Toad in the Hole is a traditional British recipe which, like a lot of traditional British recipes, has an abstract yet charming name – spotted dick, shepherd’s pie, queen of puddings… all sound hearty and wholesome, yet it is impossible to guess from the name alone what they are actually made from. And just like there is (thankfully) no actual dick in spotted dick, toads are not, and have never been, used to make ‘Toad in the Hole’. The toads are sausages and the ‘hole’ is Yorkshire pudding, an egg-based batter similar to savoury pancake or crepe batter.
Getting the Yorkshire pudding “Hole” to rise, is the tricky part of this recipe. You want it to puff up in the oven around the sausage “Toads”. As with anything you want to rise in the oven – profiteroles, souffles, cakes – there is always a chance that today is not your day as a cook and it shows promise and then flops, or completely fails to rise at all. There are recipe books and blogs that will try to tell you how to make the perfect one. The eggs must be room temperature! The oil has to be hot! You must buy this specific pan! Well, maybe. My mother’s advice was to simply not worry about such things, and approach any of these “tricky” recipes with confidence.
I try to follow this approach, but end up with two voices – an inner voice saying “Just do it, it will be fine” and an inner-inner voice going “Oh dear, I think this is going to go wrong”. I am not sure what kitchen god I am trying to convince with my first voice, which quite frankly is full of unconvincing bluster. And I don’t know quite how or why they get to decide whether we are eating beautiful and pouffy Toad tonight, or sausages encased in sinewy strands of overcooked batter.
I suspect it is really not so much about confidence, but about attitude. If you believe that your recipe should come out perfectly like the picture in the recipe book, you are bound to be disappointed by the outcome of your efforts. But if you know it can be a bit tricky, you can usually find a way to laugh at and salvage whatever creation comes out of the oven tonight. If your Toad comes out so flat it is inedible, then the sausages can easily be picked out, wetted up with ketchup and bunged in a sandwich. Everyone is hungry after all.
If you like your sausages to have a nice crispy skin all over, it is worth frying them a little over a high heat first before putting them in the tin or baking dish. You can skip this step and just put them in the oven for 10 minutes before adding the batter, but you do end up with softer sausage skin or some sides that are more cooked than others. I use a circular 8″ (20cm) diameter bakeware dish for this recipe, and it is a little on the small side for the amount of batter. A tin or dish that is about 11 x 7″ (28 x 18cm) would be ideal. Whatever you use, it needs a bit of a side to it to contain and support the batter.
When all goes to plan, I usually serve Toad in the Hole with peas and onion gravy, or baked beans. I have replaced the milk with soya milk to make a dairy-free version, but I have not yet found a reliable and tasty way to get the Toad to rise and be edible without all those eggs. I hope it comes out well for you, and all your inner voices or kitchen gods are either very kind or blissfully non-existent.
Toad in the Hole
Time: 45-50 minutes
6-8 sausages (allow 2 each) (any flavour, meat or vegetarian)
220g plain flour
4 medium sized eggs
250ml milk or soya milk
1 tablespoon oil (vegetable, sunflower, or groundnut) (2 tablespoons if you decide to fry the sausages first)
Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
- Add the oil into your dish or tin and spread around to cover the base and the sides. A small piece of kitchen towel, or a spatula, is useful for this so you don’t get all oily.
- Put the sausages into the dish or tin and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, if you like your sausages to have a nice crispy skin all over, fry them in a little oil first while the dish or tin is in the oven.)
- While the sausages are cooking, make the batter. Measure the flour into a mixing bowl (there is no need to sift the flour). Add the eggs on top and pour in roughly half of the milk. Whisk together until well combined. Add the rest of the milk roughly 20–30ml at a time, whisking well after each addition, to make a smooth batter. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Take the dish or tin of sausages out of the oven and give it a little shake so that the sausages roll into a new position. It’s hard to get the skins of the sausages to crisp up evenly in this recipe, but this at least exposes some fresh bits of sausage skin to the full heat of the oven.
- Pour the batter over the sausages. Put the tin/dish back in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. When ready, the batter should have risen and gone brown on top. The core of the “Toad” batter will still be squidgy, but you shouldn’t expect to find any runny bits.