The British have a way with putting meat and bread together and they have a long, glorious history of this.
Have you ever heard of the Earl of Sandwich?
I rest my case.
If you ever come to the British Isles and go out to eat, do not eat pizza or hamburgers. You will be disappointed. You will go home and tell your friends and family that British food sucks.
And you will be wrong.
Order a steak and ale pie (meat, bread (or, more accurately, puff pastry which is even better) AND gravy) or a Cornish pasty (that is pronounced pah-stee not pay-stee).
And never, but never, turn down Toad in the Hole.
Allow me to digress. British sausages ROCK! Even the crappy ones are AWESOME. But if you get fresh ones that are made mostly of meat, say, from a Farm Shop, you will cook them and eat them and think you have gone to Sausage Heaven. They make them in all kinds of flavours. Pork and apple sausages. Sweet chilli sausages. English herb sausages. They are thick and meaty and super delicious.
Laughing behind their hands that the rest of the world thinks their food sucks while they shovel food in their gobs that ROCKS, the Brits regularly serve and eat food at bizarre times that will make others (for instance, Americans) think, “Uh… wha?” Baked beans and sautéed mushrooms with breakfast. Sandwiches made of two pieces of bread and thick chips (or steak fries, the best way to describe them to an American although they are NOT THAT). Yes, a steak fry sandwich. Knock it? You haven’t tried it.
And they eat sausages morning, noon and night.
If you’re in Cheshire, it is a moral imperative that you go to Cheerbrook Farms and buy sausages from them. And anything else. I used to shop at Cheerbrook Farms (which, luckily, was a stone’s throw away from my in-law’s house) like I shop at Nordstrom’s. The place is, essentially, a medium-sized barn but I could spend all day in there.
And their sausages can’t be beat.
WARNING: This is extreme cooking people. You can not be a tentative cook when cooking Toad in the Hole. That said, it’s worth the possible grease fire in your house, or third degree burns, trust me. (Just kidding, a little.)
Toad in the Hole
- 2 oz Plain Flour
- 1 Egg
- 3 fl oz Milk
- 2 oz Water
- Salt & Peper
- 2 tbl Oil or Fat
- Package of sausages (4 big ‘uns or lots of thin ‘uns – in The States, use bratwurst)
How to do it…
- Okay, turn up your oven, high. As high as it’ll go.
- Now, get out a tin pan. A tin pan. This pan has to conduct heat, baby. Put the oil in the pan and put it in the oven, a middle rack will do and make sure there is plenty of clearance to the rack above and the top of the oven.
- Now get out a bowl. Sift the flour into the bowl. At this point, you are making the batter for another exquisite, yet simple, British culinary masterpiece, Yorkshire Pudding*. The recipe I have for this says make a well in the centre, break egg into flour and beat, gradually incorporating the flour, milk, water and seasoning. I do not do that. I dump it all in, use a whisk and beat it up. Then, set it aside and let it “rest”. I do not know what this resting business does but Nigella says to let it rest and I did that once and it was so much better! So, with your oil in the oven and your batter in your bowl, go off and do something for 15 minutes.
- Come back to put this together. This is where you have to be cautious and you have to be fast. Marky Mark and I tag team this. He’s, no pun intended, the sausage man. I’m the batter babe.
- Using oven gloves, pull the pan out and put it on a hot plate or the like. The oil will be hot, it might even be cracklin’ hot. So be careful.
- Immediately pour the batter in. Obviously, it will also immediately start cooking. Once the batter is in, be ready with your sausages. Line them side by side down the middle of the pan so they aren’t touching. Now put that baby in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the pudding has risen around the sausages and is nutty brown. You want your sausages cooked but your pudding not over cooked. We have an fan assisted oven so this doesn’t take but 20 minutes but for you, it might take longer.
- Pull it out, cut it up, serve it with peas, soy beans, boiled carrot or whatever. This will be yummy, crispy Yorkshire Pud around the edges that is delicious bread goo around those succulent sausages. Not to be beat.
My dirty secret: My ex, Mark and I used to double the Yorkshire Pudding recipe and we'd eat this with nothing else. Try it. Pure yum!
*Another reason I feel the British are geniuses is that the Brits call everything “pudding”. Yorkshire Pudding is bread. Dessert, the course of the meal, is called, generically, “pudding” (as in, “Mummy, what’s for pudding?”). Steak and Kidney Pudding is another meat/gravy/bread masterpiece with wet, sticky suet bread around the meat and it's steamed. If in doubt of what to eat on the British Isles, anything with the word “pudding” in it is an excellent choice. Though, you may be having dessert for your main course. Or a meat dish for dessert. Go with it! You won’t be disappointed.