It is meant to be summer here in the UK and, to be fair we have had quite a few hot and sporadically sunny days, but we have also had grey skies, rain and my parents even got a hail storm! I feel I should be making summery salads and dining al fresco but when the clouds roll in I feel more in the mood for comfort food. As a compromise, I have developed a lighter twist on the classic toad in the hole. The satisfying batter is still there, but with an interesting nutty taste from the spelt, wholemeal and oatmeal and made lighter by using water rather than milk. I have been inspired by the combination of tomatoes, peppers and paprika popular in Spanish cooking following their discovery of the Americas in 1492, and added thick cut mushrooms in place of the traditional sausages. If you’d prefer a bit of meat then there is nothing stopping you adding in some black pudding, bacon or sausage to the mix but it definitely isn’t needed as with the sweet peppers, earthy mushrooms, spicy paprika and nutty grains there is plenty going on.
Veggie toad in the hole
Time: 20-30 minutes to prep ahead, 30-50 minutes cooking time on the night (but very little effort – you can just put it in the oven and leave it for most of the time)
Dietary info: vegetarian (contains egg), dairy-free
- 4 large mushrooms, thickly sliced – you can also add black pudding, sausages or bacon if you want a meat version
- 3 peppers (red, yellow or orange), sliced
- 4 medium tomatoes, quartered
- 2 onions, sliced
- 80g spelt flour (can substitute with white flour)
- 80g wholemeal flour
- 40g oatmeal
- 2 heaped tsp mild smoked paprika
- 1 heaped tsp smoked garlic powder (can substitute with ordinary garlic powder)
- 1 scant tsp ground allspice
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 500ml water
- Cook the onions until soft, either in the microwave or in a saucepan with a little water
- Put the onions, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and bake at 160C for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through
- Mix the flours, oatmeal, paprika, allspice, garlic powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and break in the eggs.
- Gradually stir the eggs into the flour, adding water gradually as you mix to make a smooth batter (if you add it too fast you will get lumps).
- Take the oven proof dish out of the oven, pour the batter over the vegetables and return to the oven for 30 minutes, or until it is brown on top and doesn’t wobble when you shake the dish. This is nice served with some steamed green vegetables and the gravy below.
A few tips to prep ahead:
- The vegetables can be cut up, with the onions in one sealable bag or box and the peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms in another. You can even cook them (softening the onions and then baking all of them as described above) ahead of time and keep them in a box in the fridge (or even the ovenproof dish you are going to cook the toad in the hole in if you want to be super speed on the night) for a few days.
- The flours, oatmeal, paprika, allspice, garlic powder and salt can be mixed together ahead of time and kept in a covered bowl or box ready to be made into batter.
- If you do both of these steps then all you need to do on the night is mix the batter together, pour it over the vegetables and put it in the oven while you go and do something else for half and hour, and you can have a lovely home cooked dinner with only a few minutes of effort on the day.
- The gravy below can also be made ahead of time and kept in a box in the fridge, or even frozen, ready just to be heated in a saucepan or the microwave on the night.
Some tasty little twists and extras:
Red onion gravy
- 2 red onions, sliced
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 1 heaped tsp mild smoked paprika
- 1 scant tsp allspice
- 1 heaped tsp smoked garlic powder (or normal garlic powder)
- 1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
- ~400 ml water
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- Put the sliced onion in a saucepan over a gentle heat and add the cornflour and spices, stirring until they coat the onion evenly
- Gradually add the water, stirring constantly (so that the flour doesn’t go lumpy)
- Bring to the boil until the onion is soft and the gravy has thickened
- Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more stock and lemon juice if wanted.
Changing it up:
- This is a very versatile dish. Taking one of my husband’s mottos “everything is better with batter” you can add almost anything to it – I think we have tried many types of sausages (meat or vegetarian), black pudding, bacon, vegetables, pulses and even fish or chicken with a similar batter and cooking method. You can also add things like sun-dried tomatoes, porcini mushrooms or olives to add some more intense flavours in there.
- A particular favourite of mine is oriental mushrooms and asparagus, particularly if you put the asparagus on the top so that they go a little crispy and also look pretty with their elegant long stems and neat tips. If you do this then steam the asparagus first and only bake them for about 15 minutes so that they soften but don’t go too dry.
- Change the flavours in the batter by varying the flours. The spelt, wholemeal and oatmeal is my personal favourite but everyone has different tastes and there is such a wide range of speciality flours widely available feel free to experiment with different mixes and seasonings.
- The paprika, garlic and allspice can be switched for other herbs and spices to create very different moods. You could try curry powder with sweet potatoes and chickpeas for a fusion style Indian-influenced bake, or mixed herbs and garlic along with tomatoes and olives for something more Provençale inspired. The possibilities are endless!