Toad in the hole with onion gravy

Our friend Simon (the same Simon that hates tofu) is a man of set habits. Every Friday, he makes toad in the hole for supper. He has been doing this for about fifteen years now, and has developed some strongly held feelings about how the perfect toad is constructed. I quote directly from a very involved post he wrote about doing the Listener crossword a while ago – the toad recipe pops up somewhere in the middle when he gets briefly stuck on 29 across.

“All these celebrity chefs publish recipes for toad-in-the-hole, and they are, without exception, rubbish. Most involve too many eggs, and end up the texture of leather. So, here is the definitive recipe – bear in mind I’ve made this every Friday night for about 15 years, so I know what I’m talking about…

Get a metal baking tin, preferably non-stick. Rectangular is best, about 30cm by 40cm. Put a pound of Tesco’s Finest Pork & Herb sausages in it, along with a large splash of vegetable oil (or a lump of beef dripping if you’re daring.) Put it in the oven at 200 degrees C (180 degrees if fan-assisted) – no need to preheat, just bung it in from cold.

Put 4 oz of cheap plain flour into a glass jug. Add a pinch of salt, and break in an egg. Add about a quarter of a pint of full-fat milk, and whisk to a smooth paste – the best tool is a French whisk, those things that look like a big metal spring. Once you’ve got a smooth paste, add another quarter pint of full fat milk and whisk like mad to get some air into it. Leave to stand for 20 minutes, by which time the sausages should be browning and the fat should be hot.

Rapidly remove the pan from the oven, pour in all the batter, and quickly return to the heat. Leave for about 25-30 minutes, until the pudding has risen and is golden brown. Remove from the tray and serve with lashings of HP Fruity sauce. Vegetables are unnecessary. The quantity above serves one, with a couple of cold sausages left over for breakfast on Saturday.”

I am grudgingly grateful, because Simon’s Yorkshire pudding batter, which forms the ‘hole’ part of a toad in the hole (sausages, for some reason, are the ‘toad’ bit – English food etymology baffles me) is bleedin’ terrific. Simon – your basic proposal is sound, I applaud your use of beef dripping and the batter is, admittedly, fantastic – but HP Fruity? Tesco’s Finest sausages? Vegetables are unnecessary? I made my toad in the hole to Simon’s basic recipe using some sausages from the butcher’s, but stirred a tablespoon of grainy Dijon mustard and a teaspoon of chopped sage into the batter just before pouring it into the tin. I also made an onion gravy to moisten the lovely puffy batter so that I could avoid the HP Fruity, and stir-fried a thinly sliced Savoy cabbage with some lardons of bacon fried until crisp. We found that with the gravy and bacon-spiked cabbage, the amounts above were more than enough for two. (This is not to say we did not clean our plates. Toad in the hole just invites you to overeat.)

Onion gravy is fantastic stuff. It’s a delicious and incredibly savoury way to lubricate those meals that don’t produce much in the way of liquids themselves (try some with a pork chop or over naked, hole-less sausages some time). Just make sure you’ve got some decent stock hanging around. If you don’t have any home-made stock, try Knorr’s concentrated liquid stock in the brown bottles – it’s really pretty good. To make enough for two, you’ll need:

2 large onions
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon beef dripping (or goose fat)
2 teaspoons plain flour
300 ml chicken stock
1 glass white wine
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

Melt the beef dripping in a frying pan and saute the sliced onions with the salt for about half an hour, until they are turning a lovely brown. Sprinkle the flour over and stir well to make sure it’s distributed well around the pan, and pour over the stock, stirring slowly all the time. Pour the wine in and bring to a gentle simmer for five minutes, until the gravy is thickened and the alcohol has burned off. Stir in the soy sauce and serve.

I much prefer to use dark soy for gravy-browning purposes – those browning granules you can buy don’t add anything at all in the way of flavour, where dark soy will give a rich background (which doesn’t taste recognisably Chinese) to your sauce along with its great colour.

8 Replies to “Toad in the hole with onion gravy”

  1. Toad in the Hole is the only thing my beloved husband can cook. Being a Yorkshireman born and bred he makes his batter the other way round – beating the eggs and milk then adding flour a spoonful at a time til the right consistency. I may be brave and suggest the mustard/ sage additions as they sound yummy. Much as I love goose fat – its dripping all the way for this. We have ours with peas and ketchup!

  2. I make Toad in the Hole about once a year (but then, I’m not British – I have to pace myself). Never thought of serving it with sauce or gravy – sounds exciting! I agree that a little cabbage on the side is a wise addition. Vegetables not necessary? Huh.

  3. I AM British, but sadly rubbish at using batter for anything other than pancakes. But I would EAT toad-in-the-hole every Friday for 15 years if someone else made it for me!

    Have tried the mustard addition and really enjoyed it. Will give your recipe a shot…

  4. have just discovered your blog/site in nick of time for dinner party tomorrow. Having read some of your recipes….you appear almost certainly to be a food goddess and not at all like that other simpering ‘goddess’ in Eaton Square who shall be nameless!! I cook Toad quite often and just wanted to put my 10p in the pot by saying I pre-fry my sausages and then brush them with Dijon mustard before putting them in the fat with the batter. Which as they say is ‘nice’ Veg is also good/neccessary but Mash confuses the textures..

  5. My brother and I were in Moray golfing a few months ago and I cooked a Toad in the Hole with haggis sausages in it aswell as pork sausages. It was fantastic.

    I’ve not seen haggis sausages down in London I’m sure they will become available in January.

    I usually wrap my sausages in streaky bacon too. It’s my absolute favourite!

    I’ll try your suggestions next time though.

  6. Lordy – haggis sausages? Be still my beating heart! I’ll be keeping an eye out for them around Burns’ night. And Julian – I shall be trying your mustard-brushing tip.

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