Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Baked Potato with Simple Beef Chilli and Cheese
A baked potato is a wonderful idea for dinner, or even for lunch. Baked potatoes are so versatile in what they can be made to accompany that they need never be served precisely the same way twice. On this occasion, I have served the baked potato with a simple beef chilli and some grated cheddar cheese. The chilli can either be prepared in advance and reheated before being served with the baked potato, or prepared as I have done in this instance while the potato is baking.
There are two very common problems experienced when baking potatoes. The first is that the potato remains hard in the middle, while approaching being overcooked on the outside and the second is that the potato is cooked for so long - in order to soften its centre - that the skin and outer part are inedible. There is a very simple way in which I get around these potential problems.
While the oven is preheating to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6, the potato should be scrubbed under running water and thoroughly dried with kitchen towel. A thin metal skewer should then be carefully driven through the lateral centre of the potato until it protrudes from the other side (see image above.) The metal skewer conducts the heat right through the centre of the potato, allowing and ensuring more even cooking. A fork should be used to pierce the skin of the potato several times to allow steam to escape during cooking and the potato should be loosely wrapped in aluminium foil, to form a sealed tent. It should then be put on to a baking tray and in to the oven for an hour and a half.
The simple beef chilli will take around five minutes to prepare and twenty minutes to cook. Starting to prepare the chilli after the potato has been baking for about an hour should therefore be perfect for having the meal's two principal components ready at the same time.
Ingredients (Serves Two)
1/2lb minced (ground) beef
1 14oz can of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 8oz can of red kidney beans in water
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red chilli pepper
1 clove of garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The first step is to quickly brown the mince in a large, dry pan. The yellow bell pepper should be deseeded and roughly chopped. The red chilli pepper should be finely chopped, with the seeds left in for maximum bite. The garlic clove should be peeled and finely chopped. The red kidney beans should be drained through a colander or sieve and washed under running cold water.
When the mince is browned, the peppers and garlic should be added to the pan to sweat off for a couple of minutes before the red kidney beans and chopped tomatoes are added. The heat should be turned up until a simmer is achieved, before being reduced and the chilli left to simmer for around twenty minutes. Seasoning with salt and pepper should be undertaken at the end of the cooking process.
When the potato has been baking for its alloted time, it should be removed from the oven and - before being unwrapped - carefully and gently squeezed (wearing oven protecting gloves) to help fluff up the inside. It should then be carefully unwrapped and if it is cooked properly, the skewer should very easily be pulled free.
The baked potato should be sat on a plate and cut in to quarters, not quite all the way through. It should then be opened up and the chilli spooned on top, before the optional grated cheese and a couple of basil leaves are added as a final garnish.