Sunday, March 7, 2010

It’s All About the Tatties

In Scotland, everything is served with chips - well almost.   A few things come standard with a good mash but mostly, it’s chips.  And I don’t mean those thin crispy things Americans call “chips.”  In Scotland, those are properly called “crisps” and come in flavors you’ve never thought of before - prawn cocktail, tomato ketchup (no more need to dip), olive oil and balsamic, sweet chili,  sea salt and garlic - this list goes on and on.  Everyone’s favorite, of course, is “salt and vinny.”

But I’m talking about chips here - proper thick cut slices, not wedges, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, perfectly cooked fried potatoes.

Order a pizza - comes with chips.  Fancy a curry? Expect some chips on the side to dip in the sauce.  Breakfast?  Well, in addition to the bacon, bangers, haggis, eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, butter and marmalade that are standard with a “full Scottish” you’ll generally find some chips or if not  you’ll most certainly be asked if you would like some.  Chinese food, Mexican food,  even Italian food, comes with chips.

David and I were dining in a rather posh Italian restaurant last Saturday.  At the table next to us a couple had mussels and soup as starters followed by a large shared salad (I always watch what other diners are eating for fear that I may be missing out on something wonderful) Then one had a pasta dish and the other risotto and, sure enough, there on the table between them was a huge bowl of chips. (David and I shared a cold antipasto and a risotto de la mare filled with all sort of shellfish, plum tomatoes and chiles)

Go to a pub.  Order a pint.  The bartender is likely to ask if you’d like some chips as a snack.  While I waited for take-away Chinese one night, four teenagers came in.  Each placed an order for chips with a different sauce for dipping - one sweet and sour, ane sweet/hot chili, one brown sauce and one garlic/chile sauce.  Ah, Scottish/ Chinese food.  Chips and Chinese-style sauce.

In the grocery there are likely to be more types of frozen chips than anything else in the freezer.  More chips than ice cream!  That is just wrong.  Even though, I place chips/French fries, pommes frites, whatever there are called in whatever country I happen to be, right up there with the foods of the gods, one of my absolute favorites and when on offer I can never turn them down.

(I feel in the interest of honesty here I must say that I DO NOT eat FREEDOM fries under any circumstances!  - coming up with that  name was just one step past ridiculous . Instead , the French should have stopped eating anything American because we were  the idiots who were out of line.  Oh wait. The French do not eat American food.  They eat wonderful fresh beautifully prepared luscious French food.  Sorry.  I still DO NOT EAT FREEDOM FRIES - and have been known on two occasions to walk out of establishments that called them that.)
But I ramble..

Perfect chips must be cooked three times.  First, peel the potatoes and boil them until just tender.   Drain, cool and dry well, then slice into thick finger-sized pieces (sort of like really thick steak fries in the US).  Heat some good non-flavored oil until hot.  If you want to pretend to make these healthier, use expeller pressed canola oil.  Actually, any good vegetable oil will do.  It is best to cook the potatoes in a deep pot or deep fat fryer  but they can also be cooked in a deep skillet in a single layer - but be sure if you choose this method not to overlap the potatoes or they will become soggy.  Cook the potatoes just until they just start to color.  Remove potatoes from fat, drain well on paper towels and allow to cool.  Discard the fat. 

At this point you may finish the cooking (see below) or store the potatoes.  They will keep in the frig for 24 hours.  Any longer and they oil will go rancid.  Or you can freeze them.

To finish the cooking  - heat some fresh oil and add the cooled or frozen potatoes (be careful of popping).  Cook until golden and crispy. I like them really brown.  Remove to paper  towels to drain and season with coarse salt.  Serve with ketchup, HP sauce, malt vinegar, garlic mayonnaise or salsa.

Guaranteed to be the best “chips” you’ve ever eaten.


  1. I'm hungry. Also - the double frying makes me think about the accidental pommes souffles at the now defunct Rainbow Room.

  2. Nice! Potatoes, twice fried in pomace-grade olive oil, were one of the best things about growing up in Spain.

  3. We're having chips with our brats on Thursday! YUM!! I believe I will be dipping mine in Rooster Sauce! ;) Yuh-um!

  4. I was introduced to this while visiting friends in canada... I've yet to make it at home. Poutin is very very yummy!