International House of Pancakes! Toad-In-The-Hole

Today’s pancake journey takes us to Jolly Old England. I promised you a week of international pancakes and I am trying to deliver; thereby proving that all nations – indeed all cultures have some version of a pancake in their food traditions. Great Britain is certainly no exception. This is Toad-In-The-Hole and it is DAY 2.

I chose this pancake because it is classic pub food. It has the oddball name though, and I’ll admit that is part of its allure to me. It is traditionally made with pork sausages (bangers) and a rich batter of flour, milk, and eggs. As this batter bakes, it gets puffed up, Yorkshire pudding style. The result is a beautifully browned, raised crust that encompasses the meat.

Do you ever hang out in pubs? I don’t know where you live, but updated versions of the classic pub are popping up like toadstools all over Los Angeles. I was recently in one of the self-proclaimed “gastro-pubs” and noticed Toad-In-The-Hole being served.

Now I have a confession, until that day I had a very mistaken idea of what a true-to-the-Brits Toad-In-The-Hole actually was! I’d always called the egg that is fried in the hole in the middle of a piece of bread by the moniker Toad-In-The-Hole. But that’s incorrect. That dish is properly called Chicken-In-A-Basket, or Eggs-In-A-Basket. So when I saw a proper version of Toad-In-The-Hole being served my first shocked thought was, that looks nothing like a toad to me!


breakfast sausageWell then, why’s it called Toad-In-The-Hole if no toads are involved? Great question! Well, as is so common in these stories. The answer to that question is that no one really knows for sure where the name came from. Theories (of course) abound. With the most common theory being my initial reaction that it must somehow bear a resemblance to a toad sticking its head out of a hole; however, as I said, I think we can rule this theory out because it’s simply ridiculous. If they wanted to name it by the creature and environment it most resembled I am quite sure they would call this dish “Worms-In-The-Mud”!

I have also read that there was an 18th-century pub game that involved tossing disks into holes across a table. It was called “Frog-in-the-Hole”, which eventually morphed into “Toad-in-the-Hole”. However, this theory seems equally shaky to me, as it in no way explains how the name of a game became associated with a recipe.

So sadly we are left with a rather disgusting possibility that may not be fit for proper society – but I will pass the information along in the interest of scholastic fairness and let you decide for yourself. Before I continue let me just say this story is a bit too potty-mouthed for my taste. Other than heck, gosh and hell and an occasional damn. I honestly believe there are more intelligent ways of making a point than resorting to cuss words. It’s not that I am a prude, it just seems so unnecessary to me in general.

But I am a grown up so I can determine when inappropriate language is well appropriate. This is one of those times because the only way to tell this story is by using words that Sup! considers less than dainty!

toad in the holeIt seems most plausible that the name Toad-In-The-Hole may be is a slightly more polite corruption of “Turd-In-The-Hole”.

So turd or toad, I just don’t know. Both are indeed off-putting, but if you try to find the humor in the story it makes the whole thing more palatable. Because truthfully there is nothing disgusting about this dish. In fact, it’s quite comforting and delicious.

At least one thing is for sure in my mind; this dish probably started as a way to stretch a small amount of meat into feeding an entire family. Because when you make this you will see that the batter absorbs all of the sausage juices and fat, making for a rich and delicious one-pot meal.

I made this recipe with standard breakfast sausages. Not quite an authentic “banger”, but a reasonable substitute nonetheless. I also prepped the hot pan with vegetable oil rather than the more traditional meat lard or bacon fat. Though I stayed true to its history by including a recipe for a traditional onion sauce, I strayed once again by serving this with very non-traditional cherry tomatoes. The bright hit of acid from the tomatoes works nicely with the soft full-mouth flavors of sausage and “pudding”.

Toad-In-The-Hole with Onion Sauce & Cherry Tomatoes serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c Madeira wine
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1 T plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, separated
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 8 American breakfast-style fresh pork sausages, casings removed
  • 1 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • cherry tomatoes (optional)

Melt the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring, until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Cover; cook over low heat to very low and continue to cook, stirring often until brown and jammy, about 25 minutes.

Slowly add 1 tablespoon of the flour while stirring and then cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in the wine, stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and let it sit until serving at which time re-heat the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup water, and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Let stand 20 minutes.

Coat a 13 x 9‑inch or 3 1/2‑quart baking dish with the oil; heat in the oven 10 or 15 minutes, until smoking hot. Remove from the oven. Pour the batter into the dish. Arrange the sausages on top; sprinkle with rosemary. Bake until puffed, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately with gravy and some (optional) cherry tomatoes on the side.


Greg Henry