Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Seven - Toad in the Hole

I start this post with a confession: Week Seven of my cooking challenge was delayed for a week. Naughty I know, but I had a birthday and all sorts of eating out fun last week, which made it rather difficult to sneak in a new recipe. Perhaps I ought to try to get two new recipes into Week 8 to make up for this?

To make up for the lateness of Week Seven, I decided to attempt something that I have wanted to try for ages: Toad in the Hole. It is one of my all-time-favourite dishes and when the very lovely Emma Lemonade offered to send me a tried and tested recipe, I had no choice but to give it a go. Emma got the recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and I couldn't believe how simple it appeared. Essentially, it was a case of cook sausages, make batter, add batter to sausages and roast!

More specifically, it went like this:


2 tablespoons oil
450g (1 lb) good quality pork sausages. (I used Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Pork and Caramelised Red Onion Sausages and they were flipping delicious!)


125g (4oz) plain flour
2 eggs
300ml (half a pint) milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme (I used thyme)


1.  Heat the oil in a small roasting tin on the hob, tilting the tin to oil the sides.  Add the sausages and place in the oven at 220°C (gas mark 7) for 10 minutes, or until the sausages are browned and the fat is very hot.

2.  Meanwhile, make the batter.  Sift the flour into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add the eggs with a little of the milk.  Whisk the eggs and the milk together, gradually incorporating the flour to make a paste.  Beat in the remaining milk and herbs to make a smooth batter.  (On Emma's advice I did this bit using a handheld electric blender, which I think saved a lot of arm-ache!)

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (gas mark 6).  Pour the batter into the roasting tin around the sausages and cook for a further 30-35 minutes, or until the batter is well risen, golden and crisp.

Because it is just hubby and me here, I halved all the ingredients to make my Toad in the Hole and used a small roasting tray. I served it up with two of my favourite veggies - carrots and broccoli - and lashings of gravy.

Here's the obligatory piccie:

 Unfortunately, after this picture was taken, the batter sunk a bit around the sausages. If anyone has any tips on stopping this from happening, please let me know.

Even after the sinking, this recipe gets a massive thumbs up from me. It was simple to make, delicious and perfect for the autumn. This is reflected in the scores:

8/10 from Hubby - he was more disappointed than I was by the sinking, but still loved this recipe. The choice of sausage went down well too.
9/10 from me. I just love Toad in the Hole!

I'd like to say a big thank you to Emma Lemonade for sharing this recipe with me. If you have any fabulous autumnal recipes you think I should try, I'd love to hear from you too!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Six - Minted Shepherd's Pie

Week Six of my little cooking challenge saw me attempting a recipe without...a recipe! Last weekend was the first really autumnal one we have had this year. The weather was chilly and drizzly and really called out for some proper comfort food. And what better comfort food is there than a great big plate of Shepherd's Pie? Mmm..yummy!

I didn't use a recipe for my attempt at Shepherd's Pie as I felt that it was something I should be able to work out for myself. So, I set about thinking what would go into the perfect Shepherd's Pie, and this is what I came up with:

Ingredients (serves 4):

500g lamb mince
1 large onion (chopped)
3 carrots (sliced)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Some stock (enough to keep everything moist whilst cooking)
Some dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
5 white potatoes
Frozen peas
Splash of milk
Knob of butter
Sprinkling of cheddar cheese
And the best secret ingredient I have ever thought of.....2 teaspoons of mint sauce


1. Preheat oven to 190°.
2. Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan - add the onion and carrots and fry on a medium heat until softened.
3. Add the mince and brown.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and some stock - enough to keep everything nice and moist as it cooks.
5. Season with herbs and salt and pepper.
6. Add the mint sauce!
7. Simmer for 25 - 30 mins

8. Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Boil for 15 - 20 mins (until soft).
9. Drain the potatoes and put back in the pan.
10. Add a splash of milk and a small knob of butter and salt and pepper to taste.
11. Mash!

12.  Mix the frozen peas into the mince mixture.
13. Pour the mince mixture into an ovenproof dish.
14. Cover with mashed potato and fluff up using a fork.
15. Sprinkle cheddar over the top.
16. Put it all in the oven and cook for about 30 mins or until the top is golden.
17. Serve with a smile!

Here's what mine turned out like:

 The scores:

10/10 from my husband. Apparently the mint sauce was a 'genuis idea' and made this the best Shepherd's Pie he has ever tried.

10/10 from me! Well, I couldn't disagree with a word he said!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week 5 - Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Week 5 of my cooking challenge saw me cooking something I have wanted to make for ages, and which I truly believe all Domestic Goddesses should be able to make, especially as autumn looms. It is something I always thought would be oh-so-difficult, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Apple and Blackberry Crumble was...well...simple!!

I used a Rachel Allen recipe and, as usual with Rachel, this was a good choice. The recipe is easy to follow and doesn't use any silly techniques. It's a case of chopping, heating, sieving, rubbing, and baking. And that is all. It did involve getting my hands dirty, but that's half the fun of baking, isn't it?! I am pleased I remembered to take off my shiny rings before getting stuck in though...

And what was the result?

A most scrumptious pudding that was eaten with giant grins over two days! Thumbs up!

The scores for Week 5:

Hubby: 10/10
Me: 10/10

Job's a good'n!