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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Homemade baked beans, roasted potatoes, crispy chorizo and a fried egg

Really, I should have titled this post ‘posh bacon, egg, chips and beans’, because essentially that’s what it is. I got home from work this evening and had forgotten to get anything out the freezer (standard) and we don’t have a lot in the house. So it was going to be one of those storecupboard dinners (which often turn out to be the best ones).

I’ve done something similar to this before, roasting the potatoes in a pan with bacon, and cracking an egg over in the last few minutes whilst I cooked some beans. I didn’t have any bacon though, and my husband said he wasn’t a huge fan of the baked-egg-over-the-potatoes thing. So I thought I’d mix it up, and to make it a bit less lazy-looking I thought I’d make some beans myself since they’re so easy and much more tasty (read: garlicky).

If I hadn’t been messing around doing other things as well (more on that tomorrow!) this dinner would have been really quick, effort wise. Everything takes a little while to cook but you can chill out while that’s happening. I guess the fact that I was cooking up something else in the interim is a testament to how little effort the actual dinner is!

A few words about chorizo before I continue. I LOVE chorizo, but what I don’t love is that if you put chorizo IN things it just makes everything taste of paprika and, I think, becomes overbearing and actually makes everything taste boring and samey. It also defeats the point of spending any effort on the other ingredients since it all just ends up tasting of chorizo anyway. So to prevent that, I decided to cook the chorizo separately until crispy because I wanted the texture, and I decided to give it a bit of a Jamie Oliver-style flourish and twist the slices of chorizo up so they got really crisp on the edges. It worked perfectly! Obviously if you’re less adverse to paprika-overload than myself, you could just chop up slices of chorizo or pieces of a chorizo sausage, and add it straight to the beans.

Now, on with the recipe.

Homemade baked beans, roasted potatoes, crispy chorizo and a fried egg

Serves 2

Beans

1 carton or tin cannellini beans, liquid drained but NOT rinsed

1/2 onion

1 or 2 cloves of garlic (depending on how garlicky you like it!)

1 tablespoon oregano

Around 200ml passata or chopped tomatoes

Olive oil

 

Either 2 handfuls of new potatoes or two larger maincrop potatoes, cut into 1.5cm chunks

15-20 slices of chorizo (I had a pack of 15 slices) or a chorizo sausage cut into chunks if you’re putting it in the beans

2 eggs

Oil for frying

Method

First, finely chop the onion and soften it in a pan with some oil. Add the crushed garlic and the herbs, and season. If you’re using chorizo sausage, add it to the pan now and fry it off for a few minutes and let it give off all its flavoured oil. Add the drained beans, stir everything together and then add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and then put in the oven, heated to 200C.

After the beans have been cooking for 10 minutes, put the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Drizzle with oil and put into the oven with the beans.

After 20-30 minutes the potatoes should be looking golden and the beans should have thickened nicely. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and get it nice and hot for the eggs. Meanwhile, if you’re using the slices of chorizo, fold them in half and then half again, and and sit them on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil for ease). Put the chorizo in the oven to crisp up, and after a few minutes, fry the eggs.

Once the eggs are cooked to your liking, just assemble everything and tuck in!

Spinach and ricotta ravioli with pine nuts

I admit it, I’m a huge sucker for kitchen gadgetry, but only where it’s actually useful or is going to do a job that I either wouldn’t be able to do myself or would take me ages by hand. Cue the pasta machine, a present from my husband (then boyfriend) several years ago. I love homemade pasta and I love the process of making it; it’s theraputic and is really much less effort than you might realise. I also like that rolling the pasta through the machine is a two-person job – it’s one of the only kitchen activities I can coax my husband into joining in with (I think he likes turning the crank and fiddling with the knobs (no double entendres intended!)).

If you don’t have a pasta machine then you can most definitely do this by hand! You will just need to roll out the pasta with a rolling pin and then dollop the mixture on to the pasta, cover with another sheet and then seal together. It will be a bit more time consuming though but not too much. To give you an idea of time, from making the pasta to finishing eating the ravioli it was around an hour and a half. Not a huge amount of time for a completely made from scratch dinner!

