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 Was the dish originally made using toads or frogs?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.
TOAD IN THE HOLE (my way)
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
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 sure 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!!