2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 large red onions, peeled (reserve the skins for the onion butter), finely sliced
skins from 4 large red onions, reserved from making the pickled onions
500g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500g table salt
1.5kg large Agria potatoes, pricked all over with a fork
canola oil, enough to brush over potatoes
100ml milk
200g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped

Though this serves a couple as a side dish, I would probably not share! The humble jacket potato is a staple in the Johnston family home (for the non-Brits that’s a baked potato). Mum and Dad would have this for lunch with cheese and beans, or as one of the two veg on the old meat-and-two-veg plate. Way back when – when I was a budding young chef with zero culinary knowledge – I’d hear my peers tell these over-the-top stories of how their parents and grandparents inspired them to cook by making all these fancy dishes I’d never heard of. I’m not going to lie; I felt a bit jealous and thought that I was hard done by in not having cooking memories with my folks.


2.Put the first four ingredients into a saucepan and stir, over a low heat, until the sugar dissolves.
3.Turn up the heat and bring to the boil.
4.Place the onions in a large bowl.
5.Pour over the pickling liquid and let stand overnight for maximum pink colour.
6.These pickles can be kept in a jar in the fridge for at least a year.
8.Heat an oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
9.Put the onion skins on the baking tray and bake until the onions are dark and crisp, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool.
10.Once the skins are cool, put into a food processor and blitz to a fine powder.
11.Add the butter and a pinch of sea salt to the food processor and blitz until fully blended.
12.Scrape all the butter into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until needed.
13.Half an hour before using, let it stand at room temperature to soften.
14.This will last for about 2 weeks in the fridge.
16.Heat the oven to 180°C.
17.Take a deep roasting pan and fill with the salt.
18.Liberally brush each potato with canola oil.
19.Sit the potatoes one by one onto the bed of salt, with a little space between each one.
20.Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until they are fork tender. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
21.While the hot spuds cool down, gently heat the milk, butter, some salt and ground white pepper in a saucepan. Once piping hot, set aside.
22.Arm yourself with an oven glove or a folded tea towel in one hand and a sharp, serrated knife in the other.
23.Pick up each potato and cut it in half. Working quickly but being careful not to rip a hole in the skins, scoop the flesh of the potato into the saucepan of hot milk – it needs to stay warm as it makes for a smoother mash.
24.Once all the potatoes have been scooped into the milk, put the potato skins back into the oven for about 10 minutes to crisp up fully.
25.Use a potato masher or a whisk to mash the potatoes, in the pan, until smooth.
26.Then put the pan onto a low heat and using either a whisk or a spatula, whip the potatoes until glossy and smooth. Set aside.
27.Remove the skins from the oven and when cool enough to handle break up the skins into bite-sized pieces.
28.Spoon the mash into a medium-sized serving bowl then top with chopped chives, pink pickled onions, burnt-onion butter and crumble over the potato-skin crisps.

Recipes & food styling Jamie Robert Johnston / Photography Josh Griggs

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