Sarah Heward from The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum reveals one of her favourite family meals and the tradition behind the classic dish.
Perthshire’s Real Food Cafe is an award-winning eaterie that showcases the best of local fare. Best known for its award-winning fish and chips, it’s often visited by tourists on their way to explore the Trossachs, in one direction, and the Highlands in the other.
Founder and Co-owner Sarah Heward takes some time out from preparing the cafe for reopening to tell us about her family meal recommendation, Toad in the Hole.
“My nostalgic dinner recommendation is Toad in the Hole and it’s still one of my favourites to this day.
“I make it regularly for my family and they love it, especially because I serve it with homemade rich onion gravy and cauliflower cheese to top it off!
“On reflection, it’s kind of curious how batter has become such an important staple in my life. Batter is one of the key elements in how I now make my living as I work in the fish and chip industry and serve hundreds of thousands of portions every year at my café in Tyndrum.
“As a kid, Toad in the Hole was always a treat when mum or dad made it for our tea. My brother Angus and I would always get excited when we heard that it was what was on the menu that night.
“It’s not only the quirky name that made it so popular, but it is also the delicious crispy batter that made it extra-special because it absorbs the fat from the sausages, making it very tasty. What’s not to like?
“This dish has stood the test of time. There is evidence that Toad in the Hole dates back to the mid 1700s. It seems to have been made as a way of spinning out the meat and making it go further by cooking it in batter. Different types of meat were used back then, but the more recent recipes all recommend using a really good-quality sausage.
“There are narratives about where the name came from, the most common thread is that the name came from the way that toads and frogs peak out of their burrows, looking a bit like the sausages poking out of the batter.
“It’s very decadent, so make sure you are hungry for this one!”
Sarah’s secrets for a great toad:
- Use great-quality ingredients. The better your ingredients, the better your toad will taste.
- Make sure the oven is super hot before you put the batter in, preheat the oven at 220 degrees C/425F/Gas mark 7.
- Make sure your batter isn’t too thick when you pour it over the sausages. I find about 0.5 cm to 1.0 cm at the most, otherwise it won’t cook through and it will be doughy inside.
- Use lots of butter to grease the pan/dish/tray you are making it in to stop the batter sticking.
Toad in the hole
- Butter for greasing (plenty)
- 115g/4oz plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 300ml/10fl oz milk
- 450g/1lb of good quality sausages
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven
- Grease an oven proof dish or tray (about 8 x 10 as a guide)
- Make the batter by sifting the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the beaten egg together with half the milk. Whisk together and then gradually add the rest of the milk, beating all the time to get air into it. Leave it to stand for 30 mins in the fridge.
- Prick the sausages and put them into the oven in the greased oven-proof dish with the veg oil brushed or drizzled over them for 10 mins until they start to brown a little.
- Remove from the oven and straight away pour over the batter whilst the dish/tray is still piping hot. Return to the hot oven and cook for 35-40 minutes until the toad is well risen and golden brown.
- Toad doesn’t keep so serve straight away with your accompaniments. If you are serving onion gravy and cauliflower cheese have them ready!
- Make sure you are hungry and enjoy!