Chips, or crisps as they are sometimes called, are back on the menu. No longer relegated to children's birthday parties, adults are eating them again too.
There was a time when chips in New Zealand were either thin cut, thick-cut or crinkle cut. All the brands had the same four flavours: Salted, Salt n Vinegar, Chicken flavour or if you were feeling fancy - Sour Cream and Chives. They all went well with Maggi Onion Dip and had a goodly dose of MSG and trans fat, so you needed that fizzy drink to wash them down with.
Now that we've grown-up, obtained sophisticated palates and know that whole food is good food, we have some very good chippies on offer that are a far better proposition. All manor of starchy vegetables lovingly raised in NZ soils and crisped in high oleic oils can be snaffled. But, much as we love them, potato chips, even the artisan ones, are relatively high in salt, fat and quick carbs while being low in fibre, making them a now and then treat. Even the very best chips on offer are still best enjoyed in moderation.
A 150g bag of regular old potato chips has 5.56 servings according to whoever came up with the nutrition information on the back panel. So next time you open a bag of chips, get four and half of your friends around and have 27g of chips each, that's 15 chips each if you'd prefer to count them out for everyone.
15 potato chips is a little too moderate for me, so what to do? Make your own of course.
Potatoes are good for you. They contain a lot of fibre, potassium and energy-giving carbohydrates as well as being seriously delicious. My recipe below has a fraction of the salt and far less fat than your average chip but is in no way puritanical. Let's not stop at potatoes. You can make yummy veggie chips out of carrots, kumara, parsnips and beetroot. I've got some great cracker recipes, but lately I've been enjoying these vegetable chips, with cheese and dips.
You need some equipment to make great chips at home. A mandoline - that's a vegetable slicer, not the musical instrument - is the best way to end up with chips all the same width. You can cut them by hand with a sharp knife, like the beetroot chips in the photo above, but it takes an age, a steady hand and you end up with more waste. A mandoline with a crinkle-cut blade also gives you those nice little ridges to hold the salt and fat. Mandolines start at around $30, but if you're going to use it a lot, I recommend getting one with a handguard and a few different blades.
The second piece of equipment you'll need is a dehydrator, which you can pick up second hand on TradeMe without too much of an investment. You can make veggie chips in the oven, but it's tricky to stop them burning on the edges before they dry properly.
Use firm fresh potatoes or vegetables for chips and wash them well. I peel kumara, beetroot and parsnips but just scrub carrots and potatoes and leave the skin on for extra flavour and less work.
The thing that surprised me is how many vegetables it takes to make a small number of chips. I needed 1.5kg of spuds to make that 150g packet of potato chips! I mean I had no idea I was eating a kilo and a half of potatoes when I was, I mean when we were, that is to say, me and my 4.56 friends, eating that packet of chips! And the same goes for other veg. One kilo of parsnips or carrots yields only 60-90g of crispy chips.
Homemade Potato Chips
1.5 kg potatoes
3/4 tablespoon of your choice of oil - I used Ricebran but Olive Oil is nice too
1 teaspoon of sea salt
- Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
- Wash and cut the potatoes into 3mm slices.
- Blanch the sliced spuds in the boiling water for 6 minutes. Do it in a few batches so the water stays at a boil and the spuds get plenty of water around them to remove starch.
- Rinse under cold water in a colander to stop them cooking.
- Drain them well and put them in a large shallow bowl.
- When you've blanched all the slices pour the oil over them and toss gently with your hands so each slice is coated.
- Lay the slices on dehydrator trays (takes 10 trays) so they are not overlapping
- Sprinkle each tray with the salt
- Dehydrate on medium heat for 10 hours, checking at the 6-hour point
- Allow to cool completely before testing dryness because they firm up more on cooling. They are done when they snap cleanly, not bend.
- Pack in glass jars with a lid.
Vegetables with higher sugar content like carrots, parsnips and beetroot need only 6-8 hours to dry and if you cut them thinner they will take less time.
Blanching is good for softening skins, cooking things you wouldn't eat raw like parsnips and potatoes and killing any bugs. I blanch carrots whole to soften the skin and then slice them. I don't blanch beetroot at all and I blanch parsnips but only for 2 minutes.
Don't overdo the oil and any seasonings. You need very little because the mass of vegetables shrinks so much but the oil doesn't. I don't oil carrots at all. Olive oil is lovely with parsnips.
By my calculations, these salted regular homemade potato chips have less than half the fat and only 15% of the salt of supermarket leading brand equivalents. Which is just as well if you're going to eat more than a 27g serving in one sitting.
Have you tried making your own chips? We would love to hear about them.