It was a cold and rainy Sunday. One of those days where you do the minimum chores required to make you feel like you haven’t totally wasted a weekend. Then you snuggle up on the couch with a brew to watch some classic Sunday television or to read your favourite book or magazine.
For me, it was my precious time to read my bible: Good Food magazine. I hate to admit it but there are times when food is not at the top of my agenda (shocking, I know) and I end up with a stack of Good Foods just waiting to be devoured. This Sunday afternoon was feast time.
Perhaps it was a craving to counteract the Sunday blues with some comfort food, but every time I turned the page, a recipe jumped out at me and I could practically taste the dish in the picture in front of me. I kept “mmmming” and shoving the magazine in front of my fiance’s eyes (yes that’s right, I’m now a betrothed grown-up!). He joined me in my dribbling session and we started pointing at the pages and shouting “I want that one!” like delightful Andy out of Little Britain. We had food envy from a magazine and I literally wanted to cook the entire contents of the January edition.
Sadly, there were a few problems with this idea. Firstly, I’d need something close to a week solid to do that and secondly, the ingredients would probably cost me a week’s wages. So instead, I picked a dish which was up there on the dribbling-stakes but that only needed ingredients that I already had to hand. What was on our Sunday menu? Toad-in-the-Hole.
A winter warmer classic which is simplicity itself, but we all know that failing to get a rise out of your Yorkshire pud mixture can ruin the dish entirely. Let’s face it, nobody likes a soggy batter. So not only was that a challenge, but in my greedy eyes-bigger-than-belly state I decided to up the ante by accompanying my toad with a potato and onion gratin. Calories don’t count on a Sunday.
So the first job was to get the toads in the oven to begin sizzling away. Then I made the batter by beating two eggs into submission and combining them with plain flour and salt, gradually, to avoid any unwanted lumps.
Next I whisked in the milk until the batter was smooth and not too thick, and that was pretty much it. Except there was another ingredient that I haven’t yet mentioned. A magic addition to help avoid that sogginess: Baking powder. It works just as well as it does when baking a cake in giving the elevation a helping hand.
So while the bangers were getting hot enough for the batter to be added, I made the gratin. I peeled the potatoes and sliced them into discs of about 5mm depth and layered into a buttered metal oven dish, with sliced onion sprinkled in between the layers of potato.
Once the layers had reached the top I poured over a mixture of double cream and milk, then finished this already rich dish with a healthy dose of grated cheese. Well, why not?? The gratin went into the oven for around 25 minutes, until the top was bubbling and the potato was soft all the way through the dish.
By now the sausages were browned and their fat was smoking – another essential to ensure the batter rises. I whipped the tin out of the oven and quickly poured over the batter before the sausages had chance to cool at all. Then there was nothing left to do except watch my creation grow…
The end result may not look like the prettiest offering ever, but for this chilly and wet Sunday, which had been spent imagining all kinds of homely and comforting foods, it was just the job to chase away the blues. And yes, I’m happy to say that my batter certainly did rise, Yorkshire would be proud. But as I’m from Lancashire that obviously didn’t matter to me…