Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fry basket

You wouldn't believe how freakin' hard it is to buy a fry basket in this town. Seriously. The plan was to have a go at proper homemade chips, as insisted upon by David Herbert of The Weekend Australian (recipes below) and also by Stephen Downes, he of the seldom-updated blog and selection of excellent food books: my favourite being 100 Foods You Must Eat Before You Die. Morbid but true.
So, I read all recipes, considered what I didn't have in the fridge, and made a list.

  • Vegetable oil
  • potatoes
  • fish
  • chip basket

A 5-minute stop at the supermarket took care of the first three items. Number four presented a problem. No worries, I thought. I've got to go to Carindale tomorrow anyway, so I'll get a frying basket in there somewhere. The next day at Myer, the lady was puzzled by the fact that I wanted just a basket, not a whole electric frying machine. No, just the basket, I said. We don't have that, she said. Fine. Then I went to David Jones. Same deal. Then I went to Robin's Kitchen. They were shocked at the very concept of a basket without a fryer. By this time I was getting tired and cranky. I went down to Target, where they had a pretty good range of kitchen gear, but no basket. Then I went to Big W. No basket. Then I went to K Mart.... no basket.

Then I sat down on a big leather couch and dialled Executive Chef. Sure, the lady said. We have several types and sizes. What do you need? I was too stunned to speak. Partly at the fact that they had SEVERAL TYPES OF FRY BASKETS, and partly at my own idiocy for not just going there in the first place. I KNOW nobody knows anything in this town, I KNOW that you can't trust a chain store with ANYTHING, so why on earth I didn't just truck down to Merivale St in the first place and save myself two hours of insanity is anyone's guess.

Now I am the proud owner of one wire deep-frying basket, for the total sum of twelve dollars. Tonight is chip night!

David Herbert: Better batter

September 29, 2008
Batter protects delicate food, keeps it moist and gives it that delicious crisp coating. Flathead fillets are my favourite, but ask your fishmonger for his recommendations.Use a deep-fryer; deep, heavy saucepan; or large, heavy wok.
Fill the fryer no more than half-full with oil (one third if using a wok). Make sure there is enough oil to surround the food, and enough space in the pan to accommodate the rush of bubbles that occurs when food is added. Never leave the pan unattended. I use safflower oil or a generic vegetable oil as these can take high temperatures. To test, drop a cube of bread into heated oil – it should brown in 20 seconds when oil is at the right temperature of 180ÂșC. If the oil begins to smoke, immediately remove the pan from heat. It’s vital to have the oil at the correct temperature before you start to fry. Cook in small batches to ensure the oil doesn’t cool down too much when you add the food. Cooking in oil that’s not hot enough can inhibit browning and allow the food to absorb too much fat. If using a deep-fryer, dip the basket in the hot oil before using, as this prevents the food from sticking.
Calamari are delicious with tartare sauce. You can vary the flavour by adding celery salt or a pinch or two of chilli powder to the seasoned flour.

Beer-battered fish
250g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300ml fridge-cold lager
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
4 x 200g white fish fillets
Preheat oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Sift flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt into a large bowl and whisk in lager to give a thick batter, adding extra beer if it seems too thick. It should be the consistency of double cream, and coat the back of a wooden spoon. Heat a deep-fryer or large, deep saucepan (or wok) filled with oil to a depth of 12cm until it’s at 180°C. Season fish fillets with salt and lightly dust with seasoned flour. Pick up each fillet with a pair of tongs and dip into batter, then let drain for a few seconds. Cooking only two at a time, carefully lower each fillet into the hot fat and fry for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and crispy, turning once. Remove from deepfryer or pan, drain on kitchen paper and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Place in oven to keep warm while you deep fry remaining fillets. Serve battered fish with chips and tartare sauce. Serves 4

Fried calamari
1kg cleaned squid (calamari)
200g plain flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Lemon or lime wedges, to serve
Cut along each side of squid bodies so they open out flat. Dry well with kitchen paper. Score skin with a sharp knife and cut into 6cm diamonds or 4cm wide strips. In a shallow dish, combine flour, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and pepper. Dip calamari pieces in flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess. Pour oil into a large, deep saucepan, frying pan or wok to a depth of 3-4cm and heat to 180°C (a cube of bread should brown in 20 seconds).
Add calamari to oil in batches and cook for about 5 minutes (depending on thickness of calamari) or until golden. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm in a low oven while cooking the rest. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with lemon or lime wedges and tartare sauce. Serves 4

Hot chips
6-8 large, floury potatoes, such as Desiree
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Sea salt
Scrub potatoes (no need to peel) and cut into finger-length pieces or thin wedges. Rinse in cold water, drain and pat dry with kitchen paper (washing away the starch helps make crispier chips). Heat a deep-fryer or large, deep saucepan, filled with oil to a depth of 5-6cm, to 150°C (a cube of bread will brown in 30 seconds).
Add potatoes and fry gently over low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until they are tender but not coloured too much. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. You can do this up to 2 hours before the final frying.
When ready to serve, heat oil to 180°C (a cube of bread will brown in 20 seconds), return chips to the oil and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Drain, then transfer to a metal bowl and toss with sea salt. Serve immediately. Serves 4

Tartare sauce
3 hard-boiled, free-range eggs
300ml mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped gherkins
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Shell and finely chop eggs and place in a bowl. Add mayonnaise, chopped capers, chopped onion, chopped gherkins, chopped parsley and lemon juice to bowl and combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chill until needed.

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