Rice? Potatoes? Pasta? Bread?
It's a silly question, I know, but one which gets your brain whirring nonetheless. The sort you can ponder on and debate during long car journeys or late summer's evenings, sat outside in the dwindling heat with just one more glass of wine before bed. (A bit like our family discussions thrashing out choices for Desert Island Discs. Hours spent sat around the kitchen table considering the perfect balance of sentiment, memories, pleasure and exhilaration. My parents are just waiting for their invitation).
Pilaf, sushi, paella, sticky rice, risotto, rice pudding, tah dig, jasmine rice.
Baked potatoes, dauphinois, good old roasties, loaded skins, buttery mash, gnocchi, patatas bravas, potato cakes.
You get the picture (and I'm barely scratching the surface). Countless ways to serve each humble carb.
I am undecided. My gut tells me it's rice. But the pleasure I get from baking and eating a loaf of sourdough is pretty insurmountable. Freshly baked, thickly sliced and dunked into a bowl of steaming hot soup. Or toasted, spread with good butter and marmite. What would you dip in your soup if you didn't have bread?
Noodles. NOODLES. What would I do without a bowl of steaming hot broth, noodles, greens and marinated tofu. My go to dinner on the rare occasion I'm eating alone at home. Restorative when I need a pick me up. Pho, ramen, laksa. These I am not sure I would wish to forgo forever.
And yet, there is little so comforting, so homely and so satisfying as the humble chip. Chippy chips. Chippy chip shop chips. Piping hot, wrapped in paper, doused in salt and malt vinegar, and eaten on the leisurely amble home from the chippy.
Proper, homemade chips. Perhaps not made in the old greasy chip pan like Dad did when I was growing up (and sadly cause of many a kitchen fire for some), but you know, fried. As they should be. There is whole nation of children growing up in the belief that chips are cooked in the oven. From the freezer or the M&S chilled cabinet and straight to a baking tray.
Chips go with everything. My favourite comfort food growing up was Granny's cauliflower cheese (made with extra cheese) and chips. My boys like them with homemade fishfingers and obscene amounts of ketchup. I'm quite partial to them stuffed between two slices of well buttered white bread. But if you ask my friend Jassy, she'll tell you that chip shop chips are perfect with crab. Especially crab with cider, creamand herbs.
500g Maris Piper potatoes
1.5 – 3 litres rapeseed oil*
Peel the potatoes and put them into a bowl of cold water.
Taking one potato at a time from the water, cut the potatoes lengthways into finger sized chips (approximately 1cm to 1.5cm diameter) and return them to the bowl of water.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the chips and simmer for 5 minutes (but no longer, otherwise they may begin to fall apart). Drain the chips and put them on kitchen paper until completely cool.
Fill your deep fat fryer to the maximum level with the rapeseed oil and heat to 130°C (the amount of oil you will need will depend on the size of your fryer – I have a mini one which only takes 1.25 litres - and fry in batches, if you have a large fryer you may need more oil so check the instructions).
Put the cooled chips into the basket of your deep fat fryer, lower into the oil and cook until a pale crust starts to form on the chips (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the chips and put them on fresh kitchen paper until completely cool. (If you want to get ahead, you can cook them up to this step and then leave in the fridge, covered, for up to 24 hours. Heston says 3 days, but I’m not so keen when they’ve been sat around that long and who has the self control to resist giving those chips their final fry for 3 days anyway?).
When you are ready to finish cooking the chips, heat the oil in your deep fat fryer to 180°C. Put the cooled chips into the basket of your deep fat fryer, lower into the oil and cook until golden and crispy (about 4-5 minutes).
Drain the chips on kitchen paper, put them into a serving bowl and sprinkle with plenty of good quality salt flakes.
*I use Waitrose Essentials vegetable oil, which is 100% rapeseed oil. Jassy uses groundnut oil for her chips (as does Heston). It does give a better flavour (and I think is better at this heat), but it is much more expensive. You can reuse the oil – once cool, drain it through a sieve into a suitable container and store in a cool place until you next make chips. Probably the next day.