Tag Archives: Pork

Toad in the Hole – British Version

This past weekend we hosted our friend Jonathan who was visiting from England and he was kind enough to introduce us to a dish that he grew up eating – Yorkshire pudding with sausages, also known as ‘Toad in a Hole’.

Even though the name of the dish was first recorded in the early 18th century, the origins of the name are still a mystery. It’s speculated that the name comes from the fact that the sausages look like a toad poking out of a hole.  I can’t say that that’s the first thing that came to my mind when we took this dish out of the oven, but the picture on the BBC’s recipe did actually look like it since they used a much narrower pan and stood the sausages upright.

Jamie Oliver's Toad in the Hole (This photo: jamieoliver.com)

After much research we settled on the BBC recipe with Jamie Oliver’s (British Chef) onion gravy recipe but adapted it a bit based on how Jonathan remembered that his mum makes it.

Timing is everything with this dish – and the key is to get the oil in the pan scorching hot before you add the sausages and batter.  You also have to keep the oven at 400F so you have to open the oven door as quickly as possible when bringing the pan out to pour in the batter and then when placing it back in the oven.  To ensure that we kept the oven at 400F we actually cranked it up to 425F right before we opened the door to pull out the pan.  We also kept the pan warm during the 30 seconds it was out of the oven by placing it on a gas burner on low heat.

Here’s the recipe – I recommend trying it on a cold night since it’s warm and filling.  Definitely serve it with the onion gravy and a side of peas!

Toad in the Hole recipe adapted from BBC


  • 115g/4oz plain flour
  • large pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 300ml / ½ pint milk
  • 2 tbsp/30g fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
  • 8 good quality pork or beef sausages
  • 2 tbsp/30g Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp/30g of beef or pork drippings or white vegetable fat (we used half the drippings from the sausages & half bacon drippings)
  • knob of butter, to serve


1.    To make the batter, sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and pepper.

2.    Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack in the eggs. Using a wooden spoon, gradually beat the eggs into the flour with a whisk and then with an electric hand held mixer on the lowest speed slowly beat in the milk until the batter is the consistency of double cream.

3.    Strain and push any remaining lumps through a sieve. Stir in the thyme. Cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes, or ideally 3-4 hours in the refrigerator.

4.    Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

5.    Heat a large non-stick pan and cook the sausages over a medium heat until golden-brown all over. (If you do not have a non-stick pan add a little oil.) Turn off the heat and brush the sausages with the mustard. Set aside. (For more even heating, roast in the oven)

6.    Place the dripping or white vegetable fat into the thinnest metal ovenproof dish that you have and heat in the oven for five minutes or until the dripping is hot and hazy. Test the hotness of the oil by pouring a teaspoon of the batter into the dish.  If it instantly bubbles then the pan is ready.

7.    Quickly pull the dish out of the oven and place on the stove top over a burner on low heat to keep the pan hot.  (Turn the oven up to 450 to ensure the oven’s temperature recovers from opening the door)

8.    Add the sausages to the hot dish and pour in the batter as quickly as possible. Immediately return the dish to the oven and lower the temperature back down to 400F.

9.    Cook for 35-40 minutes until well-risen and golden-brown.  (Do not open the oven door to peek because the dish will fall!)

Onion Gravy recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver


  • 2 large red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 level tablespoon good-quality vegetable stock powder or 1 vegetable stock cube
  • ¼ cup red wine


While the toad in the hole is in the oven, simply fry off your onions and garlic in the butter on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they go sweet and translucent. You could add a little thyme or rosemary if you like. Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to cook down by half. At this point, I do cheat a little and add a stock cube or powder. You can get some good ones in the supermarkets now that aren’t full of rubbish. Sprinkle this in and add a little water and the red wine. Allow to simmer and you’ll have a really tasty onion gravy.

For 20 tips on how to make Toad in the Hole check out this site.


The Perfect Meatball Recipe

I’m always skeptical when a food magazine touts that they have found ‘The Best’ anything so when I read Molly Wizenberg’s (writer of the blog Orangette) article In Search of the Perfect Meatball in October’s Bon Appétit I knew I had to put her claim to the test.

I have made a few different meatball recipes in the past but all have been oven baked.  My mom has always baked hers and they are amazing so I have never tried to make them any other way.  When I read about Molly’s search for the perfect meatball I realized that this lady clearly knows her meatballs and might be worth trusting, despite the fact that she was describing ways of cooking meatballs that I had never even considered.  Molly claimed to have found a nearly perfect meatball at Seattle’s Cafe Lag0 – not only that, but she was able to get and share their family meatball recipe.   I was intrigued by this recipe because you cook the meatballs in the sauce on the stove and because the sauce has a stick of butter in it – something I have never used in a red sauce before.  The ingredients are all pretty simple – so simple that the sauce contains only canned whole tomatoes (with juices), 2 onions, and a stick of butter.  I thought that surely it would need some other herbs but as it turned out, the meatballs added all the flavor that the sauce needed.

This photo: Bon Appetit

According to Molly, the secret to the meatball texture is to mix the mixture of meat, cheese, bread crumbs, herbs, and eggs with your hands but the key is to shape your hands like claws and twist them around the mixture until it is just blended.  Sounded far-fetched but I gave it a try.