I wanted to make some ravioli for my dad for a Father’s Day dinner as it’s his favourite thing, so I thought it best to test out the ravioli attachment we got for the pasta machine AGES ago that had previously sat unused, before attempting it on the day. So I thought I’d use spinach and ricotta for the filling as I’m sort of obsessed with spinach at the moment. I just kind of made up the filling so I’ve got no exact measurements – I just kept tasting it until the flavours and the seasoning were right. The amounts I’ve specified below should get you somewhere near the perfect flavoured filling!

You could obviously fill these with whatever you want – just whizz up meat and cheese or tomato, goats cheese and softened red onions, butternut squash and sage… the list is endless. Or go with your favourite type that you would usually buy in the supermarket. It will definitely taste better!

If you want to increase the quantities then for the pasta it’s 100g of flour to each egg, and ‘one egg’ of pasta is roughly enough for one person.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli

Serves 2

Pasta

200g plain 00 flour (you can use ordinary flour but it won’t be as silky smooth. You can get 00 flour now in most supermarkets)

2 large eggs

Pinch of salt

Filling

5 generous handfuls spinach

2/3 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you like it!)

Knob of soft butter

3 heaped dessertspoons ricotta cheese

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce

200ml passata/chopped tomatoes

Half a glass red wine

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tablespoon oregano

Salt and pepper

Pinch of sugar

To serve
Handful of pine nuts

 

Method

For the pasta: Weigh out the flour and tip onto a work surface. Add the salt. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it.

Then, mix the eggs into the flour until everything is combined. Yes this is messy and at times difficult, and I know I said I didn’t mix my pizza dough this way because it’s too hard to cope with. BUT, it’s much easier with eggs because of how gelatinous the whites are – the watery liquid of the pizza dough just runs all over the place  whereas this is much easier to keep under control. ANYWAY, bring everything together and then knead the dough until it’s nice and smooth and elastic. You might need more flour – it depends how absorbent your particular flour is. Just add more if it’s a bit sticky (flouring your hands isn’t a bad idea either). Once the dough is smooth form it into a ball and cover with clingfilm. Leave for 30 minutes (unrefrigerated) for the gluten in the flour to do its thing.

Whilst the pasta is resting you can get on with everything else. For the filling, wilt the spinach in a pan with some olive oil. Then, add the spinach and all the other ingredients into a processor (or if you don’t have a processor then mince the garlic, finely chop the spinach and then mix everything together, beating in the softened butter). Once it’s all pureed decant it into a bowl and put to one side.

For the tomato sauce, fry off the garlic in the oil and then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes until hot, then leave the heat on low to keep the sauce warm. Put the pine nuts in a dry pan and toast until golden.

When the dough is ready, either roll out in a pasta machine if you have it, or by hand. The pasta machine is SO fun though, if you’re serious about pasta then I strongly advise buying one! This is the one I have – the ravioli thing that comes with it was crap though, it all stuck to the tray and I couldn’t get it out, hence why we got the ravioli attachment! Below are some pictures showing the stages of stretching out the dough and then putting it into the ravioli maker. The ravioli maker did make the filling ooze out the sides a bit – I think this is because the filling was quite loose and goopy. Next time I might make it thicker  and stiffer so that it doesn’t spread so much when the machine squeezes it through.

Whether you’ve used a machine or done it by hand, once you’ve filled the ravioli you need to leave the pasta to dry before you cut it. If you don’t let it dry then it just falls apart when you try and lift it into the pan – as it dries out it gets less fragile. You don’t want to ruin all your hard work at this stage! You should only need to leave it for 15 minutes or so. I took this time to do some clearing up as by this stage my kitchen closely resembled a bomb site.

Once the pasta is dry, put it into a large pan of very salty water, and boil for just a few minutes. It’s worth gathering all the ravioli up onto a plate and sliding it into the water all at once – if you do it piece by piece then the ones you put in first will be cooked by the time you’ve got them all in! NB: don’t put them into a pile before the pasta is dry – it will all stick together in a lump and will be good for nothing! (I’ve done this exact thing with tagliatelle – not good) The pasta won’t take long at all to cook. When you drain it in the colander, drizzle it with some olive oil to stop it sticking together and shake it well to make sure it’s all coated with the oil. Then add the ravioli to the sauce and mix everything together.

