Saturday, December 20, 2014

An Anglophile's Birthday

My friend, Dana, was having her 30th birthday party, and her husband, Jon, wanted to celebrate her with a group dinner inspired by her two favorite shows: Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey. He called it The Feast of Beasts, and he prepared goose, venison, and elk, and also roasted root vegetables. I think I may have misunderstood the assignment, as he went medieval, and I went with English pub food--Toads in the Hole and Mushy Peas. Oh well. It was a gesture, Claree, and a tasty one at that!

Toads in the Hole with Onion Gravy
(Source: adapted from Jamie Oliver)

sunflower oil (I might omit this next time)
8 large quality sausages (I used 10 beer-infused brats)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (I did not use this)

For the onion gravy:
2 large red onions, peeled and sliced (I used sweet onions)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 level tablespoon organic vegetable stock powder, or 1 vegetable stock cube (I used a teaspoon of mushroom soup base)

For the batter:
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup AP flour
1 pinch salt
3 eggs

Mix the batter ingredients together, and put to one side. To make the batter to go huge, the key thing is to have an appropriately-sized baking tin – the thinner the better – as we need to get the oil smoking hot.

Put just under a half inch of sunflower oil into a baking tin, then place this on the middle shelf of your oven at its highest setting (475ºF). Place a larger tray underneath it to catch any oil that overflows from the tin while cooking. When the oil is very hot, add your sausages. Keep your eye on them and allow them to colour until lightly golden. (My Yorkshire pudding turned out quite greasy, so in the future, I would either cut way back on the oil or omit it altogether and just use the rendered fat from the sausages.)

At this point, take the tin out of the oven, being very careful, and pour your batter over the sausages. Throw a couple of sprigs of rosemary into the batter. It will bubble and possibly even spit a little, so carefully put the tin back in the oven, and close the door. Don't open it for at least 20 minutes, as Yorkshire puddings can be a bit temperamental when rising. Remove from the oven when golden and crisp.

For the onion gravy, simply fry off your onions and garlic in the butter on a medium heat for about five minutes until they go sweet and translucent. You could add a little thyme or rosemary if you like (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme). Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to cook down by half. Add the bouillion or soup base plus a cup of water. Allow to simmer until it reaches a desired consistency, and you'll have a really tasty onion gravy. Serve at the table with your Toads in the Hole, mashed potatoes, greens and baked beans or maybe a green salad if you're feeling a little guilty! (I served mine with mushy peas, recipe to follow.)

Mushy Peas
(Source: adapted from All Recipes)
Serves 8

2 lbs. frozen green peas
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a shallow pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add frozen peas, and cook for three minutes, or until tender. (I nuked mine for about ten minutes with a little water added.)

Drain peas, and transfer to a blender or large food processor. Add cream, butter, salt and pepper to peas, and process until blended, but still thick with small pieces of peas. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve immediately.

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