Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Toad in the Hole - Guaranteed

I want everyone to be able to enjoy this delicious dish.

It's usually thought of as a quintessential English dish, but was actually invented by an Italian, its history is documented, and it's not even that old, less than 200 years old.

When I learned this I tried it with Italian sausage and I've never looked back. Where I live in Ontario you can't get a good English sausage for love nor money anyway, so, problem solved. You can use any sausage, and those with a herb flavour are wonderful, if you can obtain them.

Anyway, there are three steps that are vital to make this dish a success.

1. The right batter.

2. A HOT pan.

3. A HOT oven.

For this reason (all this heat) this is not a recipe suitable for children. Please bear that in mind.

OK, so pre-heating that oven is critical. Turn it up to HOT. If it isn't 100% clean it may even smoke as stuff burns off the inside, vent that out if need be, LOL. So for an electric oven you need it at 450F/230C.

While it heats up, arrange your sausages in a deep dish, such as a lasagne dish. Glass is easier to clean afterwards. Bake the sausages until they start to change colour. At this point THEY are hot. It's a good idea to place this on a larger oven tray just in case.

While the sausages cook, make your batter. Yorkshire pudding batter is all based on proportion by volume so you need a couple of measuring jugs. The following amount will be enough for four people over about half a dozen sausages.

Break 4 eggs into a cup, see where it measures to.

You will need the same amount of flour and the same amount of milk.

Put the flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl, and beat the eggs in well. Then beat the milk in slowly.

Now take your hot pan from the oven, run the fat from the sausages around the sides, then pour the batter in and put the whole thing back in the oven. 

Do be careful with the instructions in italics there. It's very hot.

It is a matter of considerable argument among enthusiasts as to whether the oven should be turned down during the cooking time. I find that it can get too dark/crispy if you don't, so I give it 5 minutes to rise then I reduce the heat to 200C. It takes 20-30 minutres or so to cook depending on the size of the pan, but don't worry, it won't deflate if you open the door to check on it towards the end. It's the START that needs that punch of heat. So after 20 minutes, you can safely look, and you don't want to burn it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

How To Make Soup

Bizarre, I thought I'd already done this, but I can't find it, so here it is.

Soup is the most basic item of food you'll ever make. You can serve it as a lunch, a starter, a main course, whatever. You can use leftovers or you can buy fancy ingredients. None of this matters. Soup is a structural thing.

You need:

1. A BASE. That is to say, a blend of flavours that will work with anything. In classic French cookery this is a mirepoix. Cut up some onions (or leeks), some carrots, and some celery, and sauté them slowly/gently (i.e. low heat) in a fat of some sort (butter/oil/any old fat) until they are soft. Other cultures use different bases. Maybe peppers or garlic. Doesn't matter. You need something related to onions and a couple of other things. You can research/study this but you won't go far wrong with onion-carrot-celery, trust me.

2. LIQUID. This can be stock, or milk, or tomato juice, or any combination thereof. In theory it could be water if everything else is very flavourful, but you have to know what you are doing, so if you are a beginner USE STOCK. It can come from a stock cube, so don't panic. Just make sure that when you make it up it tastes fine AS IS.

3. The MAIN ELEMENT. This can be vegetables, or meat, or some of each, singly or in a mix. It could be just potato, or it could be a medley of all sorts. On Boxing Day, or the day after Thanksgiving I make soup from the leftovers. So, having done the above, I throw in turkey, roast potatoes, sprouts, carrots, peas, gravy, and even leftover cranberry sauce, bread, and stuffing. This is the beauty of soup. It can absorb anything. I have even thrown in leftover sausage rolls. You can literally make leftover soup from whatever is in your fridge. growing season you can get rid of all whatever glut you have.

4. SEASONING. Depending on your stock you may need to add salt. You will definitely benefit from a little pepper. Taste as you go. Herbs? Depends on what is in there. If it's tomato, then basil is good. If it's pork? Add sage. If it's chicken? Thyme or tarragon is good, etc. If you like it you can add spices, including curry spices (potato soup and curry spices are a marriage made in heaven.) Fish? YES FISH. Fish soup is amazing...add parsley. Etc. What do you normally add with this item?

5. THICKENING. If you are seeking a thick soup and your soup is runny, then add potato or flour. If you want to make it a main course soup you can add rice, pasta or something trendy like quinoa. These can be blended as can any/all of the above. If you add flour, stir it into a little cold liquid first or you may get lumps. Then add this mix while stirring.

That's it. That's soup. Any soup you ever enjoyed was made this way. Sure, you can use cream/yoghurt/sour cream at the end, or wine or vinegar to change the flavour, but this is basically it. Leftovers? They go in as #3.