GBBO Bake Along: meatball toad-in-the-hole

toad-veg-gravyIf I was taking part in the actual Great British Bake Off, I would probably be disqualified for this contribution. Not following the rules at all, but meh… whatever. This week in bake off bake along, it’s batter week. My choices were supposed to be to make a batch of perfectly even Yorkshire puddings with a savoury filling, lace pancakes or churros. I don’t have any means of deep-fat frying, so initially I turned my attention to pancakes. Mine would have been filled with mince though instead of being lacy and intricate. Then I started thinking about Yorkshire puddings… from where my mind wandered to the fact that it’s been ages since we last had toad-in-the-hole. It’s basically a giant filled Yorkshire pudding, so it totally counts, right? We didn’t actually have any sausages, though… but we did have mince. Which lead me to the idea of experimenting with meatballs instead of sausages. And so meatball toad-in-the-hole was born.

I’ve had my toad-in-the-hole recipe for so long that I don’t even know who it belonged to originally, so apologies if I stole it from you! It’s pretty generic though so probably not really subject to copyright…

Ingredients

For the batter:
115g/4oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
300ml/½ pint of milk

For the meatballs:
350g mince
1 clove garlic
Herbs (I used dried parsley and fresh rosemary)
Chilli flakes
Cayenne pepper
Salt & black pepper, to taste

You will also need some oil or fat for frying the meatballs and for the oven-proof dish. I used olive oil for the former and sunflower oil for the latter.

Start by making the batter.

  1. Sift the flour, salt and pepper into a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack in the eggs. Use a wooden spoon to gradually beat the eggs into the flour then beat in the milk a little at a time until the batter is the consistency of double cream.
  3. Strain and push the dough through a sieve to remove any remaining lumps then cover and leave to stand for around 30 minutes.

While the batter is standing, pre-heat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6, then make the meatballs.

mince

  1. Start by placing your mince, herbs, garlic and seasoning in a bowls, as shown above. I used mixed pork and beef mince (the standard here), but you can choose your favourite. Mash all the ingredients together really well – you want garlic and herbs to be in all the meatballs!
  2. Using your hands, form the meatballs into roughly evenly sized balls. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can in the process (yes, part of the liquid will be blood. Sorry!). As you can see below, I got 12 out of mine.
    meatballs1
  3. Fry the balls lightly in oil for a few minutes. You don’t need to fully cook them through at this point (they will be in the oven for a while), but brown the edges enough to stop them falling apart. Or you could make proper meatballs with egg and breadcrumbs to hold them together. Meanwhile, put some fat or oil into an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.
    meatballs2
  4. Remove the dish from the oven, place the meatballs into the hot dish, pour in the batter and then immediately return the dish to the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes until well-risen and golden brown. Whatever you do, do not open the oven before 35 minutes is up, otherwise your batter will deflate like a punctured bouncy castle, and there’s nothing sadder than that!
  5. Serve with vegetables of your choice (in our case aubergine fried in the leftover oil from the meatballs, but you may want to go with something healthier!) and, of course, gravy. For more people you could also add mashed or roast potatoes or more veg. This served 2 of us, but with added potatoes it will stretch to 4-6 people.

toad-hole

Jan asked me, since the meatballs were clearly not toad, what exactly is in the hole. Since they are round(ish), I thought maybe frog spawn.  What do you think… will frog spawn in the hole catch on?

See more batter week contributions here.

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Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Ingredients:
Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic
Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel
Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!

It’s pork, but not as you know it…

I’ve just seen something very disturbing in the meat section of Karstadt…… Pig penises! It almost made me drop my shopping in shock.
I know they say waste not, want not but there are limits you know! And what do you even do with one of those anyway – roast it? Boil it? Chop it into pieces and make stew? All of those options sound quite disturbing to me. And honestly… could you bring yourself to actually put it in your mouth?
I’m never going to look at pork in the same way again…

(I should probably point out that the word on the packaging is only a colloquial word for penis and could also have meant tail but I know what it looked like!)

My night of pretending to be posh

It took me an hour and a half to do my hair last night. I just don’t have the kind of hair that you can do things with. It’s incredibly thick, which hairdressers will tell you is a good thing, but it’s not. Next time you’re in a place that sells hair accessories take a look and see how many of them have a little sticker saying “for thick hair”. If you manage to find more than 3 it will be a miracle. If more than 1 of those is not ugly please tell me where that shop is, I need to go there right now!
Anyway, last night. I knew I couldn’t leave it down, not for a posh restaurant, so it had to go up. My first attempt took 10 minutes and a dozen hair clips. From the front it looked ok, but then I saw the back. It was a mess. So down it came. I then tried putting part of it up and leaving a bit down at the back. It didn’t work. At all. Six tries later I was sweating, exhausted and frustrated, but at least I’d managed to get my hair up. By the time I’d managed to get my make up done we were running late and had to rush into town. Rushing in sandals with heels isn’t good. I now have blisters on the balls of my feet, which hurts a lot and makes it difficult to walk, I won’t be wearing those shoes again for a while! It was worth it though, the rest of the night was amazing!

When we arrived at the hotel we were first shown to our room. Yes, we had a whole room all to ourselves! The nice waiter man took our jackets then suggested that we head over the the bar for some aperitifs. They called it a bar, and there was indeed a bar at one end, but the room itself looked like something in a stately home. It was amazing! Portraits on the wall, nice carpets and posh armchairs everywhere. Wow! We ordered our drinks, which were incredible. I had a cocktail of champagne with strawberry liquer and strawberry juice. To go with our drinks we were rought some hors d’ouvres. Little pieces of bread cut into circles and squares with tiny but perfectly arranged toppings. Fabulous.

After the appertisers we headed back to our room. We were served our starters and the wine expert came by to advise us on what to drink. We started with a sweet white wine that tasted almost like lemonade. Later we switched to a dryer white wine, which I then stuck to for the rest of the night. There was also a red wine to go with the later courses. I tried the red wine but didn’t like it. The starters (can’t remember what they were) were followed by foamed goose liver pate with goose mince arranged on top of it. It tasted a lot nicer than it sounds! Next came the fish course. We had kingfish fillet, which I really enjoyed. Then came something that was called “Flusskrebs” in German. I’ve just looked it up and found out that means crayfish, so there you go. It was quite nice anyway, but I couldn’t have eaten too much of it. Good job posh portions are only little! After the crayfish came the part I had been waiting for all night. Meat! It was ram I believe (trying to translate from the German here). I usually prefer my meat well done, and this was only medium, but it actually tasted incredible. All of these courses were served by 3 or 4 waiters at a time, who then placed the plates in front of us all at once. Before each course our waiter came in and explained what we were about to eat.
The meat was followed by cheese, which was brought in on a huge trolley. A waitress explained what was on the trolley and then put together a selection on a plate. This took a while as she had to do it for each of us individually. And finally we had pudding – a gorgeous chocolate cake, followed by coffee (I had cappucino), little chocolate covered fruit sweets (the waiter insisted that everyone had to take at least one) and finally some liqeur. We all chose a pear one which came from Vorarlberg in Austria. I had to go for that one of course because I used to live there. I was told that the final bill came to over 2,000 euros. Wow! Jan insisted on paying for my share. I have such a wonderful boyfriend 🙂

So that was my posh night out. I would definitely recommend everyone to do it at least once, it’s an amazing experience. And I found out this morning that Baden Baden and Brenner’s Park Hotel are on the list of 10,000 places to visit before you die. Only 9,999 places to go then 😉