When I moved to Virginia I learned to make biscuits. They were a far cry from the fluffy marvels that Judy, a seasoned southern cook and our adopted Nana, could whip together in her sleep, but they were white and puffy and did a good job of holding the bacon and egg together on Sunday mornings.
I wasn’t sure what I might learn to make here in England, but never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that it would be called “Toad-in-the-hole”. As I poked around on the internet before we moved, I read about a classic northern favorite called Yorkshire Pudding and actually googled it to find out what it was. When I found out it was not something sweet and creamy, but rather a bread like substance invented to make the most of pan drippings, I had written it off. There had to be something better to master.
Or so I thought. All that changed the day I discovered Lincolnshire sausages. I still remember that first proper English breakfast we had at the Leopold Hotel in Sheffield on our scouting trip in April. It was a typical English breakfast buffet, complete with baked beans and stewed prunes, but I still remember savoring every last bite of the sausages. If it was these drippings they were talking about, I was ready to reconsider. I even calmly asked one of the servers where the sausages came from, attempting to pull off ‘food connoisseur’ rather than ‘American tourist’. She waved her hand and shrugged her shoulders as she said, “oh, somewhere around here, but I’m sure they are local”. From the nonchalant way she spoke, it was clear that this was just an every day thing around here. Nice try on the connoisseur bit there, partner. But despite the slight embarrassment, something inside me leaped for joy (looking back, it was probably my gall bladder) just knowing that they were not a rare luxury item, a.k.a. outrageously expensive. I immediately added them to the “pro” column. At the time, I didn’t realize that there are still local butchers here–lots of them. Local meat is still the norm here and it certainly tastes like it. But I digress, back to the toad in the hole.
After being introduced to frozen Toad-in-the-hole, I couldn’t help but research the subject a bit, they were just too tasty and linguistically baffling to resist. I looked up some recipes only to find that it is actually a Yorkshire Pudding with sausages in it.
The origin of the name has stirred up quite a controversy on the internet. Although my experience has been brief here in northern England, I have found the locals quite fond of silly and/or slightly dirty jokes and choose to go along with the belief that the name is a rather unsavory nickname related to something one might see if they peered down the wooden seat of an outhouse. (To add credence to the legend, or more likely reveal a little about my family, it was also my aunt’s first thought on the appearance of the dish upon seeing the photo in an earlier post. Coming from an upstanding citizen and amazing cook, her comments may have also swayed my judgement). Call it disgusting, but if you could hear the accent and catch the grin, you’d be laughing, too.
So here it is, my version of Toad-in-the-hole, a hodge podge of all the recipes I looked at online, plus more salt of course, because I’m an American. This is obviously not a cooking blog, but if you are looking for something fun to try out on unsuspecting brunch guests, here you go.
1 1/2 C milk
3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 t herbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
8 great sausages
Cook the sausages in the oven in a 9 x 13 inch glass pan at 425 F. Turn them until browned, about 15 minutes. (You can cook them on the stove, too, but you need to get the pan good and hot in the oven anyways, so why not save the mess?).
Whisk the eggs and half of the milk (3/4 C) together until well blended. Add the rest of the milk, flour, salt, herbs and garlic powder and whisk until the batter is slightly frothy, about 2 minutes. Pour the batter over the sausages in the hot pan. Keep the oven door shut and don’t bump it while baking to insure that the Yorkshire Pudding puffs up around the sausages.
It takes about 35-45 minutes, but it will depend a lot on your pan and the weather, so keep an eye on it and pull it out when the top is dark brown. (If you take it out too soon, the bottom will be goopy. Trust me, just peek through the window and leave it alone until you see the puffed up edges getting a crispy brown.)
Onion gravy is traditionally served with it. Good luck with that. Let me know how it turns out.