“Meanwhile we have the great alternative, the British baked potato…. what on earth would ‘baked potatoes’ be in Italian? We will never run out of them because they are available by the sackful up and down the British Isles. Why bother with that ultimate soggy alternative, a cooked aubergine? It has been struggling to become a staple but has only become sludge….I will set about the greatest British bake-off of all, seasonal potatoes, beautifully coloured, and refilled with their mashed up flesh and butter.”
-Robin Lane Fox, in The Financial Times, February 2017
Wholly agree (well, not sure about the aubergines….). But butter is important. Serve these with salt and top quality butter…. or try some of the ideas further down this post.
NB these potatoes take anything between an hour and an hour and a half. Allow time.
Method for cooking the best baked potato in its jacket
- Heat the oven to 220°C
- scrub the potatoes clean
- make a 2” (4 cm) slit with a knife in the skin
- rub with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a little flaked salt (this draws the moisture out of the skins and makes them extra crispy)
- cook them for about an hour to an hour and a half – much depends on the size of the potato, whether you keep your potatoes in the fridge (you shouldn’t), whether your oven is up to speed … and other conditions. If, when you take them out and squeeze them a bit they start to open at the slit, they give a bit, and the skin has gone a little crispy, then they are ready.
Forgotten to put them in the oven in time? Try this method.
Obviously cooking potatoes in the microwave isn’t ideal, but many is the time that I have forgotten they were in the plan and it’s five minutes to lunch. This combination method is not a bad compromise.
1. Heat the (normal) oven to 220°C if you think you have time
2. Prick the potatoes four or five times with a fork
3. If you have two medium-sized potatoes cook them for six minutes on 1000W
4. Turn over and cook another three minutes, again on 1000W.
5. Score down the centre lightly with a knife – you may find they are now ready, but they will still benefit from a bit of normal baking if you have the time. If you have panting hoards and they are not done simply put them back and go on microwaving until they are done. Otherwise…
6. …..bake in the oven as long as you can – ideally twenty minutes – using baking prongs if you have them.
Which potatoes to use for baking
Estima, Marfona or Viking are all good…. also King Edward and Maris Piper. And Picasso….
“Christopher [Lloyd] was the master of the baked potato, and under his tutelage I can to have a great love for them. The first step is to choose the right variety of potato. For us at Great Dixter there can be only one choice, and that is Picasso. It is the right size, with a good, sweet-flavoured skin (not too thick) and fresh-tasting flesh.”
-Aaron Bertelsen, The Great Dixter Cookbook
Things to do with jacket potatoes:
- Serve with four tbsps crème fraîche, three tbsps pesto (fresh ideally), and a tbsp of grated crumbly (Caerphilly or Wensleydale – Richard III is a particularly creamy suitable type) cheese. Goes very well with ham or insalata di mare. If you want you can gouge out the cooked potatoes, mix and put back in the skins and keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Or you can even freeze the re-stuffed potatoes.
- About ten minutes before you think the potatoes will be ready (or after, if you want to play safe) cut through the slit you made at the beginning, put in a knob of butter, a couple of slices of raclette cheese, and some sliced spring onions. Serve with a selection of salamis and ham and a generous amount of coleslaw (one large tub (500g/1 lb) between two) or better still make your own with raspberry vinegar.
- Or, for eight people, one tub of Greek yoghurt (or soured cream), 3 tbsps olive oil, 3 tbsp chopped chives and 3 tbsp chopped parsley.
- Serve with dolcelatte and sundried tomatoes
- Try with chard and ham and lots of butter – go here for more on this
- Serve with mushrooms fried in butter with garlic and parsley
- Serve with tuna, mayonnaise, lime and coriander
- Serve with smoked mackerel, crème fraîche, and super-zingy green salad
- They are pretty good with a filling of chilli con carne
- a bacon-wrapped kidney an hour into the cooking process
- Jonathan Meades in The Plagarist in the Kitchen, uses caraway for “making potatoes in their jackets just about edible”
- Fill with flagellated feta and sumac
- Jackie Onassis, apparently, would eat on a daily basis, a baked potato stuffed with Beluga caviar and sour cream.
- make baked potatoes Braytoises: scoop out the flesh, mix with camembert, ham, crème fraîche, and mustard. Return to restuff the skins. Sprinkle with grated gruyère, put under the grill to melt. Serve with a watercress and walnut salad, and a glass of cider.
- Serve, as gardener and writer, Christopher Lloyd, enjoyed, with smoked mackerel pâté.
- Ottolenghi (in Simple) likes his with gorgonzola, baby spinach, double cream, and walnut halves.
“He thought back on years and years of winter evenings:the kitchen windows black outside, the corner furry with gathering darkness, the four of them seated at the chipped enamel table meticulously filling scooped-out potato skins with butter.”
-Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist