The Humble Spud

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.


33 thoughts on “The Humble Spud

  1. You made Slimming World chips! To be eaten freely on a green day and how good they are πŸ™‚

    Mind you I am reading this entry while sat next to my daughter, stealing her chippy chips from her plate….

  2. Since I discovered home made oven chips now I love them. We threw out the deep fat fryer much to my daughters’ horror so when we do have chips they are kind of the healthy option. I’ll have to try your recipe though because they do sound delicious. What do you season them with, just salt and pepper, or something even tastier?

    I hear you on the advertising of certain foods, what also annoys me is that although a company will bleat about how healthy a product is, they never mention that it can still be fattening. I used to often fall into the trap of having a healthy snack only to find out it was very high in cals, with seeds being a prime example.

    How are you feeling today, are those antibiotics working OK for you?

    I bought your book today so I’m going to pour myself a nice glass of wine and start to read it later on. Can’t wait πŸ™‚

  3. It was national chip week and I MISSED IT?! πŸ™

    Shauna, those chips you made sound wonderful — I am definitely going to try out some homemade ones. I love the kind our local “posh” pub does, and those look pretty similar!

    Ammi — the book is BRILLIANT, you will laugh/cry/snort wine out your nose…


  4. Chips, Dip, Nachos, yummmm, now you have me craving all those yummy muchie foods that are bad for me! Hahaha…its Friday, its my treat night. Wings and homemade nachos tonight. I’ve got 25 points of goodness to go crazy!

    Great site, great conversation!

  5. Ah, but it WAS pulled, it was deemed a mad ad: Reuters & BBC
    Chips from chip shops always smell better than they taste. I smell them and WANT them and get them and …yeah, then I eat them and it isn’t as good. They should bottle the smell so you can spray it on things like carrots.

  6. Hiya Shauna – we have been using a Cookamesh sheet for oven chips for several months and have found this is a dramatic help in making them crispier without oil.

    I’d really recommend this as it’s a cheap, reusable, and fantastic help for baking our chips. I’m sure it will work for keeping yours crispy!

    Have a look:
    (Canadian link provided, even though I’m in New Zealand, but I’m sure someone in the UK will sell them πŸ™‚

  7. My favourite Nutella ad was “less sugar than jam, less fat than peanut butter”. As though either of those things is a claim to healthiness in a food!

  8. Oooooh, I’d never considered the pre-oven par boil….
    Nice helpful hint DG!!

    Inspired…will try with yams or sweet potatoes…

  9. I am a potato girl. Any kind, any where – although I am partcial to the chip way too much ! I have adapted well to the oven chips – yup the low fat(ish) ones and rarely eat the chip shop ones and even then they have to be fat and hot not thin and all Mcgreasy :o)

  10. Friend of mine sticks a couple of lemon wedges in with the spuds when they go in the oven – delicious.

  11. ooooh

    one food thing I DONT LOVE.


    Im more of a sweets gurrl.

    please to alert me when it’s national DONUT week πŸ™‚


  12. parboiling now that is a step i’ve not tried, will have to give it a go… and cool completely before baking. turn halfway through. gotcha!

    i hear ya on the ads thing, it can all be so misleading these days. there are some special frites here you can buy which when deep fried (as is done here) they soak up almost NO oil. See they are coated in this special… uhh… mystery stuff which would probably kill you faster than some extra fryer fat. Will have to research these things some more. hmmmm… dodgy.

  13. I forgot to mention in my last comment that I also make parsnip chips, done the same way as potato ones in the oven, but boy oh boy are they delicious!!

  14. Shauna, How long have you and Gareth been together? You seem like such a great couple, and he seems to be a really supportive guy.

  15. I grew up with potatoes and always loved them. If you want it to be even more healthy, use some sweet potatoes. If you don’t like it, put the sweet potato in a pot with some dirt and soon you’ll have a quite nice houseplant. This was really random, sorry.

