Last Updated on February 4, 2021
Skip straight to my Recipe for Toad in the Hole for two
What dishes remind you of your childhood? I have a trio of batter related treats that we’d enjoy after a Sunday roast beef. Pancakes, banana or apple fritters and Toad in the Hole are all made with the same basic batter than you use for Yorkshire puddings. The versatile mixture actually rises better after it’s been left to rest for a few hours or overnight, so you can quite easily enjoy Yorkies with your roast and make enough batter for Toad in the Hole on Monday. That makes it an ultra-quick way to make Monday’s supper. And, if you are smart, you can even pre-cook your sausages in the same oven as the roast, since the only reason for doing that is to make sure they are nicely caramelised on the outside. My mum relied on Mrs Beeton for her Yorkshire pudding batter mix and for instructions on making Toad in the Hole, though I prefer a slightly richer batter with more eggs. In fact, one of the first times it was mentioned was in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1861 (no, my mum wasn’t that old, she had a reprint that was given to her when she first got married in the 1950s).
This very traditional British dish has no confirmed heritage. No one really knows why it is called Toad in the Hole or when it was first made. There’s a theory that the dish and the name both come from Alnmouth in Northumberland. The story is that the golf course suffered from an influx of toads who took up residence. When a poor toad was disturbed by a gold player’s ball at the 18th hole, it poked its head up and pushed the ball out, thus losing the player the match! Toad in the Hole was supposedly named in honour of that event – though there’s little to confirm the theory.
Today, you’ll find every chef seems to have their own recipe. Jamie Oliver adds rosemary to his and uses more egg and milk to flour than my version, Delia Smith’s version is made with half milk and half water (which is probably fine if you have full-fat milk) and Gordon Ramsay goes to the effort of separating his eggs and whisking the whites to fold into the batter at the end. I’m very much of the keep it simple school of thought. For my money, a classic Toad in the Hole needs the best traditional butcher’s sausages, a simple batter made in advance and left to rest for at least an hour and preferably overnight and the right pan. That’s it. The right pan is one that easily fits the sausages and can go in the oven and on the hob. Metal is generally best – you may think your pretty china casserole dish will look pretty, but you probably won’t want to put it on the hob. Mum would have used beef dripping for hers – I use chicken dripping or duck fat if I have it. Ideally, you should use full-fat milk but semi-skimmed does work too. I honestly don’t think it needs herbs or even mustard in the batter, though a good onion gravy finishes the dish off splendidly. And, unless you have a really healthy appetite you won’t need potatoes – just a simple green vegetable.
This is a dish which can easily be scaled up to make enough for four or six, or down for a solo supper. Just keep the ratio of milk, eggs and flour the same. I use 3 eggs to 75 grams of flour and 150ml of milk or milk and ale. I’ve been following Felicity Cloake’s suggestion of using ale and milk for a lighter batter and discovered that the perfect ratio for me is 1/3rd ale to 2/3rds milk. But, I’m using semi-skimmed milk and suspect that if you had the full-fat type you might want the 50/50 ratio she recommends.
I’ve seen one chef who recommends adding the flour into the egg and milk mixture bit by bit. I can remember being shown a completely different method of getting a smooth batter by my mother. You sift the flour and salt together into a mixing bowl, then crack the eggs into a well in the middle. Using a small balloon whisk, pull the flour into the egg and keep ‘whisking’ till you have a thick paste. Then add in the milk or milk and ale mixture gradually. You are aiming for something with the texture of single cream and this method means you don’t risk using too much liquid (all flours will be slightly different).
Once you have your batter, cover it and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour and ideally somewhere between 2 hours and overnight. When you are ready to make your Toad in the Hole, start by heating the oven to 180C and put a little fat or oil into the dish you are going to use for the toad in the hole. The best pan to use, as mentioned before, is metal. A roasting pan, a metal pie dish or as I am using here, a cast iron skillet will all work well. Melt the fat and spread it around the base of the pan. Prick the sausages and put them in the pan then pop the whole thing in the oven for 15 minutes, turning the sausages every 5 minutes or so till they are browned lightly all over.
When the sausages are just cooked, take them out of the oven and put them to one side. If you have really large butchers sausages like me you may want to halve them to make it easier to serve. The photos here are of a single portion made in my smallest skillet which is around 6.5 inches diameter. For two portions, you’d need a 9-12inch skillet. Turn the oven up to 220C. Heat the pan on the hob so that the fat is just smoking. The trick to getting the batter for Toad in the Hole to rise is to have your baking pan and fat really hot before you add the batter. Once your fat is hot enough, pour in the batter and quickly arrange the sausages. Put the whole dish back in the oven and leave for 15 minutes minimum without opening the oven door. After 15 minutes check to see that you’ve got nice puffy batter, ideally without opening the door. The whole dish will take about 25-30 minutes to cook – you’ll know it’s ready when the batter is nicely browned and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Toad in the hole is best served with a good gravy and a simple green vegetable. We used to rely on the leftover gravy from the roast. I’ll share a recipe for gravy soon if you need to make yours from scratch, but in my view, it’s fine to cheat with gravy granules. I just pimp mine up with a little wine or ale and with a dash of Worcester sauce. And yes, those are frozen peas on my plate. At this time of year, frozen peas are a far better option than fresh ones which would need to travel across the world to reach the UK, clocking up all sorts of carbon miles.
You can make a vegetarian Toad in the Hole really easily by substituting good quality vegetarian sausages (we like Linda McCartney ones).
Here’s the printable recipe so you can make your own Toad in the Hole. Remember, this dish is all about the sausages – don’t skimp on them and you’ll have a tasty yet frugal treat.
Toad in the Hole
- metal baking pan or skillet large enough to easily hold the sausages
- 3 large eggs
- 75 g plain flour
- 150 ml milk or milk/ale mixture in a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1
- Salt and Pepper
Toad in the Hole
- 400 g sausages 4-6 sausages depending on size
- 1 tbsp dripping/duck fat or oil
- 1 portion batter as above
- Season the flour and sift into a medium sized mixing bowl
- Make a well in the middle of the flour and break an egg into it
- Use a balloon whisk to beat the egg up and draw in the flour
- Add the remaining eggs one by one, whisking till the flour is fully incorporated and you have a thick paste
- Gradually whisk in the milk or milk and ale mixture
- Cover and put in the fridge for at least thirty minutes, preferably 2 hours to 24 hours.
Toad in the Hole
- Heat the oven to 180C (170c Fan Oven)
- Melt the fat in the pan you will be using for the Toad in the Hole and add the sausages, pricking them all over
- Bake the sausages for 15 minutes, turning regularly
- Turn the oven up to 230c (220c fan oven)
- Remove the sausages from the pan and put to one side
- Heat the pan with the fat in it till there is just a trace of smoke rising from the pan
- Pour in all the batter and quickly place the sausages in the batter
- Put the dish in the oven and do not open the door for at least 15 minutes
- Check after 15 minutes, ideally keeping the door shut. The batter should have puffed up and started to turn golden
- Continue to cook for a total of around 25 minutes till the batter is golden and crunchy
- Serve with onion gravy and a simple green vegetable
If you want to make a low-calorie version of Toad in the Hole, we suggest using venison sausages and half milk/half water for the batter. That will reduce the calories to around 450 per person. You could also substitute some of the sausages for a vegetable that will bake well in the batter but is lower in calories. Finally, the vegetarian version of the dish is also lower in calories
This dish won’t freeze well, but you could pre-cook the sausages and freeze them for an even quicker supper dish.