Wednesday, 18 March 2015

How to make perfect Hot Chips.

While most people will agree that Hot Chips are one of the most delicious and comforting foods of all time- and surely deserving of their own food group- there is not much agreement on how to make them.

Some people soak them in water, some par boil them, some leave them once par-cooked, to dry out in the fridge overnight- the list is endless.

While there are myriad methods I think that one of the most important of all factors is perhaps NOT discussed and that is the TYPE of spud.

You see spuds are NOT spuds.

And by that I mean you need to understand a little more about potatoes before you can really have success with potato dishes.

Potatoes are divided into two main groups- waxy & floury.

For a good chip you want a floury potato to get that super lovely fluffy interior.
Save the waxy varieties for salads.

Floury potatoes have less moisture & a higher starch content than their waxy counterparts making them more suited to frying & mashing.

Waxy potatoes tend to retain their shape more than floury ones and so are the ones to choose when stewing or boiling for salads etc. If you try to mash waxy potatoes you may find it hard to get rid of lumps and it can go gluey in texture.

It wasn't until I started to shop at Farmers Markets that I REALLY learned to understand about potatoes. This is one of many reasons I love shopping at Farmers Markets- the people who grow the food are masters of knowledge & are keen to share!  I have learned sooooo much about food from these people. More than google or any cookbook could ever teach me. Our producers are one of the best (and most under-utilised) resources out there.

For chips I love to use SEBAGO potatoes- they are a white skinned & white flesh potato.  I think they give a great fluffy interior and are delicious and crunchy on the outside.

I use the twice cooked method- sometimes three. I am usually ill prepared and wanting hot chips NOW, so the methods that require excessive amounts of waiting time in between are not my friend.

And I LOVE mine to be crinkle cut - relying on a very old and very fave piece of kitchen equipment that was gifted to me by a very gorgeous friend. It features in one of the pics below.
I think the crinkles allow for more crispy edges. Total win in my book.

So, for me there are 3 things that are vital to making the perfect Hot Chips.
They are:

  1. the type of potato
  2. the temperature of the oil (and the freshness of the oil! Use FRESH oil!)
  3. the cooking times
And whilst I love the way my chips turn out I am sure there will be people out there for whom this method will not be their favourite.

Vive le difference!

NB: Poh has a wonderful list of Australian spuds to refer to here for all you Aussie readers.
If you are in other countries your varieties will be different. 

You will get best results using a deep fryer for this.
If not you will need a cooking thermometer.

  • 1kg Sebago Potatoes
  • rice bran oil
Preheat the oil (my deep fryer requires 4 litres of oil- if using a saucepan use enough to allow the chips to be well covered- I would say at least 2 litres) to 130C.

Meanwhile peel (you can leave the skins on if you have washed the spuds really well!) and slice your chips into 1.5cm batons. I use my trusty crinkle cut chip cutter for this job- an antique but much loved piece of kitchen arsenal. 

Carefully place the cut chips into the oil being careful not to overcrowd. You may find it easier to do this in two batches. (if using a sauce pan it will be much easier of you have a mesh chip basket as you need to lift the chips out half way through cooking)

Now set a timer for 9 minutes.

After this time lift the basket up and let strain.

Turn up the heat to 190C & do not lower basket until the temp has been reached.

Once temp is 190C, lower basket and fry for another 3-4 minutes. (and again if you are doing the 3 times method).

I recommend draining on a wire tray with paper towel below to let air escape- this prevents the chips going soggy.

Salt well & let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

The symphony orchestra & choir at my big kids school performed this recently.
I - of course- burst into tears when the voices began.
Music is a very special thing. Just like Hot Chips.
I like to play this music very loud for maximum effect.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Let's practice less Comparison and more Compassion

Parenting five children is relentlessly busy.
And I was under the impression that it was the busiest when they were little.
I missed the memo that as they went to high school it would get busier and busier.
It's not just a physical busyness- the getting them to all the things they love to do,  but it is the mental busyness.
My job is like being a corporate PA to five different executives. Without the payslip.

Dealing with the new & big things to do with parenting children as they enter the early adult years feels pretty darn big.
Negotiating friendships, first love, first heartbreak, an ever increasing schoolwork load. Negotiating the rules of social media & technology and learning ways to help that fit in with a family that prioritises time with each other while letting them engage with their friends online too.

