Chippy

I’ve been going a bit polenta mad recently.  It has been turning up in my baking, as a side dish with a chop and some roasted red peppers and even in place of breadcrumbs for pané-ing.   But these chips take the (polenta) biscuit.  They are fun, delicious and ridiculously easy to make.

You could flavour them with anything that takes your fancy really, but I went with a goats’ cheese and rosemary combo.  Other ideas include chili and coriander, chives and sour cream, sage or just leave them salt-and-pepper-plain, of course.  The only thing I would say is do oven roast them, rather getting out the deep fat fryer.  Not only is this obviously much better for you and less faff, I actually find it the best method to retain any of those added flavours.

Goats’ Cheese and Polenta Chips

You will need:
250g polenta (ideally the quick cook variety)
Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
100g Soft goats cheese
Sea salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Fresh torn herbs: rosemary, thyme

Method:

1.  Cook the polenta according the packet instructions.  I normally bring a big pan of salted water to boil (about 1L), or even stock for extra flavour, and then pour in the polenta in one steady stream.  It will bubble up something rather vulcanic, but be ready in no time at all.

2.  Remove from the heat and add the goats cheese, stirring until melted.  Pour into a baking tray so that the polenta is about 1 inch thick.  Smooth over slightly and leave to cool and set completely.          

3. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200 C.  Cut the cooled polenta into ‘chip’ like strips.  Place on a large roasting tray and drizzle over some olive oil, herbs, sea salt and pepper.  Toss to coat thoroughly.

4.   Bake for approx 30 minutes or until lightly golden and crispy.  Enjoy with a dip of your choice- I found chili jam was a bit of a match made in heaven.

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside…

I gave Toby a trip to Brighton for his birthday to buy a hat on the seafront (so he doesn’t have to tie a hanky on his head this summer).  But so far we’ve been too busy to go, which is just as well because the weather has been absolutely dismal.  So while we wait for things to brighten up, we’ll have to make do with this token, culinary trip to the beach- scampi and chips with tartare sauce and samphire.   
Why bother to make something you could just go down to your local and have for Sunday lunch?  Well for one, this will taste much better and it’s also very satisfying to make from scratch.  I felt quite pleased with myself, I must say.  As always with deep frying, do be very careful- hot oil and busy kitchens don’t mix.
A note or two on the ingredients-  I used shop-bought breadcrumbs for my scampi, but it would be even better with the homemade variety.  Just use a stale loaf if you have one to hand.  
Samphire is gradually becoming a bit more readily available- I found mine at the fish counter in Waitrose.   Samphire grows on coasts and has a slight seaweed feeling about it, I like to think of it as sea asparagus.  It tastes fantastic and goes really well with fish. 
If you don’t like gherkins or capers, you can omit them and replace them with some crushed garlic for something a bit more aioli- like. 

Scampi and Chips with Tartare Sauce and Samphire 

 Serves 4

You will need: 

For the scampi:
600g medium-sized potatoes (unpeeled), cut into chunky chips
3 tbsp olive oil
25-30 extra large, peeled prawn tails
30g plain flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 large free-range egg
75g breadcrumbs
Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying
250g Samphire
Lemon wedges to serve

     For the tartare sauce:
    1 large free-range egg yolk
    ½ tsp  mustard powder
    Juice of 1 lemon
    150ml olive oil
    1 tbsp capers, chopped
    1 tbsp gherkins, chopped
    1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
    1 large shallot, finely chopped

    Method 

    1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.  Put the chips in a large pan of salted water and bring to boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

    2.  Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a large tray and place in the oven to heat up. Drain the potatoes and return to the heat briefly, until completely dry (be careful not to let them stick to the pan).  Add the chips to the hot oil, turning to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Leave in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden, tossing occasionally to  make sure they don’t stick to the tray.

    3. While the chips are cooking, get cracking with the tartare sauce.   Place the egg yolk, mustard powder, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper into a bowl.  Use an electric mixer to combine all the ingredients.  Keep the mixer running while you slowly add the oil in a continuous, thin stream, as you would when making mayonnaise.  Taste to season and see if it needs another squeeze of lemon juice before adding the  capers, gherkins, parsley and shallot.  

    4. Wash and pat the prawns dry, particularly if using frozen ones that you have defrosted. Put the flour in a bowl or onto a large plate and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Crack the egg into a second bowl and lightly whisk. Put the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.

    5.  Dip each prawn in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs.  Make sure each prawn is totally coated at each stage. Place to one side on a large plate.  

    6. Heat the oil in a large pan (a wok would be ideal) until a chunk of bread sizzles and turns golden brown and crisp within a couple of minutes.   Carefully add the scampi (laying them in a motion away from you so as to not inadvertently splash yourself with hot oil), a few at a time and cook for about three minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.   You can keep them warm in a low temperature oven while you continue with the rest of the prawns. 

    7.  Finally, steam the samphire, which should only take a few minutes. Serve the scampi with the tartare sauce, chunky chips, samphire and lemon wedges.  Ideally wrapped in newspaper.