Not a sausage means…nothing. As in: “Have you got any money?” “Nope, not a sausage.” It is another example of Cockney Rhyming slang. “Sausage and mash” (common collocation) = cash. “I haven’t got a sausage” was originally a way of saying you had no money, before it generalised to mean “I haven’t got anything”. [Yes, we know that sausage and mash is an entirely different dish. You can read more about it here]
Toad-In-The-Hole has several benefits, aside from being cheap, easy and very British. Perhaps the best one is that you can scare children and visiting foreign guests by telling them they are about to eat a Real Toad., and… oooh…how we can laugh, (once we’ve coaxed1 them back to the table…) But one of the stories behind the name might be enough to put anyone off.
It seems there are actually two, and the more pleasant one, which you can find all over Britain, is that we call this dish Toad-In-The-Hole because the sausages look like toads peeping out of holes. Which they don’t, actually. So, not a very convincing story but possibly true, and certainly agreed upon by several food historians.
The story Nicer-Kate and I like much better is the legend found around the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. It was also told to me in a whisper by my giggling grandmother, who made me promise not to say anything to my Mum, because Mum had just made Toad-In-The-Hole for our supper. And here it is: Toad-In-The-Hole appears in cookbooks dating back to the 1800s and even has an entry in Francis Grose’s 1785 edition of Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. This is, therefore, a properly traditional British dish and all the old recipes suggest any old cheap cuts of meat, or leftovers which need using up, in place of the sausages we use now. Toad-In-The-Hole was a poor man’s supper in which anything was acceptable and THEREFORE….toad is actually just a nicer, happier variation of the word…TURD2. A dinner that was made of any old sh*t. Delightful, isn’t it?
To be honest, I used to hate Toad-In-The-Hole and mostly only because our school cook had her own variation, which was burnt on the outside, raw on the inside and full of grease around the sausage. But Nicer Kate cooks a really good one and this recipe is worth trying.
POSTSCRIPT I admit that in the end, I dropped my grandmother in it3. At the age of 11, this sort of story was too good not to share loudly with the whole family just as my mother was dishing up. As a result, my sisters howled and refused to eat it, and my mother was very cross with my grandmother, for quite a long time. What’s more, since my mother did not like her cooking being compared to a turd, OR the word turd being used at the family dinner table, we had no pudding that night. Not a sausage.
TOAD IN THE HOLE
8 large or 24 uncooked cocktail sausages
2 tbsp sunflower oil
150ml plain flour
1 tsp English mustard powder (Colman’s is our favourite)
12 small rosemary sprigs or 1 tbsp dried rosemary
For the onion gravy
2-3 onions, finely sliced
2 tsp plain flour
½ glass of red wine
250ml of chicken or veg stock
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 6. If the sausages are linked, use a pair of scissors to cut them into single sausages.
- Place the large sausages into the dish (if using cocktail sausages, place 2 sausages in each hole of a 12-hole muffin tin – these also make great canapes) Drizzle each set of sausages with a little oil and place the tin in the oven for 20 mins until the sausages have browned, turning halfway through.
- Make the gravy: Melt the butter in a wide, shallow pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, then cook over a medium-low heat until golden and soft, stirring regularly. Add a splash of water any time it looks too dry.
- Once golden and soft, put a lid on and cook for another 10 minutes or so over a low heat. The onions should be falling apart and a lovely deep brown colour, but not burning.
- Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the red wine. Bubble to reduce and cook off the alcohol a little, about 2–5 minutes, then add the stock and season well to taste.
- Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes more, or until the gravy is soft, sticky and delicious. Finally, stir through a splash of balsamic vinegar. The sauce can be made ahead of time and just gently warmed whilst the toad is in the oven.
- Make the batter: Mix the flour and mustard powder in a medium bowl. Make a well in the centre and beat in the eggs.
- Gradually pour the milk into the batter – whisk well between each addition – until you have a mix that is the consistency of double cream. Season.
- Pour the batter back into the jug.
- Remove the sausages from the oven and place on a heatproof surface. Very carefully, pour the batter over the sausages and throw a sprig of rosemary into each hole. Don’t just pour the batter over the sausages in the tin, or they will fall out the bottom when you take the toad out of the tin!
- Leave the batter to cook for 15 mins undisturbed on a high shelf until the outside of the batter is crisp and brown, but the centres firm but lighter and fluffier.
- Leave to cool for a few minutes, then serve with gravy, and green vegetables, such as green beans, or spring greens.
TOP TIP: make sure that the oil in the tin is REALLY hot when you pour the batter in. That way the batter puffs up quickly and is really light and fluffy when it is cooked. If the oil isn’t hot, the batter just turns into a burned, greasy disk. And then it may look more like its name. Don’t go there.
1 – to coax – to persuade, strongly encourage
2 – If you don’t know what turd means, then … well, let’s not beat about the bush4. A turd is…well…something that might come out the back end of a dog, and be left on the pavement. It’s something you don’t want to step in. And it’s usually brown in colour. Not very appetising.
3 – to drop someone in it – to get someone in trouble with someone else
4 – to beat about the bush – to avoid talking about the important, or the subject you may think indelicate or unpleasant. ‘Don’t beat about the bush – tell us what you really think’
© 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate – authors assert moral rights