Guest post by Andy Keet, Maggy’s husband.
I’m an Earl Grey drinking, crustless cucumber sandwich eating, pass the Port and Stilton to your left, Brit. True to the stereotype, I’d happily eat some instance of our national dish, Indian curry, at any opportunity, but the drizzly New York weather of the past few weeks has made me homesick for my favorite slice of English culinary heritage, Toad in the Hole.
Nobody really knows how it got the name. Starving serfs from a failed feudal society forced to wrap toads in batter before cooking to protect the meat from the fire? Or is it the indentation left by the sausage in the batter which looks like the warm mud bed left by a toad after a heavy rain? Probably just a name some inebriated heir to the throne came up with that got a few nervous laughs from the court and stuck. What’s certain is that it’s been a staple English meal for generations. It’s cheap and cheerful: sausages (Cumberland or Lincolnshire, not Italian) cooked in a blanket of batter, or Yorkshire Pudding, swimming in rich, onion gravy (with a spoonful of Marmite to boost the flavor – thanks Nanny). Served with mashed potato and steamed veg, it’s nourishing, warming and comforting.
Smells are the strongest triggers for our memories. Coming home to the apartment when Maggy had this finishing in the oven, I was once again walking though the door of my childhood home after a bike ride by the canal with my brother, limping through the same door as a teenager after three days of camping at a music festival, falling into a cavernous red sofa with a pint of ale at my local pub after handing in a last-minute university assignment. Ah, Toad’s in the Hole, all’s right with the world.
Of course the world doesn’t think much of English food. But next the time the family are rained in with an extra layer on for warmth, or whenever life is beastly and you feel vaguely like a starving serf from a failed feudal society, it’s British cuisine to the rescue: Toad in the Hole, mate.
Thank you, Andy, for sharing your memories and musings about one of your favorite dishes.
I’ve made Yorkshire pudding, and I’ve made sausages but never the two together. What if I can’t easily get the Cumberland or Lincolnshire sausages? Would it threaten our mother-in-law/son-in-law relationship if subbed in sausages of Italian decent? : )
Loved hearing from you, Andy. I’ve never made anything like this before but will definitely try it soon.
I might be moving to England in the furure! Thanks for reminiscing 🙂
Cookin' Canuck says
What a wonderful post! While I am not English (I’m Canadian & we like to pretend we’re English sometimes), I have fond memories of eating Toad in the Hole as a kid. I love that Maggy makes this for you!
I have never had this either, and I have been to visit you guys in England at least twice! I am feeling deprived!
I don’t care what people say about English food. What could possible be bad about batter-snuggled sausages served with mashed potatoes and gravy. Sign me up!!
You’re such a Brit, Andy! You’ll be craving spotted dick or rice pud next. Come to think of it, rice pudding sounds rather good…..
I might have to make this with Italian sausage…No, just kidding, though you might have to bring me some good British meat from the city. As you know, all the world jokes about English food, but when I visited a couple years ago, I loved it (except for the mushy peas; I have texture issues with those). Everything from the fish and chips to the meat pies in York to the sandwiches from Marks and Spencers. Plus, it all tastes great with a cask-pulled ale to wash it down, which is probably a little better than the grog some serf would’ve been guzzling. Cheers!
I’m all over toad in the hole, like you because it reminds me of home and of the very rare occasions when my dad would cook (this being the only dish he could make). Sure, he’d bugger up the gravy (I prefer a spoonful of bovril over marmite, just cause I’m not a marmite eater) but it always came out golden and crispy on top, soft and doughy in the middle and, well, delicious. Getting hold of proper english sausages over here’s not easy, but I recently tried making some pork and leek links and they came out okay. More practice necessary.
(P.S. – in my humble opinion, Americans are generally disparaging about British food because it’s so similar to their own – heavy, usually bland, and based on English, Scotch or Irish heritage.)