Decant into bowls/plates and scatter with the pine nuts to serve. Enjoy!

Spaghetti carbonara

Carbonara is the dinner I cook if I have nothing else in the house, but I don’t want to go down the road of fish fingers and beans (which is my default ‘I can’t even face actually TOUCHING the food’ dinner). I tend to always keep a pack of bacon in the fridge, because it keeps for ages and can be used in so many different ways. I’ve also normally got eggs, unless I’ve used them all, along with a block of parmesan (currently I’ve got a block the size of my head in the fridge, you can never have enough), so it’s a great fallback dish.

I know it’s not going to win any ‘healthiest dinner’ awards, but it’s really really quick to make (it only takes as long as it takes to boil the pasta, plus about 3 minutes more), and it tastes amazing. I think it’s elegant enough to serve for a dinner party, and it’s a great one to cook if you’ve got a friend coming over because it’s so quick there is plenty of time for chat and there’s no prep or anything involved!

I love the combination of salty, creamy and cheesy, and the nutmeg is the perfect sweet, spiced note on top of everything else. Nutmeg always reminds me of the rice puddings my mum used to make, it’s one of the most nostalgic foods I can think of! You can use the traditional cubes of pancetta, although I tend to find them quite tough sometimes because of the chunks of fat (I’m REALLY fussy about fat on meat, I usually cut most of it off if it’s not crispy), so I use rashers of pancetta or smoked bacon instead and I think I like the texture of this more with the silky pasta. I also always use linguini for this, I suppose then I shouldn’t be calling it Spaghetti Carbonara, but I really don’t think Linguine Carbonara has the same ring to it…

I don’t know where this recipe is from; I’ve probably taken elements from here there and everywhere. I don’t bother weighing anything out or any of that annoying business, this is relaxed cooking at its finest.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 2

4/5 rashers pancetta/smoked bacon
200g spaghetti/linguine (a reasonable handful)
A knob of butter
1/2 glass white wine
2 large eggs
A handful of grated parmesan
A pinch of nutmeg, grated
A splash of double cream if you have it
Pepper

Method

If you time this right you can do everything in just the time it takes to cook the pasta. The first thing I do is put some water on to boil and start cooking the pasta. Once the pasta is in the pan, snip the bacon into a large frying pan (large enough to take the cooked pasta) with a drizzle of olive oil and fry until crisp.

While the bacon is frying and the pasta is boiling, beat together the eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, pepper (you don’t need salt because the bacon and the cheese are salty enough) and cream if you’re using it (you don’t have to but it makes it richer and creamier. I only use it if I have some in the fridge).

Once the bacon is ready, pour in the white wine and simmer until it’s reduced down and syrupy. Hopefully by this point the pasta will be ready. Drain it, turn the heat down on the bacon pan, and add the knob of butter to the bacon and winey juices. Add the pasta to the bacon pan and toss in the butter and juices until the pasta has absorbed it all.

Take the pan off the heat, and add the eggy mixture. Toss through until it’s formed a thick, silky sauce all around the pasta. If you don’t take the pan off the heat, the egg in the sauce will cook and it will go really weird. There will be enough heat in the pasta and the pan to cook the sauce enough.

Now, serve and enjoy! Ultimate comfort food.

Oven-baked risotto with leeks, asparagus, bacon and poached egg

I love risotto, but I rarely make it. It’s one of those things that I eat while my husband is away because he’s not overly keen on it (another thing I don’t understand), but also a lot of the time I just can’t face standing by the stove for 20 minutes stirring it until it’s cooked. I know it’s not exactly hard work, but a lot of the time when I’ve just got home from work I just want to shove something in the oven and sit down until it’s cooked.

