Super Tubers: With these luxury fillings, baked potatoes need never be the same again

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I'd got out of the habit of eating baked potatoes in recent years, so, when I gave you a recipe a few weeks ago for baked potato with haggis, it reminded me that now is the time of year to reinstate this simple, earthy pleasure.

One of the reasons that jacket potatoes fell out of vogue, I think, is that customers finally got fed up with the withered specimens in hot cabinets in takeaways and pubs up and down the country. My guess is that posh baked potatoes will be back on the menus of smart restaurants next year – not filled with cheddar and chilli, but with more sophisticated fillings, of which here are some examples.

Lobster baked potato

Serves 4

A baked potato with lobster is a real luxury – you could serve these with large potatoes or make them go even further as a little cocktail snack using small potatoes.

2 large baking potatoes

1 cooked lobster weighing about 500g

50-60g butter

2tbsp chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4tbsp of good-quality mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Place the potatoes on a tray and bake for about an hour or so until soft. Leave to cool a little then halve them, scoop the potato into a bowl and mash with the butter and half of the chives and season to taste.

Remove the lobster from the shell and reserve the shells for a soup. Scoop any of the brown meat from the head and mix with the potato. Re-fill the skins and return to the oven to reheat for about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile cut the lobster tail into slices and the claws in half if they are large. To serve, lay the lobster on the potato halves and spoon a little of the mayonnaise over.

Smoked haddock baked potato

Serves 4

I suppose this is a kind of variation on the famous omelette Arnold Bennett, which was made with smoked finnan haddock.

2 large baking potatoes

200g smoked haddock

Enough milk to poach the haddock

100g butter

30g flour

1tsp English mustard

3-4tbsp double cream

1tbsp chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Place the potatoes on a tray and bake for about an hour or so until soft. Leave to cool a little then halve them, scoop the potato into a bowl and mash with 60g of the butter Meanwhile place the haddock into a saucepan and cover with the milk, season lightly, bring to the boil, simmer for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat. Take out the haddock and put to one side. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, and stir on a low heat for 20 seconds. Return the haddock milk to a low heat and whisk in the flour mixture and mustard. Simmer on a very low heat for about 10 minutes, then add the double cream and continue simmering for 5 minutes or so or until the sauce is the consistency of thick double cream.

Meanwhile, remove the skin and any bones from the fish and flake into chunks. Mix the fish with the sauce and fold half into the baked-potato mixture and spoon back into the skins. Put potatoes back in the oven for about 10 minutes, heat up the remaining fish and sauce with the parsley; then, to serve, just spoon the fish and sauce on to the potatoes.

Snipe 'Butcher's treat'

Serves 4

I discovered this dish a few years ago while I was staying with the game specialists Ben and Silvy Weatherall in Dumfriesshire. Ben pulled this recipe out of an old cookbook by Prue Coats, Prue's New Country Cooking. It sounded like an idea of pure genius, a snipe baked in a potato. As you might know, a snipe doesn't have an awful lot of meat on the bone, so this sounded like an ideal and fun way to serve any of those tiny game birds, which also include teal or woodcock.

4 large baking potatoes

4 oven-ready snipe

A couple of good knobs of butter

4 sage leaves

A few sprigs of thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8 or the hottest it will go. Cut off a small piece of potato at the base so that it sits level. Cut about 1cm off the top for the lid and carefully hollow out the flesh from the potato with a small sharp knife, a grapefruit knife or a melon baller, leaving about one centimetre of thickness of potato all the way around. You can cook and mash up the potato to serve with the snipe, or simply season and butter the

pieces and roast with a little chopped onion and bacon while the snipe is cooking. Put a knob of butter in the bottom of the potato, place the seasoned snipe on top then the rest of the butter on top with the sage and thyme.

Replace the lid and bake for about 30 minutes. A snipe usually only takes about 10 minutes but the surrounding potato is protecting it from the fierce heat. Serve immediately.

Baked Highland Burgundys with pheasant ragout

Serves 4

Highland Burgundys are purple-fleshed heritage potatoes that we often buy from Lucy Carroll up in Northumberland (heritage-potatoes.co.uk). You could use any game bird for this, but pheasants are pretty cheap at this time of year and slow-cooking them works really well.

You could serve this as a little snack with small potatoes, or as a more substantial course if you're using larger potatoes. There are some other varieties of purple-fleshed potatoes, like salad blue earlies and Shetland blacks. Once you have removed the pheasant meat from the bone, you can also make a stock in the same way that you make a chicken stock.

4 large Highland Burgundy potatoes

50-70g butter

For the pheasant ragout

1tbsp flour

A pheasant with all of the meat taken off the bone, cut into rough 1cm pieces

Vegetable or corn oil for frying

A couple of good knobs of butter

1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1tsp thyme leaves

tbsp tomato purée

1 glass of red wine

1ltr of chicken or pheasant stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5.

First, make the ragout. Season and dust the pieces of pheasant with half of the flour. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and brown the pieces of pheasant on a high heat for about 4-5 minutes, then add the butter, onions, garlic and thyme and continue cooking on a high heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are beginning to colour.

Add the rest of the flour and tomato purée and stir well for a minute or so on the heat. Gradually add the wine and stock, bring to the boil, season and transfer to a thick-bottomed saucepan and simmer for about an hour or so, until the pheasant is tender and just falling apart.

Meanwhile place the potatoes on a tray and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on their size, until soft.

To serve, halve the potatoes and scoop them out into a bowl, mash up with the butter with a fork and season, then spoon back into the skins.

Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, make an indentation with the back of a spoon and spoon the ragout on top.

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