A few months ago ‘Austerity Monday’ was introduced in the flat. When I say ‘introduced’, I really mean ‘enforced’. Cook’s prerogative. An as self-appointed head cook, I thought it’d be a good idea.
Austerity Monday first happened when I’d treated myself to a weekend of boiling down pork bones into a stock. Steaming up the windows. Sending drips of condensation trickling down the white walls. And performing some sort of alchemy which turns Thames tap water into a delicious meaty jelly.
I couldn’t help but think I’d make my Great Grandma Grete proud. She was renowned for sitting at the kitchen table after Sunday lunch, clawing the last bit of meat off the chicken carcass before it was allowed to be put in the stockpot. Because that’s proper cooking. And what kind of world are we living in where chicken carcasses and pork bones are so frequently thrown away? A world where people have better things to do during the weekend than dance around a big stockpot with excitement, steaming their faces with meat-flavoured vapour?
So the first austerity Monday involved a bowl of pork-flavoured broth. My flatmates pretended to be disgusted, but gobbled down the ramen. And so began the tradition of daals, suspicious stews and leftovers, on what has become a competitively meagre, and joyfully miserable evening of the week.
There was, incidentally, a lapse in Austerity Monday when I went on holiday for a week in November. My flatmate sent me a photograph entitled ‘Austerity Monday is out of the window’. The fact he was so quick to introduce Frivolity Monday in my absence implies that the weekly frugal meal is mainly done to humour me. And not for the joy of a puritanical start to the week.
Anyway, as most of you will have noticed, today is Monday. So I thought I’d share tonight’s supper with you: jacket potato.
“Who blogs a jacket potato?” I hear you cry. Well, I suppose I do. Because a jacket potato is an enormously underrated supper. For a long time my boyfriend had a real prejudice against jacket potatoes. I think he saw them as ‘tea’ not ‘dinner’. And mixing the two is disorientating for him.
But on a Monday evening there’s something wonderful about a jacket potato. A super use of a potato you have lying around. And a super use for the gnarled piece of cheese that’s been festering in the fridge since 2012.
Now, Felicity Cloake – who I normally have nothing but love for – spent quite a lot of time deliberating the ‘Perfect Jacket Potato’, baking, brining and massaging oil into a single spud. But on a chilly Monday evening there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.
Stab a potato repeatedly with a fork, and stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes or so…
Those whose mothers told them never to stand too close to the microwave will probably know that it’s because they cook things from the inside out – unlike an oven which works outside in. This is good news if you’re trying to accelerate the cooking of a potato. But obviously not so good if you still secretly harbour a fear that the microwave waves are also cooking you from the inside out if you stand too close.
Anyway, switch the oven on to 180C while the potato is whirring away. And then move the hot potatoes from the microwave to the oven for 20-30 minutes to crisp up nicely.
Stuff with butter and cheese. And serve with lashings of coleslaw. (About 75p for 180g, so just allowed to slip past Austerity Monday stringent guidelines.)