Wild Toad with Hedgerow Sauce
An old-fashioned British supper dish, with a wild twist. Use any sausages you like: good-quality butcher’s sausages, or herby vegetarian ones would both work well, as long as they’re thick (skinny sausages will dry out in the time it takes the batter to cook). But for a truly wild toad-in-the-hole, use sausages made with venison, boar or wild birds: the sour-sweetness of the sauce is a perfect accompaniment to the rich flavour of game. We specify elderberries for the sauce, but blackberries would be good too.
- 2 large eggs
- 125g plain flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 150ml milk combined with 150ml cold water
- 50g lard, goose fat or dripping (vegetarians can use odourless coconut oil)
- 2 tablespoons fresh green hogweed seeds, picked from the umbels
- 6 chunky sausages of your choice (about 400g)
FOR THE SAUCE
- 1 large onion
- 40g butter
- 65g crab apples (or cooking apples)
- 150g elderberries
- 1 level tablespoon plain flour
- 75ml port
- 300ml chicken stock
- A little honey or sugar, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 220˚C.
- Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, crack in the eggs and season with a little salt and pepper. Pour in the combined milk and water and beat with a whisk until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the sauce. Peel the onion, halve it and slice into thin half-moons. Peel and core the crab apples and chop the flesh finely. Pick the elderberries from the umbels (a fork is a useful implement here), leaving as much of the stalk behind as possible. Use only the dark purple, ripe berries and discard any green ones.
- 5 minutes before the batter is ready, put whatever fat you are using into a medium-sized roasting tin (roughly 20cm by 25cm) and put it into the oven to get hot.
- When the batter’s resting time is up, the fat in the roasting tin should be shimmering. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and sit it on a trivet. Quickly whisk the batter and pour it into the hot fat. Using tongs, arrange the sausages in the batter and then scatter over the hogweed seeds. Quickly put the roasting tin back in the hot oven and cook for 35–40 minutes, until the batter is puffed up and golden brown.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium pan and add the onions. Cook gently for 5 minutes until the onions start to take on some colour, then add the chopped crab apple. Cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are golden brown and the apple beginning to soften. Stir in the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the port and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then add the elderberries and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
- Keep the sauce cooking very gently while the toad is in the oven. When it almost time to serve, taste the sauce for seasoning. If it’s too sharp in flavour, add a little honey or sugar but don’t overdo it: a bit of sharpness in the sauce is excellent with the richness of the sausages.
- When the toad is cooked, remove it from the oven and serve with the sauce.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK