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Our friend Brenda Withell, of Christchurch, New Zealand, is a busy teacher so she likes meals that can be made in a few minutes. These delicious baked potatoes take about 10 minutes. The exact quantities of ingredients don't matter -- simply adjust to suit your taste buds.

For each person, scrub one large potato and pierce it several times. If you don't, it may explode in the microwave -- very messy. Microwave on HIGH for 4 to 5 minutes. Prod it with your finger to check that it is soft. Cut a deep star across the top, and press from the bottom to open up the potato.

Make any of the following mixtures. Use a food processor to chop the onions, peppers, garlic etc. Pile the mixture in and on top of the potato. Microwave another one and a half minutes.

Choose any of these fillings:

(a) Baked beans (gluten-free ones), onion, cheese, and lots of freshly ground pepper.
(b) Bacon, onion and cheese.
(c) Cooked mince, onion and gluten-free taco mix, mint OR parsley.
(d) Creamed corn, cheese, onion, chopped chives and lots of freshly ground pepper.
(e) Salmon OR tuna, onion and chives.
(f) Prawns, garlic and a light cheese sauce (made with mild, not tasty, cheese).
(g) Bought or home-made pesto.

Optional extras:

Brenda adds garlic to nearly all these versions. As well, finely chopped tomatoes, finely chopped celery and capsicum (bell peppers) are all really nice added to any of these mixtures.

You can also add leftover cooked chicken, or any kind of leftover cooked meat or fish to these combinations. If you invent a great combination, I'd love to hear about it.

Note: My method takes slightly longer, but it spreads the flavour through the potato better. Here's how:

For two medium/large potatoes, microwave on HIGH for eight minutes. Don't overcook. They will feel firm, but leave them to stand for five minutes and they will be fully cooked.

Slice a quarter off the top of each potato. Scoop out most of the cooked potato, leaving the skin and a thin layer of potato intact. In a separate bowl, mash the potato with a large knob of butter.

Add lots of flavourful ingredients (from Brenda's list above), mix thoroughly and pile it all in and on the potatoes. Add a sprinkling of sharp parmesan cheese, and microwave until the cheese melts -- about one and a half minutes.

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Allan Gardyne, Golden Beach, Queensland, Australia.
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