When we were growing up we sat on our corded phones, the coiled cord pulled as far as possible stretched to it's limits in our efforts to have a private conversation.
Or maybe like my husband, there was no phone at all. All that was needed was your bike to skoot around to see your friend face to face & conduct that private conversation in real life.

We had lots of 'spare' time. Time where we did nothing, where we learnt how to do nothing at all and to be at peace.

Life now is fast & complicated & as parents we are in a generation where change is so rapid that we are having to learn to negotiate technology that we never had in our childhood. Setting rules about stuff we don't fully comprehend yet ourselves.

I am struggling with how fast it is.  And I am struggling with how fast my children are growing up.
Our eldest is doing VCE.
And yet we have children across the age ranges, so we have a little one in Grade one also.
A reminder of how fast it all happens. Right there before us a physical reminder. It is very real & very confronting.

I used to think that when mine were really little, when they were toddlers and in the early years of Primary school that it was the busiest of all and that when they got to high school it would be simpler & easier.
I miss them being so little and things being so much simpler.  Yet it is exciting to see my people turning into young adults.
But I feel so unsure of all of it. As a parent I have never second guessed myself so much.
Am I doing the right thing?
Am I being too strict?
Am I understanding the issue or missing it all together?
Am I too involved?
Am I helping?
I don't feel like I know the answers anymore, whereas once upon a time I just knew I was doing the right things.  I felt confident.

I now know less than I ever did. Ain't that the truth.

What I do know is that there is no such phase as the 'easy' part of parenting.
Whether you are parenting one child or many;
Whether you are dealing with 'normal' parenting situations or tricky complex parenting situations;
Whether your child is fully able or has special needs;
Whether you are a young parent or an older parent;
Whether your children are little or big;
Whether you are a working parent or a stay at home parent;
the list goes on............

It is all hard.
It is all consuming.
It is all rewarding.
It doesn't necessarily get easier but it changes.
It is sometimes overwhelmingly awesome.
It is sometimes just plain overwhelming.

What I would love is if we could all just stop for a bit and acknowledge all of this.  Stop & breathe it in.
It is enormous. Really enormous. The single most important thing of all. No wonder we find it takes us to the brink every now & then.

Maybe what we all need to practice a bit more is less comparison of one another and more compassion.

Everyone is fighting a battle you can not see.  And as we all muddle through parenting in the way we see best works for us on any given day, let's try & practice a little more kindness to all of the other parents who are doing the very same.

For we are all just trying to do and to be our very best.

ZUCCHINI KOFTA CURRY with Tomato coconut sauce:
I took inspiration from this recipe but I made several changes- (there were steps missing in this recipe & the first time I made it the koftas collapsed.)
Zucchini is abundant at this time of year and lots of people having them coming out of their ears!
This is a delicious way to use them.

The sauce doesn't need a long time to cook & I recommend serving the sauce over the top of the kofta rather than heating through together as it tends to collapse the kofta.
I recommend using a deep fryer to fry the kofta. If you do not have one you will need a thermometer to ensure your oil is at correct deep frying temp of  180C.

for the Kofta:

  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 2 medium size potatoes, steamed & mashed
  • 4 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea) flour
  • 3 tablespoons Rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bi-carb
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 3 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander 
  • salt & pepper
  • rice bran oil for frying
For the Curry sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon Ghee (use oil if making it vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchur (available at Indian grocers)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons coriander 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 can coconut cream
  • juice of a lime.


Heat the oil to 180C. 
While the oil is pre-heating you can prepare the Kofta.
To prepare the kofta, simply add all ingredients listed together well & let sit for 10 minutes to help the flours bind.

Now take a small amount & shape it into a ping pong size ball.  Carefully drop into the heated oil.
Cook for about 3-4 minutes each and then remove & drain on paper towel. 
Repeat with up to 5 at a time.
Repeat until all mix is used. You can keep them warm in an oven heated to 100C while you cook the remaining Kofta mix.
In a large heavy based pan, heat ghee to medium high and add garlic & ginger.
Add all spices and fry gently till aromatic- about 2 minutes.
Now add tomatoes and reduce heat to low.
After about 15 minutes, when you can see the oil starting to separate, add the coconut cream & simmer for 10 minutes. Add lime juice just before serving.

Serve sauce over Kofta & enjoy with Lemon Pilau Rice 

This is the perfect song- lyrically & musically for todays post.....