My friend Christina was in the UK last week and she ended up in Windsor, by the castle. She snapped a pic of a pub we had visited last spring, whiling away a stormy afternoon (and a substantial hangover) with lunch and a pint, while the rest of our crew toured the castle. Just seeing a blurry, nighttime snapshot of the front of the pub brought me back to that afternoon: the warm & cozy (and dry!) wooden booths, the farmhouse cider on tap, and the enormous, fantastic jacket potatoes.
A jacket potato is essentially just the UK’s word for a baked potato, but it is a bit more than that. Nearly every pub that serves food will have a jacket potato on the menu. There are usually several toppings on offer, ranging from simple butter & herb or cheese & bacon to chili, curry, meat or seafood; all sorts of deliciousness. And they are substantial enough for a meal: usually served with a side salad and consisting of a truly enormous potato, stuffed with filling; in fact, I often struggle to finish one. It’s just something we don’t see in the States for some reason, even in bars that serve traditional pub food like fish & chips or pot pie. Luckily for us, jacket potatoes are dead easy to make at home.
I love this geeky exploration of the best way to bake a jacket potato from Felicity Cloake at The Guardian. Not surprisingly, after trying several different methods, Felicity comes to the conclusion that Nigel Slater’s version, from Tender, was bang on: a hot oven, a light coating of salt (and nothing else) and a good long roasting time directly on the oven rack. Even more important, however, than the cooking method, is the type of potato you choose: you need a baking potato (floury, as the Brits call them), rather than a waxy, boiling potato. The Russet is the most common baking potato here in the States; the red potato is the most common waxy or boiling potato. Baking potatoes are typically long & skinny (vs. round), with a thicker, coarser skin and white flesh. The toppings, of course, are limited only by your imagination.
So, roast up a jacket potato, pour yourself a pint, and while away this rainy, grey winter’s afternoon. Pub not included.
Adapted from How to cook the perfect jacket potato at The Guardian.
- 4 large floury baking potatoes (Russet or Idaho)
- flaky sea salt
Coconut Curry Spinach
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 – 2 red chiles, seeded and thinly sliced (fresh or frozen)
- 2 – 3 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground tumeric
- 6 cups baby spinach (or chopped spinach, kale or other leafy green, fresh or frozen)
- 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (425 degrees F convection).
- Scrub potatoes well; prick a few times with a fork. While still wet, douse liberally with flaky sea salt. Roast, directly on the oven rack, for 60 to 75 minutes, until skin is crisp and crackly and the potato gives a bit when you press on it.
- Meanwhile, prepare spinach sauce. In a medium skillet, bring coconut oil to a shimmer over medium-high heat. Add shallot, garlic and chiles, stir, then reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add curry powder and tumeric; sauté for 1 minute. Add spinach, stir to coat, and sauté until just beginning to wilt, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk and cook until bubbling. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and flavors blend, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings (the potatoes will be rather salty due to the salt-crusted skin, so beware of over-salting the sauce).
- Remove potatoes from oven. With a small, sharp knife, cut a large X into the top of the potato. Or use the karate chop method advocated by Nigel. Use a kitchen towel (potatoes are hot!) to press open the potato (like you are opening a schoolyard paper fortune teller). Drizzle liberally with spinach sauce. Serve immediately with a simple green salad.
- Almost anything a bit saucy can work as a topping: chili, stew, curry, etc. It’s a great way to use up leftovers when you don’t have enough for a full meal. Of course, the simplest topping of all is a pat of butter, black pepper and some chopped green herbs.
- This curry sauce came out quite spicy: my eyes were watering. Deliciously so, but moderate the amount of chile to your taste.
- A splash of lime wouldn’t go amiss in the sauce: I didn’t have any.
- The salt-encrusted skin is fabulous, but (obviously) quite salty. Adjust the amount of salt to your taste.
Best eaten fresh.