Everyone loves hot chips, right? There’s nothing like some fresh-from-the-fryer sliced potato, covered in salt and vinegar, possibly with a dab of tomato sauce or aioli.
And in Belgium, fries are something of a national dish, with 5000 stalls selling skinny fries, or frites, across the country. However, during lockdown, the stalls, as well as restaurants and bars, were closed. It led to a surplus of potatoes – and a rallying battle cry.
Yes, Belgians are being urged to eat frozen chips twice a week to keep the potato industry going.
Romain Cools, secretary-general of industry group Belgapom, is leading the charge to get Belgians eating frites twice a week. He said: “Traditionally, Belgians eat fries once a week, and it’s always a festive moment. Now, we are asking them to eat frozen fries twice a week at home.”
Suddenly, treat time has become something of a mission. And the big question is – how to make your fries different every time, so nobody grows bored of them?
Here are some ideas.
1. Baking not frying: fries as a side
Fries can be healthier if they’re cooked in the oven rather than a fryer. Fries don’t take long to bake at all, and can be made into restaurant-style steak and chips, or served with a homemade burger or breaded fish for a Friday night fish and chips supper.
2. Spice things up with store cupboard spices
Paprika in the cupboard? Find some fennel seeds you forgot you had? Jerk seasoning? All great things to sprinkle on those fries.
Put the fries in a mixing bowl with some oil and paprika and toss together, so they’re completely coated before you cook them. Or, toast the fennel seeds in a pan and sprinkle on top before serving.
Alternatively, bash some cumin or coriander seeds (use a pestle and mortar or, if you don’t have one, put the seeds in a sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin on a wooden board). Add before baking.
3. Make a flavoured salt
Take any hard, woody herb such as rosemary, bay or thyme, and grind with salt until it’s all mixed together.
Oven bake the chips and sprinkle liberally with the salt before serving. If you’ve made plenty, keep it in a jar for next time, or to add to other dishes. (Try it on your roast potatoes, too!)
Just like your fancy local Spanish bistro, adding aioli as your dip of choice instead of plain old mayo will elevate your chips to ‘ooh la’ levels. Serve on the side, or drizzled over your fries.
You can buy aioli – Spanish garlic mayonnaise – in the shops, but if you want to make your own, you’ll need garlic cloves, salt, lemon juice, olive oil and egg yolks. Or you can add crushed garlic to shop-bought mayo.
5. Patatas Bravas
Now, this should traditionally be made with chunks of potato, but you can use your fries instead – this is an emergency, after all. The spice of chorizo with the soothing tomato sauce is a total winner.
This dish hails from Quebec, Canada, where there is also talk of a potato surplus! It’s fries with cheese curds and gravy, all in one soup-like, glorious bowl. If you can’t get hold of cheese curd, swap in mozzarella.
How far you go with the gravy is up to you! You can use shop-bought, or make your own.
7. Chilli fries
Forget tacos, top your chips with chilli con carne (or a vegie version) and loads of grated cheddar. You can add the chilli and cheese, then put the lot back into the oven to bake for a short time so the cheese melts.
Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and tomatoes to finish. This is great for a sharing dinner (if you can bear to share).
How do you like your hot chips?
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