Getting back into our regimented school routine has been a bit rough after a couple of weeks of winter holidays with lazy mornings spent curl up together reading. Over the break, I read my kids one of my favorite childhood books, Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World (above is an illustration by Jill Bennett from the original edition). We were all especially captivated by Danny's father's description of his favorite childhood meal: "My mum could make toad-in-the-hole like nobody else in the world. She did it in an enormous pan with the Yorkshire pudding very brown and crisp on top and raised up in huge bubbly mountains. In between the mountains you could see the sausages half buried in the batter. Fantastic it was." We tried recreating the dish, based on this recipe from Five and Spice and it was a big hit. For a thoroughly British accompaniment, I made these minty peas from Nigel Slater. Although the dinner didn't involve any pheasant poaching, my son and I did venture down the dark and drizzly alleyway with a feeble flashlight to filch some unsuspecting mint.
adapted from Five and Spice1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 lb breakfast sausages
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, flour, and salt and blend until smooth. You could also whisk these together in a bowl. Allow the batter to rest while you heat the oven and cook the sausages (ideally 30 minutes).
3. In a ovenproof pot, such as a cast iron Dutch oven, cook the sausages until they are browned on all sides. If there is a lot of fat release, pour some off, but you want about 2-4 Tbsp coating the pan. While the pot is still very hot, pour the batter over the sausages and immediately transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes (meanwhile, make some minty peas). The toad-in-the-hole is done when it is puffy and golden and crisp around the edges. Do not open the oven before 20 minutes or the popover might deflate. Serve right away with mustard on the side and minty peas.
adapted from Nigel Slater3 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 package frozen peas
2 or 3 sprigs fresh mint
salt to taste
1 Tbsp water
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When warm, add the olive oil, then the shallots and stir for 30 seconds, then the peas, mint, salt, and water. Cover and cook for four minutes. Remove the top and simmer another 2 or 3 minutes, allowing the liquid to evaporate. Serve warm.