit, I was about 8 or 9 years old, when it was time to pack up and go home, no one could find me.  I remember hearing about how they searched the neighborhood because I was nowhere to be seen.  Where was I? At the library!

What does any of this have to do with soup?  In the library I would always search for my favorite book, STONE SOUP.  STONE SOUP is a story about three soldiers who come into a small village. They are tired and hungry, but have no food (just a big pot).  The villagers are unwilling to feed them so the soldiers have to become resourceful.  They build a fire, fill their pot with water, set it over the fire to boil and then plop in a big stone!  What happens next?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Back to today … it’s winter, it’s cold and it’s time to make the soup!  I’ll make a few in the next couple of weeks, but today I’m starting with one of my Dad’s favorites, an old fashioned Split Pea and Ham.  This is one of the heartiest and most economical soups I know … STONE SOUP perhaps?

For me, making soup always takes two days.  One day to prepare the stock, the second day to finish the soup and enjoy.  Of course, you don’t have to make your own stock.  Pre-made stocks have come along way and are very good.

2 to 3 lbs. ham hocks (I like smoked)
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 large stocks celery
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
1 lb. dried split peas

Have a large, heavy stock poOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt ready. Into it, put the ham hocks.  Then rough cut the onions, carrots and celery and add them.

Cover everything with water (about 8 cups).  Add the bay leaves and season to taste.  Don’t be too generous with the seasoning.  You can always adjust later.

Bring all this to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer, cover tightly and leave it alone for about 4 hours.

At this point you can rehydrate the dried peas – by placing them in a large bowl and covering them completely with cold water for 4 to 6 hours – while the stock is cooking, or you can leave it for later.

Peek if you want to, but soup does its best work when left alone.

After about 4 hours the vegetables should have just about disintegrated and the meat should have completely fallen off the bone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow it’s time to strain the stock. Get a large pot and place a colander in it. Pour the stock into the colander to strain out all the bones and bits.

Let everything cool down and then pick through the bits in the colander, discarding the bone, skin and whatever you don’t want.  Be sure to remove the bay leaves.

At this point, I put  everything i n the frig til the next day.

If you haven’t rehydrated the peas yet, now’s the time to rinse them, discarding any you don’t like the looks of.

Place the peas in a bowl and cover them completely with cold water.
Cover the bowl and let the peas sit for at least 4 to 6 hours, or  overnight.

After the stock is completely cool, it should have a nice fat cap on the surface, which can easily be skimmed off.

Drain the peas and toss them into the pot.  Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and let cook for about an hour (or more).  

A good stir or two will let you know if the peas have been reduced to a nice thick consistency.  Taste to adjust the seasoning and serve.







Serve with crusty bread and a tossed green salad.  Hearty, flavorful and absolutely delicious! The perfect lunch or dinner for everyone this winter!!