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Food column: These recipes are a chip off the old block

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The humble fried potato – or chip – is a gastronomic phenomenon in itself, believes Deborah Ratcliffe.

A world without the potato would be a sad place for me. I love potatoes of any variety, shape or colour. Pasta, rice, noodles, couscous, etc, are fabulous, but they’re not potatoes.

A fabulous crispy roast potato – crunchy on the outside and meltingly soft inside – is bliss on a plate.

I long for the first, tiny new Scottish potatoes to arrive in the shops, eaten gently steamed/boiled to perfection with a hint of mint and then gently tossed in melted butter.

Try toasting some flaked almonds in the melted butter before pouring over the potatoes.

Chunky chips, served with a golden brown crispy outside, have a taste sensation that’s absolute perfection for me.

A smooth creamy inside finishes off a heavenly bite.

Currently my “go to” potato for chips are Roosters which I recently discovered and found they make the most glorious fried delights.

To me, cooking chips is an art, and if time is short, I don’t cook them because they are to be savoured and cooked with care.

To ensure the oil is at the correct temperature, a chip should rise to the surface (of the oil) and start “bubbling” at the edges.

If you have a thermometer to check the temperature, 140C is good for the first blanching and 180C for the final cook.

Years ago, I had a proper chip basket and pan.

Lard was the cooking fat, and it was left to solidify in the pan then re-used time and time again.

The flavour was superb.

However, I stopped using lard when our Labrador, Humphrey, managed to climb up on the kitchen worktop and eat the solid contents of the pan.

The rest I leave to your imagination…

Now I fry in sunflower oil and use a large, heavy-duty saucepan to cook my chips, with a slotted spoon to remove them.

When cooking, do take care not to overfill the pan with oil – no more than halfway up to be on the safe side.

Add the chips in slowly in case the oil bubbles up and flows over the side.

Sweet potatoes also make excellent chips although they never get as crispy as “potato” chips.

However, they have their own unique flavour and are well worth making.

I prefer to oven bake mine and find the result really good.

Sweet potatoes also absorb flavours extremely well.

Today I’ve made two flavours – salt and pepper, and chilli, but use whatever flavouring you like or leave plain.

As a point of interest, I noticed, if the sweet potatoes aren’t super fresh, they need a little extra oil halfway through the baking.


My favourite chip recipe

No quantities given as this is a method outline and either shallow or deep-fat frying is fine. Personally, I leave the skins on, unless they’re really old, tough or badly blemished, as they crunch up deliciously.

Method

  1. Potato skins on or off – your choice. If left on, remove any blemishes and clean thoroughly.
  2. Cut to the required size and then par boil. Drain and pat very dry using kitchen roll.
  3. Fry in hot oil till just browning, then remove from the heat.
  4. Carefully remove the chips from the oil. Drain well and pat dry again on kitchen roll.
  5. Next, carefully replace the chips into the hot oil. Cook until perfectly golden, firm, yet meltingly tender inside.
  6. Remove from the heat (if using a pan) and carefully remove chips from the oil. Drain on kitchen roll to remove excess oil.
  7. Add a dusting of sea salt then eat immediately.

Baked spiced sweet potato chips

(Serves 2-4) 

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (around 700g)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Spices such as salt and pepper; cayenne, cajun, smoked paprika, garlic or curry powders – choose according to your own taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into even-sized chips.
  3. Put the chips into a large bowl and add the olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with the seasoning of choice.
  5. Use your clean hands to mix well, ensuring all the chips are evenly coated with oil.
  6. Spread the chips out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake, then after 15 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn chips over.
  8. Add a little more oil if the potatoes look a little dry.
  9. Return to the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes – or until browned and tender.

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