One of the movies I like the most is 84 Charing Cross Road. I adore the story, the actors and the locations are two of my all-time favourite cities: New York and London. Not that I’ve been to a bunch of other cities outside of Canada, but when you know, you know.
The movie is based on a book and this is a rare case of the movie being better than the original source. I do love the book too and would probably not have bothered with the movie if I hadn’t already read the book. The movie takes place from 1949 to 1968 and is the story of the correspondence between New York book lover Helene Hanff (played by Anne Bancroft) and Frank Doel (played by Anthony Hopkins), an employee at Marks and Co., an antiquarian bookseller in London.
There are so many memorable moments in the movie for me, but the one that ties in with this recipe is one in which Helene is recounting her success making Yorkshire pudding and how there was nothing like it in America. She described it as “a high, curved, smooth, empty waffle”. That sounds right to me. Not a puffy popover type of thing, but a kind of stodgy pudding with high crispy edges is what to aim for, as far as I’m concerned.
This Yorkshire pudding has the addition of sausages, which turns it into Toad in the Hole. The roasted onion gravy takes it to a new level of tastiness. And you know that I’m going to make this and some garlic mashed potatoes and watch 84 Charing Cross Road while I eat it. It will be heavenly.
Here’s how it went.
Got the vegetables together.
And the sausages.
Peeled and chopped the potatoes and garlic. Into a pot with just enough water to cover them.
Sifted the flour.
Made the batter. Unlike Delia, I like to make this in advance and let it rest while the rest of the preparation is going on.
Roasted the sausages.
Poured the batter over the sausages.
Finished making the garlic mashed potatoes.
Added butter to the potatoes and mashed them.
Then the milk went in and the potatoes were mixed some more.
Meanwhile, the toad in the hole finished cooking.
Made the gravy. Melted butter in a fry pan, added the flour and cooked it.
Then the chicken stock with the Worcestershire and mustard powder whisked in went into the pan.
And the onions were added.
Toad in the hole with roasted onion gravy and garlic mashed potatoes.
From How to Cook, Book One by Delia Smith.
Toad in the Hole with Roasted Onion Gravy
I can’t give this high enough accolades – it’s a simply wonderful creation from the humble origins of British cooking. If only you could order it in a restaurant, though. Can I persuade anyone? It is, after all, a sort of fusion food – a fusion of light, crispy, crunchy batter and plump, meaty pork sausages, all moistened with a generous amount of roasted-onion jus. Here’s hoping!
6 good-quality pork sausages – about 14 oz (400 g)
1 tablespoon groundnut or other flavourless oil (if necessary)
For the batter:
3 oz (75 g) plain flour
1 large egg
3 fl oz. (75 ml) semi-skimmed milk
salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 fl oz. (55 ml) water
For the onion gravy:
8 oz. (225 g) onions, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons groundnut or other flavourless oil
1 level teaspoon golden caster sugar
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 level teaspoon mustard powder
15 fl oz. (425 ml) vegetable stock made from 1½ level teaspoons Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder dissolved in 15 fl oz (425 ml) boiling water
1 rounded dessertspoon plain flour
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C)
You will also need a solid-based, flameproof roasting tin with a base of 9 x 6 inches (23 x 15 cm), 2 inches (5 cm) deep, and a baking tray 14 x 10 inches (35 x 25.5 cm).
Begin by making the batter, and to do this sieve the flour into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Now, with the back of a spoon, make a well in the centre, break the egg into it and add some salt and pepper.
Now, measure the milk and 2 fl oz (55 ml) water in a measuring jug, then, using an electric hand whisk on a slow speed, begin to whisk the egg into the flour – as you whisk, the flour around the edges will slowly be incorporated. Then add the liquid gradually, stopping to scrape the flour into the mixture.
Whisk until the batter is smooth. Now the batter is ready for use, and although it’s been rumoured that batter left to stand is better, I have never found this, so just make it whenever it’s convenient. Now place the sliced onions in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of the oil and the sugar and toss the onions around to get the lightest coating, then spread them on the baking tray.
Next arrange the sausages in the roasting tin, then place the onions on a high shelf in the oven, with the sausages on a lower shelf, and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the sausages from the oven but leave the onions in for a further 4-5 minutes – they need to be nicely blackened round the edges. When they are ready, remove them and leave to one side.
Now place the roasting tin containing the sausages over direct heat turned to medium and, if the sausages haven’t released much fat, add the tablespoon of oil. When the tin is really hot and the oil is beginning to shimmer – it must be searing hot – quickly pour the batter in all around the sausages. Immediately return the roasting tin to the oven, this time on the highest shelf, and cook the whole thing for 30 minutes. Now for the gravy.
First add the Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder to the stock, then add the onions from the baking tray to a medium-sized pan. Now add the second teaspoon of oil, then, using a wooden spoon, stir in the plain flour. Stir all this together over a medium heat and then switch to a whisk, then gradually add the stock to the pan, whisking all the time, until it’s all in.
Then bring it up to simmering point and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, then pour into a warmed serving jug. When the toad is ready, it should be puffed brown and crisp and the centre should look cooked and not too squidgy.
Serve it immediately with the gravy, and it’s absolutely wonderful with mashed potato.