Thursday, February 17, 2011

Glass Onion (Part F)

I was asked today how do you make potato crisps and it got me thinking. Making crisps is actually a pretty complicated procedure, in that you literally have to fart about a lot to get them to the stage where you can fry them.

For starters, you need a good frying potato and amazingly golden wonder - of which the crisp company was named after - is probably the best. But the bottom line is, if you want to make crisps this is the way to do it.

First off, you really need a mandoline and that's not a musical instrument, but a tool to allow you to slice things very thinly. You could use a knife, but boy have you got to have a sure hand and a good eye and you'll still never get it as thin. Once you've sliced your spuds into crisps size, you need to put them into some cold water and wash them. You need to flush out all the starch and once you've done that you need to do it again a few minutes later. Washing starch off works, but it doesn't get rid of it all, so you drain the water, leave the washed rounds to drain and then wash them again. Once that's been done, you need to dry the raw crisps and that is a massively time consuming exercise; but the rounds have to be dry otherwise you won't get crispy crisps.

Once you've dried the spuds, you then really need to give them some air and chill them. Put them in the fridge and about twenty minutes later you need to pat them dry again with some more kitchen towels. see what I mean about it being time consuming and fiddly?

Then you need some clean, fresh hot oil. It needs to be hot and you need to drop your crisps in individually, but quite quickly, so that you don't have overcooked crisps and undercooked ones at the same time. You do them in batches and set them out to drain on kitchen towels sitting over cooling racks. You then do something even weirder; you get some salt and crush it even finer - you can do this with a spice grinder or just by putting it into a mortar and pestle and crushing it into a powder; but the thing is it sticks better to the crisps than just bog standard table salt!

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Perfect rice is something many people find impossible to do and in reality it's considerably easier than making potato crisps! However, there are similarities and the main one is you need to wash your rice!

Let's say you're using basmati; this is a starchy rice at the best of times, so it's best to put it in a sieve and then rinse it thoroughly through with hot water until the water stops looking milky - at times, you might even think that there is so much starch being washed off it makes up an entire grain. Then you need to rinse it through with cold water and then you need to leave it to drain.

The next thing is to boil your water. Now, when I make rice for two people, I fill a cup up with rice and then another half a cup; so when you cook it you need to put your salt (and turmeric, if you want yellow rice) into a saucepan and then add two cups of boiling water to a pan that is already sitting on a lighted flame. Add your rice, bring to the boil, stir and then get your lid, wrap it up in an old tea towel and put it over the pan, then wait it down with something heavy. Turn the heat down to simmer and time for 4 minutes. Once the 4 minutes is up, turn off the heat and leave it for another 8 to 10 minutes.

You should have a pan for of perfectly cooked, fluffy rice, that you can fluff up with a fork. if you haven't, you've done something wrong.

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Old fashioned mash potatoes

I'm fed up with chefs who seem to think that mash is actually 50% potato and a varying mixture of 50% fresh cream and butter, that eventually means you have a thick soupy splodge that has a vague taste of potato. Mashed potato should be what it says, potato that has been mashed, that has some additives - salt, black pepper, butter and milk or cream to smooth it out, not over power it and turn into a white coronary aid.

So with that all in mind, if you need me to tell you how to mash potato then you shouldn't be allowed near a cooker. but essentially you bring to the boil and then turn down to a very slow simmer until the potatoes have cooked in their own generated heat. Get a masher and do the biz, adding the salt, pepper, and butter as you do the mashing, ensuring that you don't have any lumps in it. You can do all of this with a masher; you don't need to use a food processor or one of those hand held things.

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Next time I hope to have a really funky paneer dish and a couple of new potato and aubergine curry recipes, that I intend to try out over the next week or so.

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