Trade descriptions: Toad in the hole contains neither toad meat nor holes.
The origin of the strange and unsavoury name is as vague as when the dish was born - which is purported to be no earlier than the first half of the 18th century, when batter puddings first became popular - but the most accepted explanation is that the sausages poking out the batter resemble toads poking their heads out of holes. As they have a habit of doing. This metaphor was obviously pitched by somebody with pretty poor eyesight, but stuck it has. My advice is that if your sausage in any way resembles a toad, take it back to the shop whence it came.
It's not what I would call a common dish, so if you have been to Britain you may well not have even heard of it, let alone tried it. It's pretty tasty, but not to worry about missing out as there is a cracking recipe below and it is dead easy to cook. You don't have to worry about using Bristish sausages, either, as I can happily imagine doing this with something like a Merguez or a Nuremberger.
Today's toad in the hole consists primarily of sausages and Yorkshire pudding, though historically it contained any leftover meat. A bit like stovies, it was a cheap way of using leftover meat and making it go a bit further with the inclusion of the batter. It is usual to serve it with lashings of onion gravy and maybe some vegetables, if you are of that ilk.
One thing to watch out for is how you cook the sausage. If you just chuck all of the ingredients into the roasting tin you will end up with pretty boring, anaemic and insipid looking sausages. The trick is to brown them up first (I stick them in a scorching oven for 30 minutes) and then use them, so the end result is crispy, crispy and then some crispy. Do give it a go and enjoy.
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
3tbsp beef dripping or lard (or cooking oil)
100g plain flour, sifted
85ml whole milk
1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Heat half the fat in a frying pan over a medium heat and brown the sausages on all sides (or bake them in the oven until browned but not dark brown).
2. Meanwhile put the eggs in a large bowl and beat, preferably with an electric hand whisk, until thick. Beat in the flour and milk alternately until smooth, then stir in the ale and mustard and leave to sit for 15 minutes.
3. Put the remaining fat in a roasting tin and put in the oven to heat. Once the sausages are browned all over, and the batter has rested, take it out of the oven and put over a medium flame. Pour in the fat from the sausage pan, followed by the batter, which should sizzle as it hits the tin. Add the sausages and return to the oven.
4. Bake for about 35 minutes until well risen and golden, then serve immediately, preferably with good gravy (try and onion gravy), lots of peas and a glass or two of Shiraz.
Image by kuhnmi