It is National Student Money week, and so I find myself looking back on my student life and what constituted a ‘meal’ in those days. The thing about student money is that you usually have less than none of it, and there are many things that you want, or need, to spend this non-existent money on. An almost universal part of the student experience is therefore trying to feed yourself as cheaply as possible.
I did have some guidance for this at the time from Cas Clarke’s Peckish But Poor. It is a lovely little book, and I did make many things from it, including the most garlicky garlic-bread of all time (Gareth: I wonder if it is still repeating on you now?!). But on most nights, even making things from a cookbook aimed at novice and poor cooks, was way too much effort and expense.
And so, an absolute staple of my student diet was jacket potatoes. I don’t recall ever making anything more exciting for the topping than cheese, or perhaps when I had someone over I was trying to impress, cheese and beans. I never bothered taking the time to cook the potatoes in an oven either. After a quick stab of the skin, the potato would be shoved in the microwave for a time based on a completely inaccurate judgement of its weight and size. I came to think of the slightly wrinkly and stiff underside of over-microwaved baked potato as a delicacy, especially treasured when soaked in the grease of melted cheese.
Unless you are very fortunate, the need to cook inexpensive yet hearty meals doesn’t go once you have a qualification. I do think a little more about trying to be balanced and healthy these days, particularly as I am cooking for a family rather than as a ‘lining’ for a night out. And so, I return to the jacket potato as a cheap and simple food to build a meal around. Common toppings like cheese, baked beans, and chilli can still hit the spot, and served with a side salad make the whole thing more balanced.
This recipe is for a simple but medium-healthy sauce of creamy greens to go on your jacket potato. For other ideas, particularly if you are bored of the usual toppings, it is worth checking out some other recipes on the Democratic Kitchen blog, such as:
- Vegan Bolognese
- Beefless Stew (no need to make the dumplings) https://democratickitchen.com/2020/02/03/vegan-bean-stew-with-dumplings/#more-286
- or James’ Beans.
I have written out the recipe per person, so that you can easily make this meal for one or many. If you have any ideas for good jacket potato toppings, we would love to hear from you, so please email or comment at the bottom!
Jacket Potato with Creamy Greens
Serves: 1 or more
Time: 90 minutes for an oven-baked potato, 10 minutes for microwaved. Sauce alone: 10 minutes.
1 baking potato per person
3-4 tablespoons peas (fresh or frozen) per person
1 handful fresh spinach or frozen ‘nugget’ of spinach per person
50g of cream cheese (dairy or vegan) per person
1 spring onion per person
1/2 tablespoon of butter (dairy or vegan) per person (plus a little extra for buttering the potatoes)
Half a cup of milk (125ml) (dairy or soya) per person
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs per person (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil (only needed for oven-baked)
Salt and Pepper to season
- Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. To oven cook, gently rub the skins with olive oil, and roast directly on an oven shelf at 180C for 90 minutes. Alternatively, microwave each potato for 7 minutes, and test for doneness with a table knife. Cook for an extra 2 minutes at a time as necessary until soft and fluffy in the middle. For multiple potatoes, microwave one at a time, and then place in a warm oven while cooking the rest.
- Chop the spring onion into small rounds 1-2mm thick and put the slices made only of the green top part to one side.
- Place the peas and spinach in a small saucepan and pour over enough boiled water to just cover the peas. Cook for approximately 3 minutes until the peas and spinach are cooked through (and if using fresh spinach, nicely wilted). Drain the water and return the peas and spinach to the pan.
- Add the butter to the pan and melt over the peas and spinach over a medium heat. Add the white slices of the spring onion, and the mixed herbs (if using), and stir everything together in melted butter for a minute.
- Add the cream cheese and milk and stir everything together. Keep stirring for approximately 4 minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy and hot through.
- Halve or quarter each potato and spread a little butter over it. Add the creamed greens and sprinkle over the reserved green bits of spring onion. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.