Sunday, 29 January 2012

Hasselback potatoes

How's that for an incentive?
This week, I have mostly been working from home - wading through a giant stack of undergraduate exam papers. I feel that this kind of task is best met not in an office full of people, but in velour joggers* on a large sofa, with tea on tap and access to periodic 'incentives' (such as this morning's elevenses - a slice of my yummy Christmas cake).

Anyhoo, earlier this week as a little reward for getting through the first batch, I decided to act on a colleague's tip about Booth's supermarket. I'd never heard of it before, but when she painted it as a paradise of obscure and wonderful culinary delights, I knew I'd have to take the trip out there. It would have been nice to get out of the house anyway, but the whole trip took on the air of pilgrimage when I made what I consider to be one of my most significant foodie discoveries ever... Vegetarian Parmesan, by Bookhams. It comes in a lovely big hard wedge, unlike the 'free from' powdered version. They can't actually call it Parmesan due to European rules, so it's called Vegetarian Pasta Cheese instead - made with vegetarian rennet.

Now of course this discovery deserves a fancy-schmancy application, probably courtesy of Hugh F-W's River Cottage Veg cookbook. And that will come in a few days.

But in the meantime, let's go back to basics with a Mary Berry recipe that basically cooks itself, leaving you free to sit trundling though stacks of essays to your heart's content. This comes from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook. I was introduced to the 2003 edition by my old friend the jazz trumpeter and have never looked back. It's a brilliant reference work of pretty much every well-known recipe you could want to make, from Cinnamon buns to Teriyaki and Nasi Goreng to Vegetable terrine. The new edition is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, so if you don't yet own a copy - go out and buy it at once!

*Yes, velour. I simply couldn't part with them after the ill-advised velour tracksuit phase of about ten years ago, so now they come out as a guilty pleasure at marking time. Judge if you want.

Hasselback potatoes
Allow one large potato per person as a side dish, or two as a main meal with a side salad.

large potatoes (as many as necessary)
one knob of butter, melted per each two potatoes
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated - enough to sprinkle over each potato

1. Cut a thin slice of the bottom of each potato so that it will sit flat on a baking tray. Push a skewer through the potato length-wise, a quarter of the way up the potato.

2. Make vertical cuts, three-quarters of the way through the potato, at roughly 5mm intervals. You can just cut all the way down to the skewer without worrying about not accidentally chopping all the way through. Remove the skewer and prepare the rest of the potatoes in a similar way.

3. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet, and brush with the melted butter, making sure that it goes down all the cracks. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 220 degrees celcius for about 40 minutes, then sprinkle the parmesan on top and bake for another 10 minutes.

5. Serve at once!


  1. i was thinking of doing jacket potatoes for lunch this week at uni... i think this may just be the taste of fancy i was searching for... that and soured cream.

  2. Mmm, with soured cream sounds good - almost like a Soviet flavour sensation! Definitely good lunchbox fodder!

  3. Hi I don't really like parmesan, can you do this with cheddar for example?

  4. Hi Katy, I have done this with mature cheddar before and it's delicious! To be honest I'm pretty sure that any hard cheese would work a treat - as with everything on here, there aren't really any rules so just have a play about and see what works for you!

  5. I'm not big on potatoes, but this was seriously delicious. Hail to Mary Berry for creating the recipe and to P for suggesting.