Try Melanie Johnson's recipe for toad in the hole – the ultimate British comfort food – with a twist thanks to the addition of bacon and leeks.

We all deserve a little comfort food in these cooler months, but there’s always scope to give a bit of extra zip to a traditional classic British dish. This recipe uses bacon and leeks to add a thoroughly elegant twist.

Melanie Johnson’s toad in the hole

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the batter

  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml whole milk

For the filling

  • 12 sausages (I used organic chipolatas)
  • 6 rashers bacon, halved lengthways
  • 2 leeks, scored to the centre lengthways and cut into thin ribbons
  • 100ml white wine
  • 100g frozen peas

For the gravy

  • 1 leek, scored to the centre lengthways and sliced into ribbons
  • 20g butter
  • 20g plain flour
  • 250ml red wine
  • 1tbspn wholegrain mustard
  • 2tspn balsamic vinegar
  • 300ml beef stock

Method

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6. Wrap the sausages in bacon and bake in a dish for 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour and break in the eggs, then beat together. Gradually whisk in the milk, season well and set the batter mixture aside.

Fry the sliced leeks for the filling with a little oil until soft, then pour in the white wine and allow to reduce completely. Remove from the heat, stir through the frozen peas, season well and set aside.

Take the sausages out of the oven, turn them over and arrange the leek mixture around the dish, being sure to leave plenty of space for the batter to puff up. Pour the batter over them and bake for about 30–35 minutes.

To make the gravy, soften the leeks in a frying pan in butter. Sprinkle in the flour and add the red wine gradually. Whisk in the mustard, balsamic and stock, then reduce until thickened. Taste for seasoning.

When the toad-in-the-hole is golden and has puffed up in places, remove from the oven and cut into pieces to be served with the gravy.

More ways with leeks

Leek, spinach and pesto frittata

Cut a leek into thin ribbons and fry with a little butter. When soft, add 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach and stir until wilted. Season well, add fresh basil leaves and pour in 6 beaten eggs. Loosen some pesto with olive oil and drizzle it over them. Cook over a medium heat until set underneath, but still wobbly on top, then scatter with grated Cheddar and Parmesan. Cook the top under a grill and serve with green salad.

Smoked-haddock and leek tartines

Poach smoked haddock (undyed) in milk with a bayleaf and pepper-corns. Reserve the milk and flake the fish into a bowl. Fry ribbons of leeks with butter and, once soft, sprinkle with a little flour. Fry for a few minutes and add the reserved milk, then simmer to thicken. Add a little mustard powder and fold through the fish flakes. Toast some bread and spoon the creamy fish and leeks over it.