Tuesday 18 November 2014

toad in the hole + spawn

November is all about #toadlife.

Jus' chillin', preferably on a fat boy, in front of a toasty fire, with hot tasty food, ideally washed down with something boozy and lightly spiced. I love the run up to Christmas, when comfort food can be guzzled down with wild abandon as we relish the first proper bite of winter. In January the guilt starts to creep in and Banuary bitches like to wag fingers and remind you of the millions of calories you've consumed in the preceding two months. Now, however, it's more than acceptable to start cooking up all those warming hearty dishes that light up the dark chilly evenings.

In honour of all things toad like, what better dish to try out on a wintry evening than a big ol' toad int' hole. I'm not usually a huge sausage fan, but enveloped snugly in billowy battery freshly made Yorkshire pud... Well, I'm all over it. Paired with a rich onion gravy and some roasted carrots, kale and broccoli for the health factor, this was a satisfying supper and a half. And pretty easy to make with hardly any ingredients required. Just buy some posh sausages and you'll probably have the rest of the ingredients at home. You could even sack off the Sunday roast and serve this up instead - you might get some complaints at first, but once everyone gets their helpings it'll be froggy fun all round, mark my words.

If Q4 is mainly about upping the eating ante, then of course there is always room for just desserts and with toads comes... erm... spawn?! As a child rice pudding was one of my favourite ever afters, preferably dished up with some of the lovely caramelised skin on top and a grate of nutmeg. So it was with this in mind that I cooked up a decadent version with cinnamon and double cream, the perfect sweet treat to round off a serious supper. Some slow stewed apples or plums would make a fantastic fruity accompaniment to your toad spawn, or you could go old school with a big fat jam whale swimming on top.

For go-to tried and tested recipes, Felicity Cloake is the mama. And it was with joy that I found she had wise words to offer on both toads and spawn, suggesting boozy additions of both ale to the batter and sherry to the pud. However, if you prefer your alcohol in your glass then the below recipes should serve you well. Both feed 4 comfortably.

Dive in...

Toad in the Hole + onion gravy

  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ tsp English mustard powder
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • 8 pork sausages
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 500ml beef stock

    1. Make the batter: Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Tip flour into the large mixing bowl and stir in the mustard powder with a good pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, 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. Now add a bit more milk and continue stirring until all the milk and flour has been mixed together.
    2. The batter is ready: You should now have a smooth, lump-free batter that is the consistency of double cream. Roast sausages in the oven, in an oiled roasting tray, for 15 mins.
    3. Cook the batter: Take 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, then bake for 40 mins 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.
    4. Make the gravy: Soften the onions with the remaining oil in a large nonstick frying pan for about 20 mins, stirring often, until they are golden brown. Sprinkle in the sugar for the final 5 mins. Add the spoonful of flour, then cook, constantly stirring, for 2 mins, so it coats the onions and there is no dry flour left. Gradually pour in the stock, stirring well to make a smooth sauce. Bubble for 4-5 mins to thicken, then season. Cut the toad in the hole into large wedges and serve with the gravy spooned over.
    Toad Spawn
  • 50g butter
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g pudding rice
  • 1 litre full-cream milk
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • Bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 150ml double cream

  • 1. Pre-heat the oven to 140C. Put the butter in a large saucepan over a gentle heat, and, when melted, add the sugar. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then tip in the rice, and stir to coat. Cook until the rice has swelled slightly, stirring continuously, then add the milk and stir well to dislodge any clumps of rice and sugar on the bottom of the pan.
    2. Add the lemon zest, bay leaf, spices and a pinch of salt, then pour in the cream and bring to simmer. Pour into a greased ovenproof dish.
    3. Bake the pudding in the oven for about 2 hours (or an hour if putting it straight into the same hot oven you just cooked your toad in!), until it has set, but is still slightly wobbly. Devour.


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