The British are such a wondrous nation, fantastic people, enchanting really. Their cuisine as a whole rivals that of every other nation on, oh criminy, even I can't say that with a straight face. Let's face it, with the exception of Stilton Cheese, fish and chips and real good tavern made spoiled beer vinegars, the English Islanders are not very well known for good food. It doesn't mean there aren't a few adventuresome spirits out there creating some exceptional comestibles, but for the most part these people eat overcooked vegetables, pork fat pudding with currants (Aptly named Spotted Dick) and roast beef. A full English Breakfast consists of soft boiled eggs, sausages and baked beans from a tin. Sigh, I truly believe that this is the reason the Brits left their tiny island and sought a decent cuisine across the pond in the new world. But then every human on Earth should at one time be subjected to the horrors of being presented mashed cooked peas for breakfast at least once in their life in order to appreciate what they have and were raised with, even if it's Cheerios and Coco Puffs which here now in this one place only will I ever admit to having eaten and enjoyed somewhat better than green pea mash.
So, let's see what we can do about making English food, well, tasty. I mean that after all, I am the weird guy, that Chef that does things a bit differently. And I have in the past made some odd, but delicious things, (the sushi ravioli were to die for) and I believe that I am up to the task. Once we get to experience traditional flavors that are altered into wondrous delights that are tasty, easy and nutritious then I am hopeful that everyone will begin to experiment with cooking their own foods at home and experience the fun and pleasure that can be derived by cooking your own healthy foods. Today, we are going for something fun. Toad in the Hole with Apple Onion Gravy, and the traditional Cauliflower and Pea side dish that won't scare you to death with the inherent blandness so typical of English veggie dishes.
Let's start with the gravy. This really is pretty traditional, I haven't altered it a lot. It is an old standby that has served the cause of adding moisture and flavor to dead dried out overcooked foods in Britain since time began. It works, it's easy, here's how to do it. Take an apple, peel it, cut it into small cubes. Take an onion and dice it. Melt a pat of butter in a heavy skillet and add the onions and apple, and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes. The onions should beginning to caramelize and brown. Many recipes add sugar, I don't think that's necessary. Add a bit of fresh thyme and about three tablespoons of AP flour with another couple pats of butter. Cook the flour and butter for another 3 or 4 minutes, then add a cup of chicken stock and a half cup of half and half. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Season with pepper, cayenne and salt if you must. Keep warm. Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that is just weird. The English have for generations cooked the stuff until it is mushy then added peas to it and cooked it even more. I haven't figured out why. My version is pretty cool though, try it, you will love it.
Take a head of cauliflower and cut the stalks off the central core. Cut the big stalks in half, just slice them through from the central core up through the top. Set aside. In a big skillet with tight fitting lid melt a couple pats of butter in a tablespoon of olive oil. Coat the pan and then place as many of the cut cauls cut side down into the skillet. Push them tightly together and get as many as you can onto the bottom of the skillet. Season generously with fresh cracked pepper. Cover and turn the heat down to medium low. Let cook about 15 minutes, the cut sides should be crispy and browned. Now take a couple cups of sugar snap peas and toss into the pan, cover again and let steam for another 5 to 8 minutes. Toss in a few sliced mint leaves and keep warm.
Now, the Toad in the Hole. I just had to do something with this, and what I came up with is just pure genius. I have a Belgian Waffle maker and so I used that. I bought some of those little cocktail weenies because Matt had a coupon and wanted some so I got a few packs of them. I took one pack and opened it, rinsed them off and dried them. Then in a skillet I added a half a diced onion to some butter and cooked until well caramelized. Then I added a cup of Merlot and the sausages. I cooked them until the wine evaporated completely and the little weiners were glazed. Now, I made a standard whole wheat waffle batter and heated up the waffle iron. I threw a bunch of the sausages onto the iron, they sort of rolled around and didn't land on the actual squares where the holes are. Then I added some batter, closed the lid and five minutes later, I had a waffle with little cocktail weenies in it. Now, a Toad, some gravy and some decent cauliflower, that's English cooking like the English wish they could eat.