As you can imagine, when I saw the recipe for an oven baked risotto I got a bit excited. This opens up SO many possibilities, not only to eat it more often, but also to experiment with more elaborate ingredients. If I’m not standing stirring the risotto, I can be cooking up some other things to put in. I went to a restaurant in Birmingham called Bank a few months ago, and had the most amazing haddock and leek risotto with a poached egg on top which was complete heaven. I LOVE poached eggs on anything, it seems common sense to add one to the top of a risotto so the yolk mixes in to all the creamy rice, yummmm.

Risottos are such a great way to use up leftover bits of veg that otherwise won’t go very far, or they can be made into something delicious with just some freezer ingredients (peas, broad beans, french beans etc). As long as it’s got lots of cheese in, it’s a winner. I’d recreated the above risotto (without the haddock since I didn’t have it) already, but I fancied trying out a baked version to which I could also add some crispy bacon that can be cooked in the oven alongside the risotto. The result was nothing short of AMAZING. It was so easy and quick, and the resulting risotto was super creamy and the rice was cooked to just the right consistency. I did, however, sustain the most painful burn I’ve EVER had, because I made the foolish mistake of grabbing the saucepan handle when I was stirring the risotto right after it had come out the oven. After running it under cold water for ages I finally ate the (albeit lukewarm) risotto with a wet lump of tissue stuck on the burn before I could run to my resident first aider (my husband’s cousin who lives opposite) who administered me with some rather amazing burn gel. Who knew being a food blogger was so dangerous?

Injuries aside, I will definitely be making this again, and again and again. With loads of different ingredients. It’s SO easy and convenient. What’s not so convenient is the burnt on milk in the saucepan but hopefully that’s nothing an overnight soak won’t fix. I got the recipe from the BBC Good Food website but tweaked it a little. This is how I did it.

Oven baked risotto with leeks, asparagus, bacon and poached egg

Serves 2

1 medium leek
Knob of butter
Olive oil
150g risotto rice (I used arborio)
350ml vegetable stock
125ml milk (I used semi skimmed but use whatever you drink!)
Around 10 asparagus spears
4 rashers bacon
2 eggs

Method

Melt the butter in a pan which can go into the oven, and add a drop of olive oil. Slice the leeks and add them to the pan and cook them gently for 5 minutes or so to soften. Once the leeks are soft, add the rice and stir. Wait until the rice has absorbed the butter and then add the stock and the milk. Bring everything to the boil and then cover the pan with a lid/foil and put into the oven at 200C.

The risotto should take about 18 minutes to cook. Chop the asparagus into pieces and get a pan of water ready for the egg. When the risotto’s got about 5 minutes left, add the asparagus spears and add a little more water/milk to the risotto if it looks a bit dry. Put the bacon rashers on a baking tray and put them into the oven.

Once the bacon has been in a few minutes, poach the eggs. Once everything is cooked it’s just a case of piling everything on top of each other, and seasoning the risotto to taste. I would normally have snipped the bacon into pieces once cooked so that I could easily eat this with a fork, but in my burned, fragile state I didn’t get round to that! You can, of course, put some parmesan in/on this – I didn’t this time in the interest of trying to be healthy but normally I would fill it with cheese!

I will never go back to making a risotto the normal way now, I’m coverted for life!

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole is one of those things I don’t think I could ever tire of eating. For one, it’s got SAUSAGES in. Sausages are my absolute weakness, and the reason I could never be a vegetarian (I tried vegetarianism when I was about 10 years old, in one of my ~save the animals~ phases, and made it about 4 days before I caved because I wanted to eat sausages despite LOVING Linda McCartney veggie sausages). ANYWAY, I love it with any kind of sausages, and with onions in the batter it becomes this wondrous creation that combines everything I love most. My husband won’t eat bits of onion in ANYTHING though, so I either coax the onions onto one side of the tin which I’ll be having, or just use pork and leak sausages which, in my opinion, are every bit as good.

