But when one season closes, another one opens. My silver lining to umbrella season is it's time for Sunday Roasts, hefty lasagnes, wholesome curries and all those comfort foods that distract from the cold outside. I don't necessarily eat out less, I just savour the time even more when I can stay indoors and pour my efforts into chunky, autumnal dishes.
So here's the scene. Saturday night in with the boy and we've already cracked open a bottle of red. Cue the bottle of Greek (yes Greek!) red...
We had bought this heady, spicy and smoky Gerovassiliou about 3 years ago and decided the time had come to honour it. It required a food partner that was equally voluptuous and perhaps slightly salty to meet the spice. Something to soak in the punch. It could only be something wanton like a Toad in the Hole!
Toad in the Hole is one of those quintessentially humble English dishes that has recently been blessed with some reinvention. Though considered rather stodgy and cursed with a completely uncharismatic name, this classic is one which can be pleasantly gentrified when given the right touch. Rather easy to make, the dish is assembled by placing sausages in batter, and whacked into a hot oven. The batter then swells and rises like a mighty Yorkshire Pudding. Armed with a Nigel Slater recipe, I was determined to take this baby to great heights!
And did this baby rise to the occasion! Puffalicious perfection, if I do say do myself! The secret in getting those cavernous highs is the age-old one, make sure the tray in which the batter will go into has smoking hot oil. When the batter hits the oil, you should hear a gentle sizzle and the edges should start bubbling.
I imagine being a little ant climbing up and down those savoury undulations!
And tumbling into squidgy pockets where the batter is still a soft and welcome casing to the hearty sausages..
Add a bold, dark green vegetable like cavolo nero for contrast, drown with lots of gravy and this is bliss!
I know this post sounds incredibly narcissistic, me going on about my own cookery; it's really a tribute to this underdog of British cuisine. And I would be nowhere without Nigel's trusted recipe. If I may offer some of my own tips: 1) Smoking Hot. I can't say it enough for the oil. Goose fat with it's high smoking point will get you there. 2) You don't have to use bacon to wrap the sausages like Nigel does, but it does pay to take off the skins. This means the batter doesn't slip off those lovelies. 3) Brown the sausages and use it's juices to make the gravy. If you saute some onions in the same pan as the sausages, when soft, add some diced cox apple. Play off the pork-and-apple partnership and add stock, reduce and voila you'll have a delicious gravy. Boo to the upcoming winter blues!