One of the tastiest, cheapest, and simplest meals has to be an oven baked potato in its jacket. Jacket baked potatoes have been one of my favourites for as long as I can remember.
I remember years ago, probably about 25 or so, Peter bought me a cookery book by Clement Freud, a comedian we were both very fond of. He seemed to quite enjoy his food, and I was enjoying the book until I reached the part on potatoes.
He plummeted in my estimation when I read that he considered that the potato baked in a microwave oven was just as good as a "real" oven-baked specimen.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against microwave ovens. I had one of the first turntable models about 30+ years ago, a Belling, that, apart from the light failing, is still being used to sterilise compost for the garden!!!
However, although they speedily cook a potato in its skin, there is none of the depth of flavour that develops with the exposure of the skin to the heating elements, or gas generated external heat of a regular oven. A microwave jacket potato is fine if it's going to be served split and covered in a tasty sauce, where its purpose is to provide bulk, but not flavour.
But when the potato is the star of the meal, and an oven-baked jacket potato deserves this status, then only the real deal will do. That golden to almost charred exterior, with the slightly firmer amber layer beneath, then the creamy, fluffy centre, just waiting for a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil, or, yummy, toasted sesame oil. Oh, yes, it's a star. There's no contest.
That said, I have discovered a cheat's method of achieving pretty near the perfection of the real thing, but using the microwave. Here's how you do it.
Microwave your jacket potatoes as usual until just done. Heat the grill while they are cooking, then grill both sides of the hot potatoes for about seven minutes each side, until they are well toasted. The moisture inside the potatoes saved them from actually toasting, and they really do taste very good indeed.
Since there's usually just me, or David and me here when I'm cooking, this is the way I often do them. It's not economical to have the big oven on to bake a few potatoes.
Did you know that potatoes have beautiful flowers? No? Well, they do. Just look at these. They are a beautiful, pale pink. When the flowers have died back, then I know there will be a lovely crop of tubers ready to dig up.
One of the best bits is - they are free!! Yes, really, free. They have cost me nothing. If your potatoes have been too long in your vegetable basket, and are growing arms and legs, or shoots, as we call them, cut off the shoots, plant the bit of potato in the ground attached to the shoot, water and wait, and you will almost undoubtedly grow your very own free crop of potatoes.
Isn't nature wonderful?????