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Saturday, 25 February 2012

My Final take on food and health : Oven Roasted Half Sliced Potatoes - The perfect Side to Meaty Dishes

"I would try doing a dish 30 different ways."    - Heston Blumenthal

Do we ever get tired of potatoes? Or better still, if you are offered a variety of dishes amongst which is a plate of crispy potatoes, which would you first reach out for? Everyone I ever asked would say they would go for the potatoes first. I have seen this manifest itself so many times, I need no proof!

You see, besides being utterly delicious, and offering an ultimately addictive nibble, potatoes are so versatile that you can never get tired of them. There are a million ways to cook a potato, all of which offering a different flavour, texture and overall experience. All of which superiorly tasty.

Hi, my name is Dima and I LOVE French Fries.... 
There I said it! I can hardly ever resist these golden, crispy, hot-oil-dipped strings of goodness! Dipped in tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, aioli, or even tartar sauce... all are a magnificent salty treat to me! But you and I both know that not all that tastes good, is actually good for you. I therefore go for the ostrich strategy when it comes to french fries: Sink your head in the ground, and pretend that everything is ok lol! Just pretend that they don't exist!! 

OR not, because:

Everything is good in Moderation. 
An occasional binge on French Fries won't kill you, but having them on your daily menu is risky, to say the least. But that doesn't mean you have to miss out on the goodness or the crispiness. I have found - and trust me I have tried many ways to come up with a substitute for french fries - that roasting and oven grilling can produce the exact same results, with a decimal of the amount of oil/fat. In fact, I have found that the oven grilled or roasted potatoes can even be better as they are more open to flavouring than in the case of frying. Weather you decide to Julienne the potatoes into "french fries" or cut them into wedges, slice or cube them, the results are the same (the amount of cooking time will have to be adjusted though).

The Health Institution
We have been tossed, flipped, stretched, extended, taken left then right, tucked and re-tossed with all this 'Health' business!! At times it was Full Fat VS Low Fat, then it was Carbs VS Carb Free and Protein diets, then it was liquid, then raw, then vegetarian, to pill popping, then gluten, and now it's Seed VS Vegetable VS animal Fat......!! it is a spinning wheel that will never stop, as long as food has a price tag, and medicines sell at stock markets, we will hardly ever know what is good, or not, unless each individual takes up a chemistry degree, and start consuming only chemical compounds that s/he finds to be healthy!! Even after all the fuss, diseases are still on an uprise, and weight is piling, and nothing is changing.
I too get very confused at times, and have no idea what is good or not most of the time. I too read the reports!

My food philosophy is as follows - 
(until I am proven scientifically wrong by those who are NOT merchants or pharmacists, and until apples are scientifically proven poisonous and inconsumable, and finally until it becomes a scientific fact that food is no good for you and humans were built to starve)

Everything is good in Moderation. Food is good, and all food types are good for you, and needed by your body and soul. We need carbs for energy and psychological well-being, we need proteins for tissue building and for inner strength, we need vitamins and minerals for healthy organ functions, water circulation and for the good taste they bring into our palates, we need sugars for the soul, and we need fat for fuel, warmth and comfort.

With that said, I would choose to keep sugars for very special occasions and not consume them on daily basis. I would reduce fat to a minimum, stay away from the deep fried stuff (except for 1 absolutely free meal a week) and prefer some fats over others (my palate is personal), and I would surely continue consuming whole wheats and brown rice or pasta over the simpler forms of carbs (as I prefer their flavours), and would limit the intake of carbs to moderate. I would have my 5 a day, fruits and vegetables, simply because life is dull without them, I like to bring colour into my life and love the flvaours. I would always choose organic though, because I do not fancy the modern chemical showers and hormonal treatments and so prefer it when nature takes care of itself and its produce, organically! I will eat grains so long as am not allergic to them - where my chin swells up and I can't breath! I will have dairy products because what is life without cheese or a ganache without cream? I will become vegetarian at different intervals in my life because vegetarian food is good and cleansing. I will eat raw food anytime, because I love Sashimi and think nature is the best cook. And I will continue to exercise even when I am 70, because I would want to feel the blood running through my veins and feel the power of being alive. All the while will continue to work at remaining healthy, fit and in good shape, not obese and by no means a skeletal size zero!

Now that that's out of the way, 

These oven roasted half-sliced potatoes are an amazing way to prepare potatoes, where you get the crispiness and texture of salted crisps, yet are able to flavour them with whatever flavour you are into that day. They are not deep fried, therefore are light and won't leave you feeling heavy. They are in fact very light and are the perfect side dish to meats from steaks, to poultry, fish and even game.

The thin slicing of the potato without fully cutting the slice off the base, also makes them look gorgeous on the plate. Not only that, but also aids in the fast cooking of these potatoes.
When it comes to flavours; keep an open mind. Think spices, salts, herbs, aromatics...etc anything can lend you flavour, and everything added is a layer of flavour. You can even go for combinations, just be creative and follow the overall flavours of your main meal. Think that the flavours of the potatoes have to compliment and bring out the flavours of the meat dish on its side.

My best loved oven roasted potato flavourings
  • Finely chopped corriander, finely chopped green chili, roughly chopped garlic, olive oil, salt & black pepper
  • Paprika, salt
  • Onion powder, salt and black pepper, and finely chopped parsley
  • Taragon, balsamic vinegar, rind of oramge, olive oil
  • Rosemary, Roughly chopped garlic, olive oil, salt & Black pepper
  • Soy sauce, mirin sauce, honey, orange juice and sesame seeds
You can experiment and come up with a million flavourings for these potatoes...

Here is how they are made
For the Plain ones
You Need
1 Kg new potatoes
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt shavings (preferably Himalayan Pink Salt)
Fresh Black Pepper
finely sliced Chives for garnish

Adjust your oven rack to the bottom of your oven, and preheat the oven (roasting or upper heat) to 400F.

Wash the potatoes thoroughly, and scrub them with a brush to remove any dirt. Do not peel. Towel dry, and start slicing them by using a good sharp knife, passing it through the potatoes without fully cutting through (keep the bottoms in tact). Keep going from the right to the left side making sure the slices are very thin, like crisps. Repeat with all potatoes.

Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil on the bottom of your baking dish, and spread it along the bottom and sides. Sprinkle with salt & black pepper, then place the sliced potatoes in one layer along the baking dish. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the potatoes with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Once done, shake the pan to coat the potatoes with the oil. Sprinkle with salt & black pepper and place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes - or until golden and cooked through - shaking and turning every 10-15 minutes in order not to burn.

Once done, remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to serving dish, and sprinkle the tops with finely sliced chives. Serve warm alongside meaty dishes.

If you want to go for a flavoured option, just add the flavourings to the potatoes before baking and continue as in the recipe above. I would usually reserve a little bit of the flavouring to sprinkle over the finished potatoes for freshness.

Hope you enjoyed this post, and remember no bad can come out of balance. Everything is good in moderation, provided it is not arsenic!! Thank you for reading, and make sure to drop by again soon for more good food :)