This time of year is perfect for baked potatoes, or jacket potatoes as I knew them growing up. Earthy vegetables come into their own in the autumn, often becoming the main act at meal times, even for us carnivorous folks, and a baked potato can be a real star. It’s one of those homely meals that really nourishes and comforts, as basic as it is. On cold evenings it’s like a hot water bottle for your tummy and on rainy days it’s cheering with its crisp skin, fluffy insides and rising steam.
As the season moves on and the pages of the calendar flick by we come to Bonfire Night; the ultimate show for the humble potato. Anyone who’s ever stood outside in the freezing, smoky November air watching fireworks colour the pitch black sky like spray paint whilst eating a piping hot baked potato will know exactly why they’re a match made in heaven.
I love simple cooking and, really, the baked potato is so simple that making it can hardly be described as cooking; it’s just a case of heating. I got home last night tired after a busy day at work and all I had to do was preheat the oven, stab a couple of potatoes with a fork (which, by the way, I highly recommend for stress relief and PMT), bung them into the oven straight onto the bars, and sit back on the sofa for an hour or so while the oven did its thing.
There are many, many options for fillings, such as wild mushrooms, simply sautéed, perhaps with a little garlic; Bolognese sauce or chilli for a heartier meal; tuna mayonnaise for an old-school classic. My favourite is grated cheese and baked beans but, in all honesty, I don’t think any topping is as good as sea salt and a large knob of butter to melt and mash into the potato. What’s your favourite?