Today marks the first of a new occasional series written by other expats learning and sharing about the food where they are. I wish I could go everywhere and try everything, but since I can’t, I’m looking forward to hearing from them!
Kat Morrell is our first contributor as we take a break from Latin America and visit the cold, wet shores of England, where she makes her home.
Toad in the what now?
The UK is not necessarily known for its food. But it is definitely known for its weird names. From the delightful Cullen skink (a Scottish soup) to Giggleswick (a town in Yorkshire), the British naming system has left many a non-native-British-English speaker more than a bit tongue-tied (I mean, how would *you* pronounce Loughborough?).
So when I was still a newly-made American expat, the first time I heard my boyfriend (who happens to be English) order Toad in the Hole at the local pub, I did a double-take. Toad in the what? I refused to believe it was a thing. Rabbit, pheasant, all sorts of different fish, I understood. I even knew frogs’ legs. But toads? Surely not.
When the food finally arrived, a pint and a half of good old-fashioned bitter later, I still didn’t understand. Turns out, this oddly amphibian dish was neither toad, nor particularly cave (or hole)-like. In fact, it’s a fairly simple dish. Just a few sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter. Fairly easy, fairly traditional, very British. But, as with many simple-sounding dishes, there are approximately 1,000,000,001 different recipes to sift through, from Jamie Oliver’s rosemary and olive oil madness, to a Nigella Lawson community recipe that makes the sausages into patties first. Oh the opportunities for alterations when left with such a simple starting point!
That same strange boyfriend likes the traditional ‘moreish’ recipe that we came up with by combining a couple recipes and adding my own touch, which includes red onion gravy with a dash of Tony Chachere’s, cheesy mashed potatoes, and a bit of fresh veg on the side. Key ingredients for us include really good quality ‘Bedford’ sausages from the local butcher, and a nice red wine in the gravy.
Toad in the Hole
Makes 3-4 servings depending on how hungry people are
For the main dish
6 good-quality sausages
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 heaping tablespoons plain flour
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste
For the gravy
1 red onion
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cube/pot of beef stock
3 teaspoons gravy granules
1/2 to 1 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
a dash of Tony Chachere’s
For cheesy mashed potatoes
1 to 2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (380 degrees F)
Pour oil into baking dish, arrange sausages in a single layer in the dish and bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, eggs, and 1/2 the milk until smooth. Gradually mix in the remainder of the milk until a smooth batter is achieved. Should not be too thick or too thin – add milk until thin enough to coat baking dish and sausages
Remove the sausages from the oven and pour the batter over them until the sausages are 1/2-3/4 covered, spread as evenly as possible (NB oil may spit as you do this)
Return dish to the oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown on top
Add red wine and seasonings, cook for another 5 mins
Add the water and beef stock, and cook down (adding water as needed) for 5-10 more minutes
Add a cheeky couple of tablespoon-fuls of gravy granules and stir until gravy is ready (and at your preferred consistency)
Bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium, cooking the potatoes with a low boil for 20-30 mins or until soft
Drain the potatoes, mash with milk and butter, then stir in cheese to taste!
We tend to get pre-prepped fresh veggies from the supermarket. It’s just that much easier and less of a hassle than getting things from the local market and then preparing them ourselves. Plus the majority of the veggies come from local sources anyway.
It helps if you prep some things before you begin – particularly the potatoes and onions – as some things will take a bit longer than others. Luckily, everything can be done pretty much at the same time as long as you time it effectively! We tend to start the onions cooking just after putting the sausages in the oven and right before making the batter. Then we turn on the heat under the potatoes after returning the main dish to the oven and let it go!
So if you ever find that you need to explain to someone how British cuisine isn’t just boring old bangers ‘n‘ mash, you can tell them all about a little dish called Toad in the Hole.
Cheers! Hope you enjoy!