Toad in the hole, for anyone reading this outside the UK, does not involve eating amphibians. It is a traditional British recipe for sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter and an economical way of making a few sausages feed a whole family.
It looks nothing like a toad so I have no idea where the name came from. The family-sized version looks more like piglets wrapped in a batter duvet, because usually it is made in one big tin. But individual toads cooked in muffin tins give you extra crispy bits and a perfect well in the centre for gravy-pouring. I have seen even smaller ones served as canapes but I've rarely had a good one - like a souffle they need to be eaten straight from the oven otherwise the batter can go sad and soggy.
The secret of a good Yorkshire pudding batter is to let the mixture rest to allow the glutens to develop in the flour (the exact opposite to tempura batter) and then to cook it in pre-heated tins in a hot oven to get the rise. My mother always used to swear by the addition of a few tablespoons of cold water.
Cooked well, toad in the hole is a thing of beauty, crisp on the edges and softer inside. I have used pork sausage here but vegetarians can of course use a meat-free version. It is usually served with onion gravy, another traditional recipe.
Baby Toads with Onion Gravy (makes 6 individual toads)
You will need a six hole muffin tin.
Ingredients for the toads:
12 good quality chipolata sausages (or 3 cocktail sausages per toad)
150g plain flour
Pinch of salt
200 ml milk
2 tbsp cold water
A little rapeseed oil, dripping or lard to grease the tins
Ingredients for the onion gravy:
2 large red or white onions peeled and thinly sliced into half moons
50g butter and a small splash of oil
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
75 ml red wine (a dry Madeira is a good alternative)
300 ml chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
A dash of Worcestershire Sauce
If you're using chipolatas, curl the sausages into semi-circles so they'll fit in the muffin tins and pin them in place with cocktail sticks. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and part cook them on both sides until they're beginning to brown but aren't cooked through. Set to one side and when they're cool enough, remove the cocktail sticks. Cocktail sausages can be part-cooked as they are.
To make the batter, sieve the flour into a bowl with the salt. Beat the eggs and milk together and stir into the flour, mixing well. Add the water and whisk until smooth and creamy. Set aside in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
To make the onion gravy, heat the butter and oil in a deep pan and cook the sliced onions until golden, then put on a lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they're brown and you can squash them with a wooden spoon. They shouldn't crisp or burn.
Stir in the flour and cook off for a minute or two. Pour in the wine and stock, stir well, and season with salt, pepper and WS. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes. You can make this in advance and re-heat it.
To cook the toads, pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7. Put a teaspoon of oil in each of hole of the muffin tin and put the tray in the hot oven for five minutes. Stir the batter and when the tins are hot, remove from the oven, divide the batter between them and plop two or three sausages into the middle of each.
Cook for about 25-30 minutes (don't keep opening the door to check) until well risen, crisp and golden. Serve with the onion gravy.