Saturday, 21 November 2009

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the hole. It's a recipe that most Brits have all eaten but probably have no idea where the name comes from. Don't ask me - I haven't got a clue.

If I had to guess, I would suggest that the image of a sausage poking its head out of crisped batter probably resembles a toad sticking its head out of a hole. After a few beers that is. Like I say, who cares? It is delicious, warming and comforting and that is what's important here.

Toad in the hole is a recipe I want to see in more restaurants at this time of the year, alongside shepherds' pie, steak and kidney pudding and chicken and leek pie. I've no ideas why more chefs are reluctant to put such fabulous food on their menus but it probably comes down to the image. Comforting British food such as these dishes seems so appropriate during the colder months and of course we make the best comfort food in the world. Don't we?

This is a simple family favourite that is ace for those cold midweek nights when the soul and tummy need cheering up. Serve with mash, greens and lots of onion gravy. Right now.

Toad in the Hole
Feeds 4

250g plain flour
A pinch of salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
500ml milk
3 tbsp sunflower oil
500g quality sausages

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 220C/GM7.
2 - Put the oil into a roasting tin and place into the oven. When the oil is hot, add the sausages and bake for 5 minutes, turning every now and again until beginning to brown.
3 - Put the flour, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Make a well and add the beaten eggs. Begin to whisk in the milk until the batter has the consistency of double cream.
4 - Remove the roasting tin from the oven then pour the batter in and over the sausages. Place back onto a high shelf and bake for 30-40 minutes until the batter is risen, golden and crunchy.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Slow Cooker Pork Curry

As the cold nights set in and we don ever thicker socks and silly winter hats, we turn our thoughts to sustaining food that fills stomachs and warms the soul. Rich stews and broths, packed with chunky vegetables and barley, pulses and meat that melts in the mouth and fat dumplings to fill up any missed corners of the tummy.

I've embraced my slow cooker like an old friend this past few weeks. They are ideal for the busy household at this time of the year and they need not cost the earth. Mine was £7 and it does exactly what I want it to do.

I've perfected the art of the busy man getting tea ready at 7am. No softening of onions and garlic, no sealing of meat. I literally 'plonk' everything into the chamber, set it to the lowest heating and go to work. When I arrive home the house is filled with the aromas of something that you just know will do the job.

We have all had the sniffles of late (who hasn't?) and I always find that an onion, garlic and ginger packed curry of some form is a great antidote. And amazingly, all that pre-frying of onions and toasting of spices seems to have been an unnecessary 'cheffy' thing to do as the slow cooker way appears to work every time, making it a healthier option too. If you don't believe me, give this one a go and tell me if it didn't work. It is utterly delicious, fuss free and an absolute winner for the busy family.

Slow Cooker Pork Curry
Feeds 4

4 pork leg steaks
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
Half tsp chilli powder
1 whole dried chilli (optional for heat)
1 tbsp ground coriander
3 cardamon pods, whole
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tin chopped tomatoes
100ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper

1 - Cut the pork steaks into large chunks.
2 - Place everything, and I mean everything, into the chamber of your slow cooker. Give it a good stir until thoroughly combined.
3 - Put it onto the low setting (6-8 hours cooking time). Let it cook.
4 - When cooked, taste for seasoning. Serve with boiled rice and fresh coriander.