Anna Jones on the trusted jacket potato
Potatoes are just about my favourite thing to eat. They have been a comfort and solace for me through good times and bad. Whether it’s my Irish heritage, my unashamed love of stodge or simply because they are such a willing vehicle for butter, my love for potatoes shows no sign of faltering. In fact, one night not so long ago, when I was six months pregnant, I found myself wondering if it was OK to have mash and chips together. I stuck with just the mash.
The crispy-edged golden brown crunch of a roastie; cloud-like mash; a little new potato, boiled and tossed with grassy green herbs, good oil and flaky salt … potatoes are pretty magical in all their forms. But today’s recipes take baked potatoes – that winter household staple – as their theme. These are dinners for cold nights and wet homecomings: bolstering food, full of flavour and comfort.
For the warming potato salad, I bake the potatoes in miso, then slather them in a tomato-spiked dressing until deeply golden brown, before mixing them with lentils and toasted almonds. A complete meal.
The double-baked potato skins, which bring back childhood memories of American diners, are piled with spicy baked chickpeas and a grown-up dip (reminiscent of the sour cream and chive dips of those same diners).
The potato I most often use for baking is a floury King Edward – but Maris Piper, Golden Wonder, Winston or Russet would all work for these recipes. There is no need to buy new potatoes at this time of year; big ones for baking and smaller ones for roasting and salads. Loose potatoes should give you enough options.
This week’s flavour map (see overleaf) gives you my five favourite toppings for salty, crisp-skinned baked potatoes, all of which can be thrown together quickly on a cold, hungry weeknight.
Golden miso roast potato salad Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side dish
1kg small floury potatoes 2 tsp white miso paste 2 tbsp olive oil 400g cooked puy lentils (1 tin) 100g skin on almonds, toasted and sliced A handful of basil, leaves picked and roughly torn
For the dressing
Cloves from 1 head of garlic, unpeeled 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped, plus 2 tbsp of their oil Juice and zest of a lime A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Rinse the potatoes, scrubbing off any gnarly bits, and dry well. Mix together the miso, olive oil and 1 tbsp water. Put the potatoes in a baking tray, add the miso mixture and toss well together. Put the unpeeled cloves of garlic into the tray as well. Roast the potatoes until they are fluffy inside and golden outside: this should take 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes.
2 Make your dressing: mix the sundried tomatoes and their oil with the lime juice and zest and the ginger, and mix well.
3 Remove the potatoes from the oven and spoon out the garlic cloves. Squeeze the softened cloves of garlic from their papery outsides, mash them and add to the dressing.
4 Tumble the potatoes into a large bowl, add the lentils and the dressing and toss together. Top with the almonds and basil.
Twice-baked potato skins with crispy buffalo chickpeas
I make the dressing by blending cashew nuts into a satisfying cream, but I have also given an option to use yoghurt instead of the cashews, if you’d prefer.