"A homely and savoury dish" according to Mrs Beeton, toad in the hole was originally made with any old meat that came to hand – the original domestic goddess suggests rump steak and lamb's kidney, while a reference a century earlier glosses it as "baked beef in a pudding" and Hannah Glasse gives a recipe for pigeons in a hole.
Charles Francatelli's Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes (1852), meanwhile, is frank about the main attraction of the toad – its price. "To make this a cheap dinner, you should buy 6d. or 1s. worth of bits or pieces of any kind of meat, which are to be had cheapest at night when the day's sale is over. The pieces of meat should be first carefully overlooked, to ascertain if there be any necessity to pare away some tainted part, or perhaps a fly-blow, as this, if left on any one piece of meat, would tend to impart a bad taste to the whole, and spoil the dish" he writes, temptingly.
Clearly toad in the hole (a phrase that tellingly makes its way into the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue), was a way of stretching meat – any meat – a bit further, with a filling and thrifty batter. It does the same for its modern-day incarnation: you can get away with serving one sausage each if you've got enough batter and a good gravy. But, whether you're on a tight budget or not, toad in the hole is no croak of a dish: enjoy it, warts and all.