This is one of the great classic yet humble dishes of undisputed British origin, probably introduced in the early 18th century as a means of using up leftovers from the Sunday roast. Today, it is almost exclusively made with traditional British sausages, and remains one of the most enjoyable ways of presenting them.
- 4 tablespoons of beef dripping
- 8 pork sausages
- 3¾ ounces / 110g plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 5¼ fluid ounces / 150ml milk
- 5¼ fluid ounces / 150ml water
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.
Beat the two eggs.
Mix the water and milk together.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs.
Whisk the eggs and flour to a paste using a wooden spoon or a whisk. Start in the middle and gradually draw in the flour by degrees. Add just enough water and milk as required to keep the mixture as runny as single cream.
When all the flour is mixed in, stir in the rest of the milk and water.
Set aside to rest in the fridge for around 30 minutes before using.
Pre-heat the over to 220°C / 425°F / gas mark 7.
Heat one tablespoon of beef dripping in a frying pan. Fry the sausages until browned all over but do not cook them through.
Put the rest of the dripping into a roasting tin or heat-proof square shallow dish and pit in the oven. Once it starts to smoke, bring it out.
Add the sausages to the tin or dish and then pour in the batter.
Bake in the oven for around 4o minutes until the batter has risen and browned.
You can serve this with red onion gravy.
You can use a blender or food processor for mixing the batter more speedily. Put all the batter ingredients in at once, but remember, it will only take a few seconds and if you over-beat or blend the mixture will become too bubbly with air.
Resting the batter in the fridge helps the batter to become lighter and less dough-like.
The tradition of making batter puddings dates back to the early 18th century in England. In 1747, Hannah Glasse included a recipe for “Pidgeon in the Hole” in her book The Art of Cookery, and there were various other “in the hole” dishes that sprang up in that period. The description “in the hole” almost certainly refers to the fact that the main ingredient was always left partially exposed in a sea of batter like a coral island. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first reference to “Toad in the Hole” as occurring in 1787 but a diary entry by the Georgian shopkeeper Thomas Turner mentions a dinner of “sausages baked in a batter pudding” in 1757. Despite this very early reference to sausages (as today), most of the later “Toad in the Hole” recipes actually specified the use of any meat that was available, especially the leftovers of beef, veal, mutton, pork, or fresh game and fowl. It was considered vulgar to pair prime cuts of fresh meat with a humble batter, but was acceptable as a means of using leftovers or cheaper cuts. Today, “Toad in the Hole” is almost exclusively regarded as specifying sausage. There is still a debate between etymologists about why this should be “toad” or, in some instances, “frog in the hole”. But it is without doubt yet another of the great eccentric dishes of British origin.