Could there possibly be anyone in the wide world who doesn't drool at the thought of jacket potatoes with really crisp, crunchy skins and fluffy, floury insides with something lovely melted into them?
I'm not speaking of the insipid microwave versions of convenience fame, but the hallowed, reverenced beauty of the real thing. If you ever feel like treating yourself and want something supremely soothing and comforting that costs almost nothing (forget chocolate bars and the like), just bake yourself the biggest potato you can lay your hands on, then cut it in half and, as you do, listen carefully to the inviting crackle and crunch of the skin as the knife goes in.
Next, with a fork, fluff the floury insides, then add a generous amount of butter and watch it melt and disappear into the clouds of fluffiness. Add rock salt and crushed black pepper, then eat and savour it alone in all its humble, simple glory.
The secret of perfect jacket potatoes like the one described above is not to hurry them – give them up to 2 hours to get the really crunchy skin, learn to use the time when you're out, so they can be ready when you come home, or go and do something else and forget about them till they're ready.
This is my master recipe, and below are some ideas for fillings and toppings.
This recipe is from Delia's Complete How to Cook. Serves 2
First you need to wash the potatoes and dry them very thoroughly with a cloth, then leave them aside to dry as much as possible. If you're using ready-washed potatoes you need not do this, as the high heat will purify them.
Next, prick the skins a few times with a fork, then put a few drops of olive oil over each one and rub it all over the skin.
After that, rub in some crushed salt – this will draw out the moisture from the skin and, together with the oil, provide more crunchiness.
Now place the potatoes straight on to the centre shelf of the oven and let them bake for 1¾-2 hours, or until the skins are really crisp.
When you are ready to serve, slit each potato in half lengthways and top with the butter and seasoning.
Serve immediately because, after you remove jacket potatoes from the oven, they lose their crispness very quickly, so don't let them hang around.