Serves 4

I'd almost forgotten what a great meal a jacket potato makes. And cheap, too. I've been put off them by all those pub and canteen fillings for leathery jacketed, luke-warm spuds, such as tuna and sweetcorn, frozen prawns and any other left-over sandwich-bar filling. My take on the snack in a jacket is a bit of a surprise as the filling is encased inside the potato. You can use your favourite filling, but if you really want to surprise guests add a couple of spoonfuls of chilli con carne and seal the pototoes.

By Mark Hix

4 large jacket potatoes
80g butter
100-120g good quality smoked ham, diced
120g farmhouse Cheddar, grated
3-4tbsp single cream
2tbsp chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the 190C/gas mark 5. Bake the potatoes for 11/2 hours, or until soft. You can wrap them in foil, but I prefer the baked skin flavour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

Cut a slice off the side of each potato (reserving the slice) large enough to fit a dessert spoon in to scoop the potato out.

Scoop out as much of the insides of each potato as you can, keeping it as intact as possible. Mash the potato in a bowl and mix with the ham, cheese, chives and cream and season. Re-fill the potatoes through the hole and replace the piece you removed.

Return the potatoes to the oven for 30 minutes and they'll be ready to go. If you're taking them with you somewhere, just wrap them in foil and transport in a cool box, which works in reverse keeping food hot.