CAN there be anything more comforting than mashed potatoes? Well, yes, possibly a baked jacket potato. At this time of the year we all need comfort food, when the post-Christmas bills have arrived, the winter feels endless, and potatoes can give us just the comfort we need.
I always buy Rooster, because I find them best for everything – from roasting and mash, to chips or for slicing finely to bake in layers with milk or stock.
Within a few months, the first new potatoes will be for sale, tiny and waxy of texture, they are delicious, but a world apart from the soft potatoes of the moment, however they are cooked. So, seek comfort in potatoes. Spring is around the corner.
Baked stuffed potatoes
These can be a main course in themselves, accompanied by a mustard vinaigrette-dressed leaf salad.
If you are vegetarian, just leave out the bacon.
6 even-sized large Rooster potatoes, or 12 smaller ones.
6 smoked or unsmoked back bacon rashers, fat removed – easiest done with scissors – and the bacon then sliced into dice about fingernail in size
2oz/55g butter, cut into bits and melted in a saucepan containing
½ pint/285ml warmed milk and
1 teaspoon salt, a good grating of nutmeg and about 15 grinds of black pepper
4oz/110g grated Cheddar cheese
3oz/85g grated Cheddar cheese – this is for sprinkling on the stuffed potato halves before their second baking
1 rounded tablespoon snipped chives
1 rounded tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Scrub the potatoes. Put them on a baking tray in a hot oven, 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 until soft when gently squeezed – about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a frying or sauté pan fry the diced bacon until crisp, stirring as it fries over a high heat.
Scoop the crisp bacon bits into a bowl.
Cut each baked potato in half.
Holding each half in a cloth so as not to scorch your hands, with a spoon scoop the soft potato from inside each half skin into a large mixing bowl.
Add the diced crispy bacon, the melted butter and milk, seasonings, and the 4oz/110g grated Cheddar to the potato in the bowl.
Mix very well, adding the chopped herbs last.
Spoon this back into the potato skins.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Put the stuffed potato halves on to this, and scatter the grated Cheddar in an even amount over each potato half.
The parchment beneath means that any grated cheese which falls on to this can just be thrown away with the parchment once it is time for washing up.
Bake the stuffed potatoes in a hot oven, the same as for the initial baking, for 15-20 minutes – the grated cheese on top should be melted and golden brown.
Baked sliced potatoes with shallots and anchovies
This is my version of the Swedish dish Jansson’s Temptation.
2lb/900g potatoes weighed before peeling. Peel and very thinly slice the potatoes – the slices are best done using a mandolin, if you have one.
4 banana shallots, skinned and sliced finely
8 anchovies, drained of their preserving oil and snipped into tiny bits
about 20 grinds of black pepper – the anchovies contribute enough saltiness
1½ pints/855ml milk, if possible, this should be full-fat milk
3oz/85g butter, cut into tiny bits
Thoroughly butter an ovenproof dish, wide and shallow rather than small and deep.
Put an overlapping layer of potato slices over the entire dish.
Cover with finely sliced shallots, season with black pepper, dot the anchovy bits in an even layer over the potatoes, and then cover with the rest of the potato slices, overlapping them.
Season with the remaining black pepper, pour in the milk, and dot the entire surface with butter.
Bake in a moderate heat, 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour 10 minutes.
This dish will keep warm at a much lower temperature without deteriorating, for about a further 30 minutes.
Very well mashed potatoes with lemon, blanched garlic and extra virgin olive oil
This is delicious, and is particularly good served with fish or chicken.
2lb/900g potatoes, weighed before peeling. Peel, cut into even chunks and boil in salted water till cooked –when they feel tender when stuck with a table knife. Drain, and steam dry.
¼ pint/140ml extra virgin olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, in their skins, blanched twice by putting them into a small saucepan containing cold water. Bring to the boil, drain off the boiling water and repeat the process with more cold water, boiling, draining. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins from the garlic cloves and roughly chop the flesh.
1 teaspoon salt, 15 grinds of black pepper
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Mash the steamed, drained potatoes very well.
Then switch from spud masher to wooden spoon, and beat the olive oil into the mashed potatoes, a little at a time.
Beat in the chopped blanched garlic, the salt and black pepper, and the finely grated lemon rind.
Beat very well, and, just before serving, beat in the chopped parsley. Heap the mashed potatoes in to a warmed dish to serve.
Other varieties of potato which are good bakers include King Edward, Maris Piper, Wilja, Ailsa and Golden Wonder