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Saturday 20 April 2013

Vegetarian Toad in the Hole

No, strangely, this is not a ready-made dish... though, given the ingredients, it might as well be. It has been previously noted that I'm a bit of a fan of Toad in the Hole, but the Iceland variety is not something I can serve up as a quick evening meal when there's a vegetarian in the house. Except, these days, there are vegetarian sausages, such as those that were used in S&M Rodeo #11, meaning that if I get a hankering for Toad in the Hole, but need to make a dinner suitable for a non-carnivore, this is still a quick and satisfying option. Additionally, being a home-made dish, it can be made large enough for two and leave at least one portion for an even quicker snack lunch the following day.

  • 1 six-pack of Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages
  • 1/2 sachet of Aunt Bessie's Homebake Yorkshire Pudding Mix
  • Cooking Oil
Preparation Time: approximately 30-35 minutes

Tools Required:
  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • A Stirring Implement, such as a Whisk or Fork
  • Large Baking Dish
The Process:
I'll start this off by mentioning the big mistake I made in preparing this first attempt at a proper, full-size home-made Toad in the Hole: The vegetarian sausages are in the freezer section of the supermarket, are stored in the freezer at home... and I put them into the batter pretty much straight from the freezer, as if I was grilling them normally. For future reference, it's probably best if you let them thaw in advance.

So, to begin, lightly oil the interior of your baking dish - just pour a little in, then spread it around using kitchen roll - then place it into the oven.

Preheat the oven and baking dish to 200C (220C if not fan-assisted), then empty half the sachet of Yorkshire Pudding mix into a small mixing bowl, and add about 125ml (something in the region of a quarter of a pint, half the amount used for a full sachet), stirring thoroughly. Once the oven and dish are up to temperature, take the dish out and pour in the batter. The base will begin to cook instantly - this is a good thing, as it means your toads will have a solid base to their hole. Or something.

Line up the sausages at regular-ish intervals within the dish, then just dump the dish back into the oven for about 25-30 minutes, checking regularly to avoid accidentally burning it. The batter will rise around the sausages and will be golden brown when ready, but it won't take long after that for it to start to burn.

The Results:
The reason I warn against using sausages fresh from the freezer cabinet is that, being rather cold, they interfere with the proper rising of the batter around them. From the photos below, it is possible to discern that the batter rose very well around the edges, but spectacularly failed between the sausages.

That said, it all ended up tasting pretty good, and I do have a thing for not-fully-cooked batter, so I had no complaints. The sausages are fairly well seasoned as standard, and taste excellent in this. For serving, this was cut into three - meaning two good-sized sausages each for my girlfriend and I, and one portion left over - but it could be equally well quartered if the accompaniment is substantial enough.

Served with a bit of veg, this made a pretty decent, quick evening meal and, considering it takes about the same time to prepare as the frozen, ready-made kind I often pick up from Iceland, I'm half tempted to make this my default method of making Toad in the Hole in future.

And, if I'm cooking for myself, I could even use meat-based sausages.

In the righthand picture, note the way the batter has risen and turned golden brown around the edges, but stayed quite anaemic - and really not cooked very well - in between the sausages.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Adventures in Omelette #6 & 7: Spinach & Feta / Mozarella & Olive Frittatas

A dual post, possibly to make up for another very long break - I honestly didn't think it had been two and a half months since my last post, but at least I've been otherwise occupied rather than just being completely lazy.

I mean, I've been completely lazy as well, but managing to get a few things done - including some cooking - along the way.

These two were quick Frittata experiments with my girlfriend, who's vegetarian and so not very interested in the meaty/fishy kind of thing I normally throw together. Naturally, the process is the same, so I won't go into details... you may simply revel in the photographs and read the brief comments which accompany them.

This one in particular is essentially one of my normal frittata concoctions without the meat. Spinach and feta can go along with salmon or tuna, certainly, so it was nothing unusual, really.

If I remember correctly, this one ended up being either five or six eggs, simply because I was using the larger frying pan to ensure two decent portions. Many ready-made things one tends to find in shops consider a 20cm pan adequate for serving two... I do not. I prefer a proper portion, thank you very much.
Of course, many of those ready-made things assume you're going to be serving the frittata with something additional - a salad, perhaps... I do not. I prefer omelettes and frittatas to be the whole meal, in and of themselves, perhaps accounting for my preference for larger portions.

The end result was just as tasty as it would have been with the addition of meat or fish, just that little bit lighter, and without all the fuss of scooping out the suspicious-looking meaty/fishy bits. An excellent, quick, light lunch.

Mozarella and Olive, meanwhile, was a semi-deliberate attempt at something even lighter. Mozarella is a very soft, creamy cheese, so it seems as ideal for omelettes and fritattas as it does for pizza topping. Olives provide a little bite.

This frittata seemed to rise a little more (and a little more evenly), possibly because I turned it under the grill a few times - looking at the way my grilled food comes out, it sometimes appears that one side is more effective than the other.
There were two downsides to using mozarella as the cheese component in this particular fritatta. First, its tendency to form long strings when pieces are cut off and separated. Second, it's an incredibly light, mild, creamy cheese... so it didn't add much by way of flavour to the end result. Not to say this wasn't tasty... just that the olives and the eggs were really the only things providing any actual flavour. I suspect that a mixture of black and green olives, or some other additional component, would have been worth considering for this version.
Both of these turned out well, and certainly filled a lunchtime hole but, in purely flavour terms, the former is the clear winner. Both the spinach and the feta offered the most bite, not to mention a little more variation in texture. The latter recipe certainly needed a little something extra, whether it be something as simple as seasoning, an additional cheese, or more chunky ingredients to supplement the olives in the otherwise creamy mass.

This calls for some experimentation!