National Chip Week will be celebrated in the middle of February.
Chips and potatoes in general have had a bad press recently but we’re starting to realise that the humble spud is actually nutritionally very sound.
They’re naturally fat free, a good source of fibre and are rich in vitamins C and B6. Granted, when you fry them in lard it will add to their fat content but chips aren’t an everyday food, so they’re worth the treat now and again.
For many people chips play a major part in childhood memories.
When I was growing up we did have an electric chip pan for a while, but Lupin our family Alsatian discovered it one night, partook of the entire contents, and the catastrophic results meant the chip pan was binned and chips were off the menu in the house indefinitely.
A real treat was a monthly trip to the Beach Saloon Chip Shop in Garvagh – where hot, crispy chips were lashed with vinegar and salt. They also did a mean battered sausage and I’ve never had as one good since.
For me the best way to eat chips is at the seaside with the gulls squawking, a light drizzle of rain falling and the steam rising from them.
There was a time when chefs were sniffy about serving chips (I include myself in this) but they’ve had a renaissance in the past few years. When push comes to shove, most people love them and let’s face it who doesn’t hanker after juicy steak and chips now and again?
Heston Blumenthal got the ball rolling with his triple cooked chips. Equally sized chips are blanched in boiling water, drained and dried on a cooling rack in the fridge.
They’re then deep fried at 140oF until just lightly golden, drained and chilled again on a rack, and finally cooked until crisp and golden at 180oc. It’s a bit of a flaff but they apparently make the perfect chip. You can skip the first bit and just do the last two stages without the chilling in between and the chips will be just as good.
The actual potato is another crucial part of the process. Maris Pipers are probably the best, closely followed by rooster potatoes. Generally potatoes with a high sugar content don’t make great chips, so yellow fleshed potatoes should be avoided.
When I’m making chips I keep the skins on – it doesn’t take away from the look of them and you’ll keep in some of the fibre.
It’s best to suss out a chip shop that peels and chips their own potatoes. When potatoes are peeled commercially they add a whitener that makes it very hard to dry the potatoes and results in a soggy product.
This week’s recipe is for grilled steak with hollandaise sauce. Steak and chips both love this sauce – egg yolks whipped with a vinegar reduction and then emulsified with butter.
This week I’ve used Abernethy smoked butter for the sauce (check out their website for suppliers abernethybuttercompany.com) but you could substitute regular butter. Or you could omit the steak and just dip the chips in the Hollandaise.
Steak and onions are another classic combination. The other recipe is for baked onions – roasted in a foil parcel until soft and golden and then topped with garlicky, buttery breadcrumbs.
Steak, chips, hot buttery sauce and baked onions – enough to warm the coldest heart.