How about those London Olympics? Are they awesome or what?
That opening ceremonies were just brilliant. Queen Elizabeth jumping out of a helicopter? A giant zombie baby? An army of Mary Poppinses? Paul McCartney singing “Hey, Jude”! I never in a million years would have believed it possible to outdo the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing four years ago. But London did it, albeit in a typically madcap, British manner.
And the games themselves? Totally awesome. Okay, maybe a little heavy on the swimming and gymnastics coverage, at least on NBC’s prime time programming, but that’s to be expected.
I have a self-imposed policy in my house: The TV can’t be turned on before 6 pm. Otherwise, I would totally spend the entire day unproductively sitting in front of it. But I’m tempted to suspend my policy during the rest of the Olympics. On second thought, I better not.
In honor of the fantastic London Olympic games, I’ve decided to try something I’ve never done before: English cooking. Knowing absolutely nothing about British cuisine, I turned to my friend, British blogger Becky over at the wonderful VegHotPot, for some ideas on traditional British dishes.
When Becky suggested I make Toad in the Hole, I thought perhaps autocorrect had made another of its hilarious substitutions. But as it turns out, Toad in the Hole is an actual thing!
It originated in the town of Alnmouth, in Northumberland. Apparently, the town has a well-known golf course that at a certain time of year can become overrun with Natterjack toads. An important golf tournament was being held on the course, and the leader sunk a putt into the hole, only to have the ball be ejected by a toad that had been sleeping in the hole.
Within just a few hours, the whole town was talking about the “toad in the hole” that cost the golfer the important shot. By that night, chefs at the town’s restaurants had created a special meal to commemorate the incident, and toad in the hole was born.
Basically, toad in the hole is comprised of sausages cooked in a kind of souffle. In England, it is called Yorkshire Pudding, althought its unlike any pudding I’ve ever encountered. Despite Britain’s reputation for, erm, less than stellar culinary creations, I found it to be quite delicious.
Toad in the Hole
2 large Eggs
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Water
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
6 Sausages, your choice (I used Polish Sausage)
2 TBS Bacon Drippings, Lard or Cooking Oil
2 TBS Vegetable Oil
1. Place a cast iron pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the 2 TBS vegetable oil. Let the oil heat up, then carefully add the sausages, being careful not to splash yourself with the hot oil. Cook until nicely browned on all sides, turning frequently with a tongs. Try not to break the skins. Don’t worry about cooking them all the way through because they will cook in the casserole. Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb some of the oil and let cool at least 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat well. Add the milk and water and whisk until smooth.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, add the flour and season well with salt and pepper. Then gradually whisk in the liquid mixture until you have a stiff but smooth batter, with no lumps. Let rest at least a half hour.
4. Preheat your oven to 425F. Add the bacon fat to the cast iron skillet and place in the oven. When it is very hot and the fat is sizzling, remove the pan from the oven and place on the stovetop. Carefully pour the batter into the pan, then arrange the sausages so they are not touching each other or the sides. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 35 minutes.
Most of the Yorkshire Pudding recipes I looked up insisted that under no circumstances were you to open the oven door during the cooking time. That’s probably so that the souffle doesn’t fall. I admit that I peeked a few times and my souffle was still pretty tall when I took it out.
To serve this, I cut it into wedges and napped it with a simple pan gravy. I served it with whipped sweet potatoes and steamed green beans tossed in whole butter.
Despite it’s funny name, toad in the hole was actually pretty great. Thanks again, England!