They turned out so well that I was surprised I had made them myself!  We served the meatballs over a bed of fresh herbed pasta with grated parmesan cheese and a bottle of Sangiovese.  The meatballs were rich, cheesy, and had the perfect amount of moisture, which I assume came from cooking them in the sauce on the stove rather than baking them.  I couldn’t help myself from over eating on Saturday night…and again on Sunday for lunch.  This recipe is now officially my ‘go to’ meatball recipe and Molly was right – I do feel ‘set for life’ now that I have a great meatball in my repertoire.

Here’s the recipe – I highly recommend giving this a try with fresh pasta, which took it to a whole new level.  Don’t be fooled by the long list of ingredients – it’s very simple to make!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit (October 2010)

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  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved through root end
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt


  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread (I turned herbed croutons into bread crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces ground beef (15% fat)
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese (I finely grated mine using a box grater)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)



  • Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions. Using immersion blender (I was able to just use a fork and wisk to achieve the consistency that I needed), process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato (texture should be even but not completely smooth). Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.


  • Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl; stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground/finely grated Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Whisk eggs to blend in small bowl; whisk in garlic. Add to meat mixture.
  • Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk (I wasn’t able to get any milk out).  Add breadcrumbs to meat mixture. Using hands, quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined  using ‘the claw’ technique (do not overmix). Chill mixture at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  • Moisten hands with some of reserved milk from breadcrumbs (not necessary), then roll meat mixture between palms into golf-ball-size balls, occasionally moistening hands with milk as needed and arranging meatballs in single layer in sauce in pot. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (mine were a little larger so I cooked for 30 min). DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.
  • Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.
  • Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among 6 plates. Top each serving with meatballs. Sprinkle meatballs with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.


Barbados Saturday Special – Pudding and Souse

I consider myself to be pretty lucky in that the client whose project I’ve been working on for the past few years is based out of Barbados.  I’ve been able to visit the island a few times over the course of the project and on my first visit I stayed over the weekend to explore.   I had two objectives– scuba diving and eating all the local food I could get my hands on.  The client was nice enough to cater our meeting with an amazing local spread of fried flying fish, rice and peas, and a delicious bread pudding with Mount Gay rum sauce.  After seeing how enthusiastic I was about dousing my food in the local Bajan hot sauce they thought I was ready for the ultimate in Bajan cuisine – Saturday pudding & souse!

I learned that pudding and souse is a special meal in Barbados that’s only served on Saturdays.  The pudding is made from pig intestines that are cleaned and stuffed with a hash of sweet potatoes, pepper and several seasonings that are boiled to cook.  I was a bit wary when I learned that historically pig’s blood was included in the pudding and was called ‘black pudding’  due to the color the blood gave it, but was put at ease when I was told that blood is rarely used in the pudding these days, hence the reason it is just called ‘pudding’.  The souse is made of boiled pig’s head or feet that are chopped up and served with pickled onions, cucumbers, limes, peppers, and parsley.

The dive guides at Roger’s Scuba Shack (highly recommended if you are ever in Barbados!) were so excited that I wanted to try pudding & souse that they rode their bikes to a stand and brought back enough for all of us to eat.  I could tell that the pudding was definitely not black pudding just based on the color and it tasted just like a well seasoned sweet potato hash – delicious!  The souse looked more like pickled and cooked pork loin than pig’s head and feet to me so it was a lot easier to eat than I anticipated.   It all went down pretty easily with a Banks beer while watching the Mr. Barbados Strongman Competition!

If you want to try this at home, here’s a recipe from Home Style Recipes from Cooks in Barbados book that I picked up while I was there:

For the Souse you will need:

  • A pigs head and feet (or just several pounds of pork loin)
  • 3 juicy limes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large ripe cucumbers
  • 1-2 bunches parsley
  • Hot red peppers (scotch bonnet preferred)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • Salt to taste (go easy)

For the Pudding you will need:

  • 2 ½ lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbl Sugar
  • 1 or 2 onions according to size
  • Small piece red pepper (scotch bonnet preferred) finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt + black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 3 Tbl Bajan seasoning mix
  • 1 cup water from cooking souse (if none, use milk)
  • 3 Tbl fat from souse cooking water (if none, use butter)


Sprinkle pork with lime and salt, leave for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.  Cook all meats in boiling water with bay leaves (to cut possible raw taste) and a few peppercorns until quite soft.  If using pressure cooker, cook for 40-45 minutes and allow pressure to drop gradually.

Plunge meats into cold water for a few seconds then shackle the meat off bones, and reserve a little cooking liquid for sweet potato puddings.

Cut meat into 2 inch pieces, or as desired and place in a fairly deep glass or stainless steel bowl – never aluminum.

Make a pickle of lime juice, salt and water, lots of chopped cucumber, plenty of paper-thin onions, and a cautious amount of hot pepper, minutely chopped.

Smother meat with this mixture and steep souse unrefrigerated 2-3 hours (chilling will turn souse semi-hard and not at all pleasant).

Garnish with parsley.


Peel and grate potatoes.  Chop onions finely.  Mix all ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Mixture should be soft as it dries out in cooking.

To bake: Pack in greased shallow ovenproof dish, dot with butter and bake at 350°.  Check after 30 minutes for firmness.

To steam: Pack in greased bowl with fitted lid, or cover with triple-ply waxed paper securely tied.  Place on rack in large vessel – water to cover bowl about half depth.  Top up with water if needed.

Serve pudding and souse together with an ice-cold Banks beer!