At the fair, a toad-in-the-hole is a pastry with a savory pork sausage filling. Although I've never had a toad anywhere but the fair, I've known it's a dish with a long history. This week I wanted to create this dish at home, so I set out to find a traditional recipe.
It turns out, the dish was originally a peasant dish that made use of leftover bits of meat. I'm sure it has deeper roots, but the oldest version I could find came from the Victorians, in The Book of Household Management, by Isabella Mary Beeton, published in London in 1861. Mrs. Beeton offers two versions of the recipe, which she calls "homely, but savory." One calls for a rump steak and kidney, and another for leftover bits of mutton and kidney. Both versions are cooked and served in the same pan, and the meat is partially covered with a batter made of 3 eggs, 1 pint of milk, 4 to 6 tablespoons of flour, and a half teaspoon of salt.
I'm not a big fan of kidney or mutton -- and I doubt I could persuade my family to give it a try -- so I kept searching for a recipe that used sausage. I found a terrific one in the "Traditional Scottish Recipes" archive at the Rampant Scotland website (http://www.rampantscotland.com/recipes/blrecipe_toad.htm).
In the spirit of keeping this a utilitarian dish, I adapted mine to use ingredients I already had on hand. The results were delicious, and I while I have nothing but respect for Mrs. Beeton as a pioneer of cookbookery, I must disagree with her "homely" assessment. With a little effort, toad-in-the-hole can look quite pleasing. I fanned out the sausages and added a few sliced cherry tomatoes. Herbs, thinly sliced onions or mushroom would also make attractive garnishes.
TOAD IN THE HOLE
Yields eight servings
1/2 pound link sausages*
3/4 cup flour
10 fluid ounces milk
2 large eggs
4 ounces shredded cheese*
pinch salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
Spray cooking oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a skillet and cook the sausage links over medium heat until browned on two sides, about five minutes each side. Set aside.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, then stir in the cheese. In a small bowl, beat together the milk, eggs and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add half the mixture to the flour and cheese and stir until smooth. Let stand 5 minutes, and then stir in the remaining milk mixture.
Arrange the links in a lightly sprayed 9-inch pie pan and pour the batter over them. Arrange the tomatoes, if using, or another garnish.
Lower the oven heat to 400 degrees and bake until the batter is puffed up and brown. About 30 minutes.
*I used Sabatino's Smoked Mozzarella with Artichokes and Garlic Chicken Sausages and Mexican-style shredded cheese.