Unsurprisingly, I spend a lot of my time thinking, talking and reading about food. Nigel Slater’s recipe books double as bedtime stories, Olive magazine keeps me company on dreary bus-rides home and over glasses of home-brew and super-strong party punch I natter with mates about London’s best cafes: the kind that chef-up breakfasts certain to slay even the gnarliest of hangover.
Early weekend mornings, late at night, and hunched over a bowl of soup in my lunch-hour I ogle other foodie blogs and marvel at how beautifully people are able to write about food – the passion they have for baking bread, tales of their sleep-encrusted early-morning trips to Billinsgate market, or eye-popping descriptions of the mountains of food scoffed in dusty Puglian streets or sunbaked vineyards in California.
It can make me feel overwhelmed: the talent that other people have for cooking and writing about food. I am still a total amateur. An enthusiastic and terribly greedy amateur, but an amateur nonetheless. But that’s ok. What is cool is to have a go. To explore, experiment, indulge, satisfy, play and to even make catastrophic mistakes, which my gosh I do and do and do. My food hero, Nigel Slater, talks about not being ashamed to have guilty food pleasures and not to feel swept up in the pretension and snobbery that can disarm the budding gourmand and he is bloody well right you know. To quote another of my heroes, with food – as Jez from Peep Show would say – if it feels good, do it.
And these home-baked chips feel good. They taste good, and gosh darn if they don’t smell good too. Now that Autumn is wrapping us in it’s golden embrace, I am turning once again to comfort-food, to stodge and bowls of stew served with buttery, crusty bread. I can’t wait for roasted carrots and parsnips and hot chilli broths. On cold days I crave potatoes too. Pillowy mountains of mash or piping hot baked spuds overflowing with cheese and beans and cracked black pepper. And I never ever tire of chips. These chips take only a few shakes and are wonderfully spicy and hot. Ready to be submerged in mayo and eaten with greasy fingers. They taste good made with sweet potato too and it takes an awful lot of willpower not to make them if I ever find myself peckish with half an hour to spare.
* A handful of potatoes per person *A big glug of olive oil *Loads of salt and pepper *Lots of cumin *Big pinch of chilli *Huge pinch of paprika *Another huge pinch of smoked paprika
1. Pre-heat your oven to about 200oC and grease an oven tray with a big glug of oil.
2. Wash and slice your potatoes into the size you like your chips. I like mine quite thin but tend to mix it up so that some are juicy and some are crazily crispy. I keep my skins on but you do whatever you jolly well like.
3. Cover the chips in oil and give them a good jiggle on the tray.
4. Now, in a Jason Pollock-esque fashion, throw the herbs and spices all over the chips, covering them in the fragrant cumin and beautiful paprika so that they look bright and beautiful. Season really really well with the salt and pepper.
5. Pop in the oven for about twenty minutes or so. Make sure you turn them over now and again and that there is enough oil to stop them from sticking to the pan.
6. Serve with mountains of mayo, dollops of ketchup, or your sauce of choice, bad telly or a terrible Nick Cage movie and a good friend.