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Meat pieces, now almost always sausages, baked in Pudding Batter, in the manner of Yorkshire Pudding. Served with gravy and vegetables.

The origin of the name is obscure, but seems to be quite ancient. Though it is probably not as ancient as 'The Wit's miscellany' (p118) suggested in 1774: "a certain Pudding call'd "A Toad in an Hole" ... the original Receipts for making them (if Tradition don't lye) were given them by their Great Benefactor King John who had them from King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table"

Toad in the Hole
Image: Robert Gibert.

Earlier receipts (Moor 1823, Soyer 1845, etc) use whole meat joints, so that in 1797 the writer Fanny Burney could complain that Mrs. Siddons at Sadler's Wells "seems as ill fitted as the dish they call a toad in a hole... putting a noble sirloin of beef into a poor paltry batter-pudding". It seems to have settled into the sausage form in the 1920's. Compare also with the historic 'Wesel'.

Toad in the hole is also game played in pubs in East Sussex where four brass coins or 'toads' are thrown towards holes on a table with a lead surface and an 18th Century almond biscuit

Original Receipt in 'The English art of cookery, according to the present practice' by Richard Briggs (1788)

Toad in a Hole
MIX a pound of flour with a pint and a half of milk and four eggs into a batter put in a little salt beaten ginger and a little grated nutmeg put it into a deep dish that you intend to send it to table in take the veiney piece of beef sprinkle it with salt put it into the batter bake it two hours and send it up hot.

Original Receipt in 'A Shilling Cookery for The People' by Alexis Soyer (Soyer 1845);

165. A Fried Toad in the Hole.- Take a steak of the size required, not less in thickness than what I have before stated, and partly fry on both sides; have ready a pint of second-class batter, as No. 470; remove the steak for a minute, add more fat in the pan, put in the batter when it is beginning to become as thick as paste, place the steak in the middle, raise the frying-pan a sufficient height from the fire on a trivet, so as to cook gently; turn it over; or put the pan in the oven; when well set it is done; serve on a dish, the bottom uppermost.

Clearly, M. Soyer was something of an enthusiast...

Original Receipt in 'A Shilling Cookery for The People' by Alexis Soyer (Soyer 1845);

215. Toad in the Hole.- No. 1.- May be made in either a baking-dish, pie-dish, or tin. Get about two pounds of trimmings of either beef, mutton, veal, or lamb, not too fat, and cut them into pieces, each about the size of a small egg; season with salt and pepper, make about two quarts of batter, second class; grease the pan well, put in the meat and batter, and place in a slow oven for nearly two hours, and serve hot.

No. 2, with Potatoes.- Proceed as before. When the pan is ready put about two pounds of previously boiled potatoes, cut in slices, and bake as before.

No. 3, with Peas.- Proceed as before, only adding about one quart of good green peas, previously boiled; broad beans may be used the same way.

No. 4.- Remains of cooked meat may be done the same way, but it will take less time to cook.

No. 5.- Calves', or any brains, previously parboiled in water) and the skin removed, well seasoned with pepper and salt, and a few slices of bacon added to the batter, make a very delicate dish.

No. 6.- Six larks or twelve sparrows, with a slice of bacon skewered round each, with the batter, and put into the oven for two hours.

No. 7.- Ox cheek and sheep's heads, previously cooked and nicely seasoned, with the addition of a little chopped onions added to the batter, is an economical dish. A few slices of cooked potatoes may be added.

No. 8.- Truss a rabbit for roasting, make a stuffing with the liver, &c., chopped up, bread-crumbs, beef-suet, and seasoning; stuff the rabbit; lay on the bottom of the pan a thick slice of fat bacon, and over that a slice, one inch thick, of beefsteak, and then the rabbit, to which add two quarts of batter; place in the oven for two hours, and serve hot. This is enough for a large family. The rabbit may be cut in pieces; boiled cauliflower may be added.

No. 9.- Remains of previously cooked hare may be done in the same way, with some currant-jelly in the stuffing.

No. 10.- A blade-bone of pork, two onions, cut in slices, and four potatoes sliced, pepper and salt, and one quart of batter put over them; place in the oven one hour, and serve hot

No. 11.- Remains of salt pork, or any roast meat, may all be done in this way, and varied according to the taste of the partaker.

Remains of any kind of fish may also be done thus, with previously boiled potatoes.

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