This recipe is from Nigella’s How to Eat (I worry that the more I post here, the more obvious it’s going to be that I mostly only use Nigella recipes for EVERYTHING); previously I used a recipe from my beloved Dairy Cookbook, but the yorkshire pudding always turned out flat. After a while I figured it was the recipe that wasn’t right rather than any fault of my own, so I hunted out a new recipe and as Nigella never lets me down I figured she was the obvious place to start. This recipe uses way more eggs than the previous one I used, which is obviously the key to this turning into an epic giant batter. She also says to whisk the eggs and milk first, then add the flour which is backwards from the usual batter-making method. I’m not sure how it works but it definitely does, and I’ve seen Jamie Oliver do the same recently so I can only see this as a positive thing.

This amount of batter would serve 4, but I make 3/4 of the quantity for two people and, if you’re really hungry, it is possible to eat it all. The rest of the time, I leave some of the batter in the tin and eat it for pudding with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with golden syrup (it is for this reason that I use butter as the fat rather than dripping or vegetable oil which I think tastes particularly disgusting in this scenario). If you’ve never eaten yorkshire pudding this way, I IMPLORE you to do so.

Toad in the Hole

Serves 4

8/12 sausages (depending on how many you want each, obviously)

300ml milk

4 eggs

250g flour

Salt and pepper

A knob of butter

Half an onion, sliced (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to around 200C and cook the sausages in a roasting tin for around 20 minutes until they’re brown on all sides.

Meanwhile, whisk the milk and eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Leave the mixture for about 15 minutes whilst the sausages are cooking.

Once the sausages are brown all over, if you’re adding onions to the batter then slice them up and add them into the roasting tin. Turn the oven up to 220C (whether you’ve added onions or not). After the onions have started to cook (or once the oven is hot), add the knob of butter and return the tin to the oven until the butter is sizzling and hot.

While you’re waiting for the butter to get hot, sieve the flour into the egg and milk mixture and whisk until it’s a smooth, thick batter. Pour the batter into the tin and cook for around 20 minutes until risen and golden!

I know it’s traditional to serve this with onion gravy, but I’ve gotta say, I’m not a huge fan. I’m not really a gravy person unless it’s with a roast or something. When I was a child I went round to a friend’s house for tea and was served this with mashed potato and baked beans and it was fabulous. I’ve never looked back.

Return of the barbecue beans: cornbread topping

Remember when I made this post about barbecue beans, I said I was going to serve them with a barbecue pork tenderloin and cornbread muffins? Well, I had planned to cook this for our friends who came to stay this weekend.

I couldn’t remember which Nigella book the cornbread muffin recipe was from (I hadn’t made them for literally YEARS), so I took a guess at Feast. I looked in the index for cornbread, and there was no cornbread muffin recipe there, but there WAS a recipe for chilli with a cornbread topping. I thought this sounded much better than the muffins (and would be easier to eat as part of a finished dish) so I made sure I had all the ingredients.

When it came to making it, the recipe specified the amount of ingredients for a ‘very large pan’, as the chilli recipe was to serve around 30 people. I was making the beans in my Le Creuset 20cm casserole, so I decided to half the mixture after thinking that something double the size of my casserole would be pretty large.

So I made the batter and spread it on the top of the beans and grated the cheese on top. When I took it out of the oven it had risen to the top of the pan, which was slightly suspicious as the beans had barely half-filled it. When we cut into it I could instantly see my error – the cornbread was about 5 inches thick, and to top that it had absorbed a lot of the sauce from the beans (obviously this is why they say never try anything you’ve not made before when you have guests!). BUT, despite these setbacks, it was really tasty and the cheesy topping was particularly good. In future I could half the mixture again and probably still have some to spare. I grossly misunderestimated how much the polenta would swell on cooking.

So, below is the recipe as it appears in the book, in the correct quantities for a VERY LARGE pan. You can reduce accordingly.

Cornbread Topping

Serves A LOT OF PEOPLE

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

650g cornmeal

4 tablespoons plain flour

6 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

750ml buttermilk

4 eggs

2 teaspoons honey

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

150g Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

The method couldn’t be simpler – you just weigh out the dry ingredients and put them into a bowl. Whisk up the wet ingredients and then combine the two to make a thick batter.

Spoon (or dollop) this over the top of the beans and then grate over the cheese. Put into an oven heated to 220C for about 20-30 minutes until it’s risen and golden on top. Enjoy!