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Feature & Recipe – Frying delight: When the chips are down…

Really good looking chips (fries)
Golden, crispy & NO brown sauce!

I have a guilty secret. I’ve been coveting a piece of kitchen kit for a while, one that doesn’t always have the best reputation as far as healthy eating is concerned. Last weekend, I finally transformed my latent desire into a tangible possession, with the purchase of my first deep fryer. A bargain in the sales, of course.

Please try not to judge me, being – as I am – someone who is (usually) an exponent of eating healthily and sustainably. I’m not about to recommend we all gorge ourselves on deep-fried Mars bars at every meal. Ideally, deep fried food shouldn’t really be at the centre of anyone’s diet.

Yet there are certain recipes that simply cannot be realistically completed without resorting to immersing ingredients into boiling fat (or preferably oil). Not previously being the owner of a deep fryer has meant I have been missing out on cooking such delights as tempura, salt and pepper squid, croquetas, and “proper” chips (fries, to those of you who are west of the Atlantic).

Now before anyone butts in, I know it isn’t always necessary to have a dedicated appliance to deep fry food. But heating up oil in a big saucepan on a stove, and trying to guess how hot it is – with potential disastrous consequences – is not for me. Knowing exactly at what temperature you are frying food is really important in ensuring proper cooking, and also limits the degree of oil that will be absorbed. That’s why I am the proud owner of a shiny new frying device that allows fantastic cooking control, thanks to its nice big variable thermostat. So, having removed the packaging and given the components a good wash, my next task was to decide what I was going to fry first.

Picture of a deep fryer
Silver dream machine…

Chips! Well, it might have been an obvious choice, but these would not be just any old chips, oh no. To accompany the oxtail braised in Rioja that was at the centre of Sunday dinner, I wanted the sort of fries that came with this dish when I sampled it in Spain. They had to be golden brown and perfectly crisp on the outside, with an interior that was soft, fluffy and moist.

Now there are endless opinions on how to produce the perfect fried chip. Each favours a particular preference in relation to potato variety, frying medium, and the temperature and number of cycles involved in the cooking. Christopher Hirst’s article in The Independent about his efforts to achieve the gastronomic paragon that is the perfect chip – thankfully, without the suggested use of horse fat – provides an excellent background in relation to these.

So, having considered the options, I choose to “do a Heston” and thrice cook my chips – once par boiled in salted water and then twice fried in oil. Blumenthal’s recipe (from In Search of Perfection) is a bit involved, but it truly does produce amazing chips. I shall maybe use a little less salt in the water the next time I try it, as the blanching meant that my chunky fries certainly didn’t need any further seasoning, but that’s all part of the alchemy.

Of course, I won’t be attempting to refine the recipe for a while – health, health, health!

This recipe (thanks to Heston Blumenthal and Christopher Hirst) will make sufficient chips for 2-3 people. It is best to fry in small batches, especially if using a small fryer.

Peel, then chunkily chip 400-500g potatoes, washing them thoroughly.

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the chips and return to boil, immediately reducing to gentle simmer (no bubbles) for 8-10 minutes. Strain and leave in the pan to encourage any remaining water to evaporate.
  2. Transfer to cool on a cake rack. When cool, chill in fridge.
  3. Heat your oil (I used sunflower oil, which is ideal for deep frying) to 130C. Using mesh basket, fry chips for nine minutes.
  4. Remove the basket, shake, and allow to drain. Cool the chips on a cake rack, then chill in the fridge.
  5. Just before you are ready to eat, heat oil to 190C. Use a mesh basket to fry chips for a maximum of 2-3 minutes until golden. Cooking times can vary depending on the fryer and potato varieties so keep a close eye on the colour of chips. Drain the chips, then spread on double layer of kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

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No Comments

  • Reply
    Chris Berry
    March 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Thrice cooked chips are splendid indeed. Not every day of the week, of course! Watch out for the croquetas recipe – using the lovely fryer – coming soon…

  • Reply
    Beauty Balm
    March 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

    ooh! Jealous would love a deep fat fryer! Nothing beats thrice cooked chips 🙂

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