Wednesday, 8 February 2012

We all love chips

I don't have a problem with frozen food - why would I? Freezing is a great way of keeping food 'fresh' without adding nasty ingredients. If it weren't for frozen peas, GB wouldn't eat any vegetables at all (let's draw a veil over the fact that his preferred way of eating them is in their still-frozen state, with a spoon...) and I really love those bags of mixed berries you can buy (I think Sainsbury's Basics version costs all of £1 a bag) which make the most fantastic smoothies.

But I think I take some persuading when it comes to oven chips. Because it just takes so little time and energy to slice up a few potatoes, sprinkle them with olive oil and maybe a few herbs and/or spices, and shove them in the oven. And while a bag of pre-prepared 'lightly spiced oven wedges' will cost you £2.47 a kilo and cook in 18 minutes, according to the packet instructions, Maris Piper potatoes cost 78p a kilo and, when cut into wedges, cook in about... 18 minutes.

Now, of course, sometimes nothing but a 'proper chip' will do - I'm talking heavily salted little beauties cooked in beef dripping eaten with crisply battered fish on the harbourfront. Or else nestled, dry and crisp, next to perfectly rare steak in an old-school Paris bistro - but I'm going to leave these strictly to the experts and their industrial-strength fryers. But in the case of oven chips we're talking about cutting up a potato (which you don't have to peel, and if you buy it squeaky-clean from a supermarket, you probably don't even need to wash!*), applying a little oil, and sprinkling on some seasoning. If you like. Then putting it in the oven and keeping an eye/nose on it. Which you also have to do with the ready-prepared ones.

The frozen-food industry's trade body says that frozen oven chips are A Good Thing because (and I quote):
"Frozen potato products offer flexibility in cooking (as do potatoes), are great time savers (really?) and offer consistent product quality every time with little effort and waste" (smart remarks in brackets all mine). 

Of all of these I find the 'consistent product quality' argument most specious - why would you even want them to taste the same every time? I love the fact that if I use different kinds of potato I'll get a different result, that I can mix it up by adding a little chilli here, some rosemary there.

I think I'll just shut up, now.

But just in case you still think making your own lightly spiced potato wedges sounds like hard work**, here are some pointers:

  • I like to use a floury potato such as a Maris Piper - these have a lovely, fluffy texture when cooked
  • I sometimes heat the baking tray on which I'm going to cook them first - just put the tray into the oven while it heats up to around 200˚C.
  • Use similarly sized potatoes (I don't know, one per person? How hungry are you?) and cut into six or eight wedges, without peeling first
  • Toss the potatoes well in a couple of tablespoons of oil and add your chosen herbs and spices, plus salt and pepper if you like. Try chilli flakes, dried herbs (fresh ones will only frazzle) such as oregano or rosemary, cumin, etc
  • Don't overcrowd the tray, place the potatoes in a single layer. Makes it easier to turn them over half way through
  • Turn them over half way through. They should take 15-20 minutes, total.
  • Erm... That's it.

*I'm kidding! Hahaha! Of course you must always wash your fruits and vegetables before consumption even if they're perfectly clean-looking and are about to be placed in a hot oven which would surely kill any and all germs!

*I'm really not judging you, I hope you don't feel that way. It's hardly your fault that it's in so many people's interests (processors, marketeers, supermarkets) to make something simple and cheap sound like something difficult and expensive.


  1. Yes next to the banana (which I'm not so keen on) the potato is probably the best designed, versatile, self-packaged food.

  2. Since having the privelege of eating these at your house a couple of times (slyly nicking them off my kids' plates), I can vouch for these chips that they're as tasty as they're easy to cook. I hardly ever give the kids chips (don't worry, they're not deprived as they make up for this whenever we go out to eat) but these I'll be making instead of those dreadful waffle things that are full of piped potato. Thanks Liz!