Some dishes really do get their time in the sun. Goat’s cheese salad, quiche, pears in red wine… they’ve all had their moment. Strange to think that something as simple as the baked potato did too, but it’s true.
Back in the 80s, city high streets were littered with baked-potato vans and there were also takeaways – usually with silly names – offering the healthy option. It was partly to do with the F-plan diet (which spectacularly failed for me because when I see a baked potato I also see sour cream and Cheddar), partly to do with ease of cooking and the number of fillings they can take.
Then the baked potato just disappeared. If you fancied a late-night baked spud you had to do the microwave plus oven trick at home.
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Baked potatoes have never gone out of fashion in my house, however.
They mean comfort, of course, but they’re also satisfyingly simple. You can bake them, split them and spoon in the filling.
Or you can do the version I learnt in home economics – split the potato, scoop out its flesh, mash it with other ingredients (fried bacon and grated cheese, or flaked hot smoked salmon, cream and dill), pack it back into the skins, top with butter and bake until golden.
Read Diana Henry's recipe for perfect crunchy roast potatoes
How to get the perfect baked potato
Some of you may exclaim that being told how to make a perfect baked potato is stuff and nonsense. But there is an approach that yields perfect results – and why not do simple things well?
Wash the potatoes, then – key – pat the wet skin with flaked sea salt.
This helps the skin crisp a little, and you want that crispy skin to contrast with the soft, snowy interior.
Put the potato onto a metal baking sheet and splash the sheet with a little water.
Bake until tender in an oven preheated to 200C, 400F, gas 6.
The cooking time doesn’t just depend on size but also on variety (and sweet potatoes take less time than regular potatoes).
To test if the potato is done, press it – it should feel soft under the skin and ‘give’ a little.
You can push a skewer into the centre if you want to be sure.
A baked potato isn’t something you need to overthink but, made carefully, it is one of the most satisfying things you can eat.
Baked potato recipes
Baked sweet potato with chorizo, mushrooms and fried egg
Baked potato with poached egg and asparagus
Baked potato with smoked haddock
Baked potatoes with spinach and feta
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