My Sitti, grandmother, used to cut potatoes in thick slices and fry them in olive oil every time she would expect our visit on Saturday afternoons. We enjoyed them even cold, as she would have already prepared them early noon. While grown-ups were sipping on her famous welcome-cup of Arabic coffee, with cardamom aroma filling the air around us, we would sneak into her kitchen looking for goodies. It was a cosy, rustic place with a small, wooden table; the table was low and surrounded by traditional wooden stools with woven straw seats. Her French fries, our favourites, would be waiting for us as well as her exceptional, not that creamy, but most flavourful hummus bi tahini, the best in the world. The spreading of hummus on Arabic bread would begin, followed by a portion of fries neatly piled on top, and finally rolled into a wrap, to be devoured in seconds!
Over the years, however, we have all become more health-conscious, and question everything we buy or eat. Good for us. But that does not mean that we have to deprive ourselves from enjoying the food we like, in moderation, of course. French fries are not only fatty, but could contain a chemical called acrylamide that forms when starchy food is cooked at very high temperature. Ever since I heard about it years ago, I have reduced our consumption of chips to zero, no joke, and of French fries to a minimum. But we still indulge ourselves every now and then in restaurants. At home, I opted for a healthier and less fatty version instead. I cut potatoes in small cubes, soak in water for at least half an hour to release starch, drain and spread on a baking sheet. I generously drizzle with olive or sunflower oil and mix them well to coat oil on all sides, then bake until golden and crunchy. Nevertheless, the crunchiness depends on the sort of potatoes you buy. Make sure you get waxy potatoes if available on the market. For best results follow this tip; use waxy ones for potato salads, gratins and French fries, and mealy ones for mashed potatoes and Schupfnudeln (German Potato croquettes).
So if you have a fetish for French fries, but health-conscious, treat yourself to this lighter version, and have them sparingly.
Batata bi-l-furn - Baked Potatoes
- 1.2 kg potatoes peeled, rinsed and cut into 2.5-cm cubes
- 3-4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Soak potatoes in cold water in a large bowl for 30 minutes. Drain well, mix with the oil and spread evenly onto a baking sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven (250°C, 480°F) and bake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes or until golden in colour and crunchy. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.