Did you know that it was recently National Chip Week? Brought to you by the British Potato Council, of course. Chips are loved the world over but seem particularly celebrated here in Scotland. Some of my happiest moments in this country have involved chips… limp ones in a polystyrene box after a drunken night oot, with fish and mushy peas by the sea; gobbled down in the car after a hike in the hills.
A popular chip manufacturer currently has a billboard that truly shits me off. It features a big bowl of oven chips with the headline: EAT YOUR GREENS. Then there’s wee green icons that say: Low fat! Low salt! Low sugar! Etc etc.
A chip ain’t a green. A chip is a chip. It’s starchy, sometimes greasy, and usually delicious. Why do we have to pretend otherwise? Why can’t we just enjoy a food for what it really is? Why do food manufactures have to dress things up with flimsy health claims?
Recently a Nutella advert proclaimed that every jar contained, "52 hazelnuts, the equivalent of a glass of skimmed milk and some cocoa" and was a healthy breakfast for the kiddies. Never mind the fat and sugar and the fact you’d have to eat the whole jar to claim that glass of skimmed milk.
I wish there was some sort of regulation of food advertising. Right now you could stick a blueberry in a bucket of ice cream and scream, CONTAINS ANTI-OXIDANTS! Next thing they’ll put 5p coins into yogurt pots and claim they’re rich in… richness? Is it any wonder people are confused about what the hell is a healthy food?
I guess these companies wouldn’t make as much money if they said something sensible and honest, like:
Yep, this is Nutella. It’s brown and gooey and delicious. The Europeans are fond of it on bread for brekkie, but we don’t advise you eat the whole jar with a spoon like certain people used to do. Think of it as a Sometimes food.
Likewise the mighty Chip. I wouldn’t call them an everyday food, whether this be in their traditional soggy Scottish or pre-fried weird-coated freezer-to-oven incarnation. But they are tasty, and they are there to be enjoyed without guilt or apology.
I’m still immersed in a Heston Blumenthal-style search for the perfect homemade oven chip technique. When you’re married to Scot, chips need to feature on the menu. If you cut Gareth with a knife he would bleed starch. But we do try to keep them reasonably healthy.
Most people say the Maris Piper potato makes for the best chips but I made a cracking batch with the good ol’ King Edward. The best batch yet involved cutting into wedges leaving the skin on, par-boiling them until JUST stab-able, then draining in a colander. Then I left ’em to dry completely and cool down quite a bit. This drying and cooling step seemed to make ALL the difference.
Then I put them onto an oven tray, making sure they had a reasonable space around them coz overcrowded chips don’t crisp up very well. Then I seasoned and sprayed them in olive oil, then put into a 230’C oven (which may be cooler as our oven sucks) for about 30 mins, turning halfway. They were bloody beautiful – crunchy outsides with tender guts.
Yeah baby. Chip week may be over but I will party on all year.