My Mum hates Toad in the Hole. She doesn’t really like sausages. She’s weird like that. The rest of the family love them, and think Toad in the Hole is one of the world’s greatest culinary inventions. In fact, I love anything that comes with a Yorkshire pudding as long as it is only sausages and gravy or roast beef. I know other people have lower moral standards than me, and are happy to have a Yorkie on the side of some roast lamb or chicken, but they are clearly in the wrong.
Although my Mum dislikes the meal, she has always made a mean Yorkshire Pudding and she taught me how to do the same from an early age. We do not hold with dry, stale tasting shop bought versions in our family! This recipe is so engrained in my soul that it is the only one that I know the measurements by heart. These are in imperial and I could not convert them to metric if I tried. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I did hell would freeze over and my Yorkies would never rise again. Some things are traditional and should not be messed with. However, I have tweaked them slightly over the years, by adding an extra egg if I want more puff and by filling my yorkshire pudding tray with oil to the ratio advised by Jamie Oliver in the Naked Chef show twenty years ago. Even my Mum had to admit when she was going through a Yorkshire Pudding ‘bad patch’ where they failed to rise, that his methodology was definitely an improvement. The other ingredients and their ratio, however, remain the same and I do not mess with them.
I am still as amazed today as I was when I discovered as a child that the batter for Yorkshire pudding will also make me a mean pancake for Shrove Tuesday. No wonder we had to give pancakes up for lent until our Yorkshire puddings were allowed to rise again on Easter Sunday. If ever there was a kitchen miracle this was it! Anyway, Toad in the Hole was probably top of the pops in my list of ‘most often requested but frequently rejected’ childhood dinners, so now that I am a grown up I rejoice every time that I make it and eat a bumper size portion with glee. It’s best with my tweaked version of Nigel Slater’s onion gravy from his wonderful Real Food cookbook (also still getting weekly use in my kitchen after twenty years of service).
I think the colder months are when my real love for nostalgic, traditional British food kicks in. Crumbles, shepherd’s pie, roasts, stews and hearty fair to warm the belly and soul. Toad in the Hole eptiomises this for me, it is comfort food on a plate and makes the arrival of Autumn something to be celebrated. I just wish my Dad lived lived closer so I could invite him round to join us for this yummiest of dinners. I still draw the line at faggots and mushy peas though. There are some things my Mum was definitely right about.
Fail Safe Yorkshire Pudding (& Pancake!) Batter (makes 12 small yorkies or 1 toad in the hole!)
- 4oz – Plain Flour
- 1/2 Pint of Milk
- 1 or 2 eggs (1 for pancakes, 2 for extra puffy Yorkies)
- Pinch of salt
- Whizz the batter ingredients together in a food processor and leave it to rest for at least 2o minutes. Re-whizz briefly when you are ready to cook.
- For Yorkies, make sure the oil in the pan is very hot before you pour in the batter and work fast. I fill the first 3 holes with oil to the top and then tilt it to the side (a la Jamie Oliver) until the oil is even in each indentation. Heat the oil in the oven and then keep it warm on the stove as you pour the batter in evenly.
- Put straight back into a very hot oven (200C) and don’t be tempted to open the door until they are risen and golden (usually abut 20 minutes)
- Remove from the oil immediately to avoid them soaking it up and turning greasy.
- For toad in the hole, cook some big juicy sausages in a ceramic ovenproof dish at 200C until they are starting to brown and releasing some of their fat. Pour in the batter and bake until risen and golden (about 30 minutes). Serve with lashings of gravy.