Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Toad in the Hole with Dark Onion Gravy

On a wet, blustery day, when sunrise officially falls after your morning train, and it's properly dark by the time you get home in the evening, it's time to break out the big guns. Bangers. Mash. Yorkshire Pudding. Gravy. This is hard-core Autumnal food and god, we really needed it tonight. Particularly when we knew that we would still need to take the dog out later. There's only so many times that you can fool him into thinking a quick trip to the corner and back is the same as a half hour walk.

Yorkshire pudding was one of my Granny's superlative dishes, and she used to serve up great swollen trays of it to hordes of ravening grandchildren, each clamouring for an equal share of crisp edge and squodgy middle. Doused in gravy or just on its own, hers was legendary and no grown up "Yockshirreh" has ever managed to match it. That was a Polish accent, by the way. You try writing phonetically based on a twenty-year-old memory! 

This recipe from Nigel Slater is a perennial favourite of ours and even if it doesn't quite reach the heights of Granny's, it comes pretty damn close. Nigel recommends some kind of fandango peeling the sausages then wrapping them again in parma ham, but we never bother with that and just use them unadulterated.

The gravy, incidentally, is another winner from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals. You might think "pff, who needs a recipe for onion gravy?", and three months ago I would have echoed your "pff"ing and raised you a "tchuh". But that was before I tried this one. With a few odd-sounding ingredients like garlic, honey and rosemary, you end up with something like like the best ever Bisto gravy - thick, strong, flavourful and savoury. I have been known to eat this with a spoon.

Served up with parsnip mash, peas and carrots, this dinner acted as insulation for our insides - warming us to the bottom of our soggy toes and fortifying us for the dark juggling act with dog, lead, umbrella, and torch. Even better, the leftovers are now tupperwared up for lunch tomorrow and they are already making my Thursday morning better. Now if only they could stop my hair from frizzing, we'd have a perfect day.


Toad in the Hole
Adapted from Nigel Slater's Real Food

- pack of 6 good-quality sausages
- 2 eggs
- 125g plain flour
- 150ml milk
- 150ml cold water
- 1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
- some salt, pepper and oil

Preheat the oven to 220C and find a roasting dish big enough to hold the sausages surrounded by a swelling pillow of batter. Put a good sloop of olive oil - or dripping or lard if you have such things - into the dish, then heat in the oven until really hot and smoking.

Whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, water, mustard, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a big bowl until smooth. It should be about as runny as double cream. Then leave the batter aside to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Chuck the sausages into the hot roasting dish, shaking gently to spread them out evenly, then pour the batter in and around. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until bronzed and puffy, and serve with lots and lots of onion gravy.

Dark Onion Gravy
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals (the Liver and Bacon meal)

- an onion, red or white, halved then finely sliced
- a clove of garlic, crushed
- the leaves from a sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
- a teaspoon of honey (or golden syrup, or any kind of sugar)
- 1 heaped tablespoon of flour
- a glass of red wine if you have one - we often skip this step
- a good swig of balsamic vinegar
- 300ml of beef stock (a cube is fine)

In a medium sized saucepan, gently fry the onion in a splash of oil for 5-10 minutes or until soft and golden. Add in the rosemary, garlic and honey, cook for a few more minutes, stirring, then add the flour. Mix well then add the red wine if you're using it, letting it cook off. If you're not using it, add the balsamic, let the liquid cook off (trying not to inhale the vinegar fumes) then pour in the beef stock. Let it all simmer for 5-10 minutes until it's thickened to the consistency you want. Then pour it all over your sausages, yorkshire pudding and mash.

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