A stress-free Sunday dinner for six: toad in the hole with sticky onion gravy and roasted root vegetables and pain-au-chocolat bread and butter pudding

As we’re now in June it sort of seems wrong to be cooking roast dinners on a Sunday now. That said, I do still feel like I want to eat something ‘traditional’ on a Sunday, and as I had family coming round a couple of weekends ago I thought I’d cook the toad in the hole I posted about here. I feel I need to reiterate the sheer magnificence of this batter recipe; it earned me several ‘wows’ as I bought it to the table as it rises spectacularly. Despite saying I loved this with baked beans in my original post, I didn’t really feel like I wanted to serve up baked beans for Sunday dinner. So I caved in and made this sticky onion gravy (I admit it doesn’t look very appealing on the picture, mine looked nothing like that!), and I have to say I’m completely converted. The gravy was thick, sticky and richly flavoured with the caramelised onions, and better still took very little effort to achieve and made the house smell lovely whilst the onions were sweating down. In fact for this whole dinner I remained calm and serene, and for the last hour before I was due to put the sausages in the oven I was twiddling my thumbs because I’d already prepared everything! Most unusual.

I decided to serve this with a pretty weird array of vegetables. I was partly using up what I had left in the fridge and partly cooking all my favourite things! I ended up with peas, broccoli, honey-roasted carrots, steamed asparagus, new potatoes, roasted baby leeks and honey roasted beetroot with balsamic vinegar. The beetroot recipe is from here, and it was the piece de resistance – It was so fresh and earthy, but the sweetness of the honey and reduced balsamic totally took it to another level. My family were pleasantly surprised when they saw the beetroot on the platter, leading me to believe it’s a rather underrated and underused vegetable in this context. I’ve got more plans for beetroot, I’m just waiting for my little seedlings to show their heads!

As for the dessert, it’s an old favourite of mine cobbled together from two different Nigella recipes: the pain-au-chocolat pudding from How to be a Domestic Goddess and Nigella’s Grandmother’s ginger-jam bread and butter pudding from Nigella Bites. I’m not really a huge fan of bread and butter pudding in its traditional form – I find it can be stodgy and cloying at the best of times, but the buttery pastry of the pain au chocolat is so light and delicate it really makes this special. The reason I’ve partly used the recipe from Nigella Bites is because in this recipe the custard requires no cooking; in fact it requires nothing more than a bit of measuring out and whisking, and the result you get is a really wobbly, tender custard which is amazing with all of the crispy bits of charred pastry that are sat proud and have got caramelised with a little help from some demerara sugar and butter blobbed on top.

To feed six I used the recipe that I posted in my Toad in the Hole post a couple of weeks ago, but increased the quantities to 150%. My husband sceptical about the size of the tin that I used; he wasn’t convinced that it was big enough for six of us compared to the tin I ususally use to feed us two. I stuck to my guns though and used it (but cooked a few new potatoes for extra carbs just in case) and it turns out we had leftovers! I used my favourite ever sausages, Lashford’s special sausages (that’s what they’re called!) in the thick variety. I usually buy the thin ones for everyday use but thought they’d be a bit weedy in this scenario and would get lost in the batter; there was no fear of that happening with these monsters though, each sausage was the size of two normal large sausages that you’d buy in the supermarket so I suppose allowing two each wasn’t exactly necessary. Oh well, the leftovers didn’t go to waste, they went in my lunchbox a couple of days later! So enough with the chat, on with the recipes:

Toad in the hole

This recipe, with half again (i.e. with 6 eggs)

Sticky onion gravy

From the recipe posted above, although I used:

3 large onions

1 tablespoon sugar

Large knob of butter

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 tablespoon thyme

Splash Worcester Sauce

1 pint beef stock (I just used a couple of oxo cubes dissolved in water)

Roasted beetroot with balsamic vinegar and honey

4 small fresh beetroot

1 tablespoon thyme

4 cloves garlic, skins removed

Olive oil

1 tablespoon runny honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Honey-roasted carrots

12 small, young carrots (you don’t have to use young carrots, but the skins will be so thin and tender that you don’t have to peel them)

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon honey

Knob of butter

Olive oil

Pain-au-chocolat bread and butter pudding

6 large pain-au-chocolat (I know they don’t come in “sizes” but generally the ones you get from a bakery are larger than those pre-packed ones, so if you buy those you might need more)

4 large egg yolks (freeze the whites!)

1 large egg

3 tablespoons caster sugar

500ml double cream

200ml full-fat milk

A knob of butter

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Method

First, slice the pain-au-chocolat into slices around an inch thick. Arrange them in a dish (I tend to arrange them alternately thick side up and then thin side up as in the picture so different bits get crispy). Really pack them in tightly; the last few pieces should be a squeeze to get in! Leave them to dry out a bit, this will help them to absorb all the liquid better later.

Next, prepare the vegetables. Wash and quarter the beetroot (I didn’t bother peeling) and put into a baking tray with the oil, garlic cloves and thyme. Wash the carrots and out them in a tray with the butter and drizzle them with the oil and honey and sprinkle with the thyme.

If you’re making other vegetables prepare them now (for me this meant washing and trimming the asparagus, trimming the baby leeks, halving the potatoes and cutting the broccoli up).

For the onion gravy, heat the butter in a pan and slice the onions. Add the onions to the pan and stir. Cover with a lid (or a plate in my case!) and cook gently for around 10 minutes. By this point they should be really soft. Add the sugar and cook for a further 15 minutes or so until the liquid is gone and they’re golden and caramelised. Set aside.

For the pudding, whisk together the egg yolks and egg with the caster sugar, then whisk in the cream and milk. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220C. Mix up the eggs and milk for the toad in the hole and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes. Whilst it’s resting, put the sausages in a pan and put them into the oven to get browned. At this point, put the beetroot into the oven. Turn the sausages after about 10 minutes to get evenly browned.

After about 20 minutes the sausages should be nicely golden brown and the beetroot should be on its way to being roasted. Take the beetroot out of the oven and add the butter to the sausages and put back into the oven to get hot. Add the balsamic and honey to the beetroot and toss everything together. Whisk the flour into the batter for the toad in the hole, then take the sausages out of the oven and add the batter. Once the batter is in the tin, put it back into the oven, along with the beetroot and the carrots. Cook for 20 minutes or until the batter is risen and golden, and the vegetables should be nice and roasted and burnished.

Whilst the everything is in the oven, add the thyme and Worcester sauce to the onions and reheat gently. Once they’re hot again, add the flour and stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the beef stock and stir gently. Simmer the gravy for 10-15 minutes until it’s thickened. Cook any other vegetables you’re serving.

Just before you serve up the dinner, pour the custard mix over the pain-au-chocolat and really press down so that they soak up the custard. Leave for a minute, then pour more (it should just about hold this much mixture). When you’ve got all the custard in, dot the bits of pastry that stick out with butter, and sprinkle the top with demerara sugar.

Once the vegetables are cooked, the toad in the hole is browned and puffed-up and the gravy is thickened, you’re ready to serve! Serve the toad in the hole as quickly as possible so it doesn’t sink and you’ll get more compliments! I took mine to the table before I plated up the vegetables.

The last thing to do is reduce the oven temperature to 180C and put the pudding onto a baking sheet. Cook for 45 minutes (it can cook whilst you eat) and then take out the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. The pudding should be really wobbly in the centre and really wonderfully golden and crunchy on top. Serve with cream or custard.

See, easy!

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