We’ve celebrated the new year by adding two new birds to our small flock. They are called Pebbles and Pip, named by both my daughters, and I hope they are welcomed with open wings into the coop. So far so good, there’s been a bit of posturing, and a bit of squawking, but they now seem to be nestled up together quite nicely in the hen-house for the night. It seems that the instinct to keep warm during these January nights is stronger than the instinct to oust the intruders. Good.
In honour of our growing flock, I shall be writing up a dish which showcases the magic of the humble egg. Although, to be fair, I’m using eggs from my sister’s birds as none of mine are currently laying. That’s seven birds now, receiving bed and board (including the finest organic pellets and scraps) and not paying their way. Humph. Roll on the longer days…
So I’m going to tell you about something we call Frog in a Bog.
It’s actually very similar to toad in the hole, but my eldest thought that this vegetarian spin warranted a new name, so Frog in a Bog it is. The eggs are obviously an important ingredient in the Yorkshire pudding batter, and despite never coming from anywhere near Yorkshire, they take me back to comfy Sunday dinners at my Nana’s as a child. Those were obviously more carnivorous days, the meals I was brought up on were staple English fare, meat stews and dumplings, roasted beasts and fry ups. All home cooked and created with love, but all letting meat take the centre stage. Traditional English cooking is not famed for its vegetarian dishes, so over the past twenty years since I’ve been cooking for myself, and during the last near-decade since becoming a vegetarian my tastes, ingredients, influences and skills have expanded considerably. We eat meals with origins in different continents almost every night of the week, and it’s easier to embrace Asian and Mediterranean cooking styles when learning how to omit meat. But I have a weakness for a salty savoury stew, a stodgy dumpling, and a rich gravy, these are the foods which make me feel at home, and the deeply comforting emotional pull of my Nana’s chicken broth was my last stumbling block before giving up the meat for good eight years ago. It still makes me a little sad that I’ll never taste that broth again, but I hope I can create new traditional comforting dinners, something that my children will want to come home to when they are all grown up, exploring the world and cooking for themselves.
So if the ‘bog’ is Yorkshire pudding batter, then the ‘frog’ must be the roasted root veg which nestle within. I made this most recently with butter nut squash, parsnips and onion. But virtually any seasonal veg would do. This wintry version, with the large chucks of roasted onion and parsnip, echoes those earthy roasted parsnips of my childhood Sunday dinners, and the sweet roasted onion gravy.
I make my yorkshire pudding batter in a large measuring jug, it saves having to measure anything out separately. This recipe makes enough to feed four quite greedy people as a main meal – but could equally feed 6-8 as an accompaniment with another dish.
1 large parsnip (70p)
1/2 a medium butternut squash (90p)
1 large onion (20p)
2 tbsp oil for roasting (5p)
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
(any other seasonal veg you fancy, carrots, leeks and sweet potato; even broccoli, cauliflower or sprouts would all work well this time of year if lightly steamed first)
Heat the oven to 230 degrees c, warm the oil in a large roasting tin in the oven while you concentrate on the veg.
Prepare the veg by scrubbing or peeling, whichever you prefer and cutting into either 1 inch square chunks or thinner, batons. Do not cut the veg too small because the high heat needed to cook the pudding will burn them. Peel and cut the onion into sixths.
Put the veg into the hot oil, season well with salt and black pepper and the of sprigs of rosemary and then put back into the oven while you prepare the batter.
200ml of plain organic flour (26p)
2 free range organic eggs (70p)
250ml of unsweetened soya milk (25p)
Pour the flour into the measuring jug up to 200ml, crack 2 eggs in on top of the flour and beat with a whisk until they are smoothly combined. gradually add the soya milk little by little, whisking as you go to create a smooth batter, the finished batter should be the consistency of double cream and now have reached the 500ml mark on the jug. I do not season my batter mix when making this as the veg has already been well seasoned, but if you’re using this recipe to make a basic Yorkshire pudding without the veg please add salt and pepper to the mix.
The trick now is to work quickly to keep the roasting tin really hot, take the tin out of the oven and immediately put it onto a hot hob, toss the veg a little to re-coat them in oil, and then pour the batter over the veg and put the tin straight back into the top of the oven.
Do not, under any circumstance, open the oven door again until the pudding is fully cooked. The should now take about 30 minutes to rise and bubble and expand and go a lovely golden colour. Take a seat on your kitchen floor for the first 15 minutes to watch the magic through the oven door. I’m not sure how people had the will power to make Yorkshire puddings before ovens had glass doors, I know I’d have ruined every attempt by opening the door to check it was rising.
I serve this (minus the rosemary stalks) with some steamed greens, and any other fresh veg there is to hand, my girls love carrot and swede mash on the side, and a good rich onion gravy.
This Frog in a Bog works out at 76p per portion at supermarket prices… but with veg and eggs both from the garden, it’s a very frugal dish.
This is my homage to my Nana’s home cooking, and what better way to honour the egg!
(I’ve not got any photos of the actual finished dish, it was eaten far to quickly, I’ll add a pic as soon as I make it again.)