  16. The Nutella commercial we have here drives me crazy! “Spread some energy!” is the tagline. A mother “feels good about serving Nutella for breakfast… blah blah blah healthy healthy…” It makes me laugh. But I sure do love the stuff, so in a way I let that commercial justify it. Hehe

    p.s. regarding your next entry… keeping up with emails is hard for all of us, nevermind someone with a blog and a book out… all the new readers and fans… you’re doing great, I’m sorry someone made you feel bad, and you are NOT overdoing the pimping out of your book! My God! We are all so thrilled for you we could burst. Our numbers outweigh the ones who aren’t happy! πŸ™‚

  17. I lurve oven chips! They are a dinner food group, like peas. Put peas with anything and it becomes a meal.

    Re: your emails – tell them to garn get stuffed. I don’t even email my NANA, for Christs sake. (Not that she has a computer, but bear with me). It’s your life in this blog, so if your life has changed from busting fat to writing about it too, then that’s the way it is. Personally I feel many mummy bloggers should not have had children because I don’t enjoy reading them so much any more, but that makes the problem mine, not theirs… πŸ˜‰

  18. I saw one now for mullerice, when they claim its all good with natural rice and fruit (forget about the bucket of sugar and chemicals).. Muller commercials really quite annoy me in general. And yes, the potato/green discussion comes up quite a lot with my husband. He doesnt eat veg besides sweetcorn (yeah I cook a lot for myself hehe) and he claims he had his 1 of 5 a day when he had potato. Or tomato on a pizza!! Ah well..

  19. I also saw the post you thought twice about. yIt was a great repl and I really, really think that you should keep it there to show people that may have emailed you and are still awaiting a reply. They might jsut feel better.

    To the person who declared you a sellout, well – anyone with half a brain that has read more than two of your entries will know exactly the kind of person you are. I’ve never, ever, ever felt that you over pushed the book, on this blog or otherwise.

    Regardless, it is a VERY time consuming thing trying to return the amount of emails you have to. Perhaps someone needs to be slightly more understanding of your situation.

    Please don’t try to please someone who has been that outright rude to you. Post your post again. It was well written and not confrontational at all (in case you were thinking that).

    All my love and support,

  20. mmmm nutella, i am with you on that one, i have it once a week in my porridge, one dtsp, mmmmmm

  21. Someone called you a sellout???? There are a lot of bitter jealous types on the net just like in the real world, don’t let them spoil your success DG.

  22. P.S I didn’t see the post I just came from the new entry email and it wasn’t there so I read the comments… whoever has upset you is bad that is all I have to say!

  23. I read your previous post and think you went too far in explaining yourself to someone who lacks empathy and is rude. Perhaps the only useful thing that can be taken from the incident is to update your email page to reflect the reality of what you can manage – it doesn’t sound like you have the time to respond to each email – why not just say it so readers don’t have unrealistic expectations?

  24. Just read your entry about replying to emails. I gather you’ve taken it down. Anyway, I think that it’s good to have your own boundaries and decide how much time you’re going to spend on something – like you have done. Other people’s expectations of you aren’t always realistic and sometimes we need to find a way to be ok with not meeting those expectations.

  25. … re the chips thing.
    It’s my 30th birthday later this month and my friends have all taken the day off work (bless). They asked me what I want to do most for it… we are going to a fish and chip restaurant “The Whetherby Whaler” for a blow out!! Can’t believe out of All The Things In The World I Could Do, that’s my no 1 ahh well. It keeps you going anyway!

  26. Chip-unrelated:Seriously, Shauna…don’t even worry about someone who would write stuff like this – we all know you’re not at all like that. *hugs*

  27. Chips – dont you just love ’em?
    Being Irish, I love the old spud in all its guises. But a good chip (or 58), drenched with vinegar and well salted – I’m salivating at the thought.

  28. Oooh…the chips look gorgeous Shauna…I’m all of a sudden salivating for some salty goodness. I may have to try your technique…thanks for sharing your findings πŸ™‚

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