Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Recipe LVIII - Peppersteak and English-Style Chips

It's the greatest vegetable in the history of the world: the potato. You can do everything to it: boil it, roast it, bake it in cheese, steam it, wrap it whole in tin foil and chuck it on the barbecue... the Elizabethans even smoked it. But nothing compares to the potato of the fried variety for succulence, crispiness and pleasurable texture. Except maybe the roast potato, but that's quite similar. The chip is a most maligned foodstuff, and suffers from an extremely bad reputation. Certain fast food outlets have added to its notoriety. But for me, they're not chips. I mean, not chip chips. They're matchstick-thin, chemical-ridden, factory-made monsters, and have no place being fed to kids. Why people even queue up for them in food dispensary outlets with all the charm and sophistication of a hospital's surgical department is beyond me.

600g frying steak
5 large, long potatoes**
A pestle & mortar, 20 peppercorns
A pinch of salt
One large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
**Make sure your potatoes are suitable for frying when you go to the supermarket. It should be written on the packet. If you buy the wrong item, you could end up with fluffy, broken potatoes in a mess.

Peel and cut your potatoes lengthwise, not forgetting to make sure they are at least a centimetre thick in the middle. Put them in water until required. This stops them reacting with the air.

Cut off the excess fat from your steak (or ask the butcher to do it if you are unsure) and give it to a suitable and extremely grateful animal. In a suitable deep pan, heat up some vegetable oil until it is piping hot, but not at burning point. You can tell by breaking a very small piece of potato off and throwing it in the oil. If it is ready, it will truly sizzle. Putting the potatoes into very hot oil is important, otherwise they won't crisp up.

Having put your sliced potatoes in water until ready for use, you need to dry off the excess water with a towel. Get a lot of it off, or you may have an awful shock when you put the chips in the oil.

Properly salt your steaks. People are concerned by the amount of salt they eat. There is no need to worry if you aim the salt effectively. Too much salt is bad, but the steak doesn't have to be tasteless.

With your oil on, your steak sliced according to size and preference, and your raw chips ready in their deep-frying basket, put a knob of butter, no more, into a decent metallic frying pan.

Cover one side of the steak with pepper (the side you will put downwards in the pan) and when the butter is sizzling (also pipng hot or the steak will not cook properly), drop the steak into the pan. Now put the other half of the pepper on the raw side of the steaks. Halfway through cooking, cut up an onion and some garlic and put them in to soften.

Very important: the secret to not just nice chips, but great chips is the amount of times you fry them. Some say two. I say three. Or four. In the beginning, put them in for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them, shaking the excess oil back into the pan. Leave them for at least two minutes, at most half an hour. Put them back in, this time for a little longer. Take them out once more. Leave them for a while, then put them in once again. When they start getting brown edges like in the photo below, it is almost time. Leave it for as long as you dare, then move them into a bowl with two layers of kitchen towel in it.

Serve up the steak and onions, then let guests help themselves to chips. I like Mayonnaise with mine, and have done ever since I went to the Netherlands in 1990. But relish, chutney, mustard, even ketchup would go well.

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