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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Post the Twenty-sixth (in which our heroine returns to the world of the gainfully employed)

So, after my false start last week, I finally started my new job yesterday.  Although I also got off to a bit of a bad start this week - I left myself an hour and a half for the journey, just to be on the safe side, and still barely made it in on time.  I got stuck behind not one, but two crashes on the way in.  What are the bleedin' chances?  It was one of those "God hates me and wants me to fail" moments.  I got there in the end, though.  Barely.

Anyway, the new company seems very promising - not only do I have  my own office, which is manna from heaven for a misanthropist like me, but my department has a BAKING CLUB!!!  A different person bakes each week, and everyone meets on Friday morning for coffee and something tasty.  It's my boss's turn this week, which I find kind of funny (in a nice way), cause he's a really, really senior guy in there and I'm finding it hard to picture him in an apron.  But worry not, I shall report back on his baking skills in due course.

The return to work is forcing me to partake in activity I previously wanted no part of - menu planning.  I'm not getting home til about 6.45, which doesn't really leave time for my usual half an hour of staring into the fridge/press/freezer while I consider and discard 17 different dinner options before finally settling on one or making something up off the top of my head.  Spontaneity begone!  Who knows, though, it might save me a few shekels.

So, last night was:

Thrice Baked Potatoes - serves 2

4 large potatoes                                    150g cheddar, grated
6 tbs sunflower oil                                 1 tsp aromat
0.5 tsp garlic granules                            0.5 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano                                        Splash of milk
Knob of butter or spread                      Salt & pepper

1.  Scrub your potatoes, dry them and prick fairly deeply with a fork a few times on each side.  (I once had an unpleasantly memorable experience with an exploding spud that was insufficiently pricked.)  Bake in an oven preheated to 200C for an hour to 90 minutes, depending on size.  They're done when you can easily slide a sharp knife into them.

2. Remove from the oven and immediately slice them in half lengthways, holding them with a tea-towel so you don't burn the hands off yourself.  Lay them cut-side-up on a wire rack until they're cool enough to handle.  This step is vital to ensure the utmost crispiness of the finished skins.

3. While you're waiting for the spuds to cool, mix your oil, aromat, garlic granules, paprika, oregano, salt & pepper in a small bowl.  I find putting it in the still-warm oven for a few minutes helps the flavours to infuse.

4.  When you can handle the potatoes comfortably, scoop the flesh out into a bowl.  Do not, as I have done on not one but several occasions, feed it to your dogs before remembering that you will, in fact, need it later in the recipe.  With a pastry brush, coat both sides of each potato with the flavoured oil.  Return your oven to 200C and bake the skins upside-down (it stops them closing up) until nice and crispy.  Leave the oven on.

5. While the skins are crisping, melt your butter or crappy low-fat spread in a large pot.  Throw half your scooped-out potatoes into the pot (hang on to the rest, though, cause we're going to use it tomorrow) and mash with enough milk to get a nice, fluffy consistency.  Season well and keep warm.

6.  When the potatoes are crisp, fill each one with a spoonful of mash - you want just enough to coat the skins by a half a centimetre or so, it's not a loaded baked potato we're going for here.  Sprinkle with the grated cheddar and return to the oven until the cheese is browned and bubbling.  You can flash them under the grill for the last two minutes if needs be.  Serve with sour cream and, if you're feeling virtuous, a green salad.

P.S. If you have an avowed carnivore living at home (I'm looking at you, RF), you can fry off some bacon bits or chorizo and add them into the mashed potato filling.

P.P.S.  It's a good idea to cut these using a steak knife - they really are very crispy.  A dinner knife is like to send them shooting off your plate, which causes no end of excitement if you happen to have dogs knocking around the kitchen.

P.P.P.S.  You could totally save yourself a whole lot of time and effort by skipping the second baking and simply frying your scooped-out skins in a couple of inches of oil (or, if such things still exist, chucking them in a deep fat fryer for a few minutes).  I, however, like to fool myself that baking them (albeit coated in oil) is staving off my old pal the rag on a stick for yet another while.  If you do go down the frying route, do it in plain oil and add the aromat, etc. to the mash.

I have a confession to make... camera ate the photo I took of the potato skins.  The one above is an old one of a different skins recipe and they weren't very nice at all.  Don't tell anyone.

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