Rhys Pendergast made a really kind donation to Help a Capital Child this year, so I’m dedicating this dish to him, in celebration of his wedding to the lovely Katie. I’m told Rhys makes a mean toad-in-the-hole, and I hope they enjoy this version for years to come. In Yorkshire, I learned how real Yorkshire folk approach making a great Yorkie. They aren’t into making their batter the night before, instead they focus on getting plenty of air into the batter and achieving a hot consistent temperature in the oven. I truly love this great classic and have only ever had one issue with it: quite often, you end up with half a sausage (the toad) poking out of the Yorkshire (the hole). The bit sticking out is crispy and golden – good times – but the other half of the sausage, inside the batter, is soft, anaemic and boiled – bad times. So in the spirit of family-style sharing and creating a dish that makes everyone go ‘Oooh!’ I’m separating out the elements so you end up with amazing crispy sausages, a tray of giant Yorkshire to tear up and a wonderful onion and apple gravy. Heaven.
Whisk the eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then pour into a jug. Preheat the oven to full whack (about 240°C/475°F/gas 9). Cut your onions into 1cm thick slices, and do the same with the apples – removing the core. Put a large pan on a medium heat. Add the butter, a lug of olive oil, the onions and the apples. Pick in the leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Remove the sauce from the heat once soft, season, and add the honey and a splash of water, if needed. Put the sausages into a sturdy roasting tray (roughly 30 x 40cm), toss with a little olive oil and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden.
Transfer the cooked sausages to a pretty ovenproof dish and toss with half the apple and onion sauce. Cover with tin foil. Remove any excess fat from the roasting tray, replace with a good lug of olive oil and place on a medium heat. Add the remaining rosemary leaves and after 30 seconds, pour in the batter, then put straight into the middle of the oven with the sausages on the shelf underneath. Cook for around 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pudding is fluffy, golden and puffing up at the sides. Whatever you do, do not open the oven door.
Put the pan of apples and onions back on a high heat and stir in the flour. Be brave; let it get really golden before adding the cider, stock and a couple of really good splashes of Worcestershire sauce. Let it boil and bubble away until thickened to your liking. Get your guests to the table, with their knives and forks in their hands. Put the bubbling gravy on a board in the middle of the table.
Remove and uncover your sizzling sausages, then slide your Yorkshire pudding on to a nice board. This lovely dish definitely needs balancing, so serve with something green and fresh, like runner beans, greens, salad or dressed chard.