French Fries

Some years ago, when my daughters were still in their pig tails, they used to demand to be taken to the nearest fast food joint at least twice a week, where it was customary to order for bowlful of French fries along with burgers. Now of course, as they are in their teens, they have become weight conscious and these outings have become few and far between.

I am sure most of you are sailing in the same boat. Not only children but even adults like us love to eat French fries. Little wonder then that French fries with burgers, wraps and soft drinks top the menu at all Fast Food joints.

Many brands sell their French fries along with different dips like cheese, mayonnaise, Sichuan sauce. Some brands even sell flavoured French fries. They have masala fries, salt and pepper fries, Italian spiced french fries, Mexican french fries which are normally served with a tomato salsa.

All that is really yummy yet we would still want to be sure about the quality of food our children eat outside, don’t we? And why not… so let us explore how to make them healthier.

French Fries are something that can be easily prepared at home. Homemade food, as we all know, is anytime better as compared to what our children would get to eat outside. To make French fries at home, the first thing to do is to shop for non starchy potatoes. Non starchy potatoes are also called new potatoes which have less amount of starch as compared to old potatoes. Now you may well ask why we need to use non starchy potatoes to prepare French fries. It is because when the starch is exposed to heat, it breaks down into glucose, which is a form of sugar. Sugar when heated caramelises and turns into golden brown colour. Since the quantity of starch is less in non-starchy potatoes, it takes time for the starch to break down into glucose, and the potatoes do not turn brown very fast and remain crisp.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into even sized fingers. These days you get cutters which give you even sized fingers making your job less laborious. Plunge them in salted boiling water and boil till they are half cooked. Drain them thoroughly and pat dry on a kitchen towel. Once completely cooled, divide them into portions and pack them into separate zip lock bags and freeze. I said pack into separate bags so that whenever you want to use them, you can take out just as many as you want. Do not thaw them, just take them out of the zip lock bags and fry in hot oil. As simple as that but do it in batches, because overcrowding the frying pan with too many fingers at a time, will bring the temperature of the oil down and the fingers will become soggy and limp instead of crispy.

You can make potato wedges too in similar manner: cut the potatoes into wedges, keep the skin intact. Parboil the wedges in salted water. Drain and put them on a kitchen towel to dry off excess water. Roll in seasoned refined flour and freeze for 6-8 hours. Just before serving, take them out of the freezer and deep fry in hot oil. You can even bake the wedges to make them healthier. Nowadays frozen French fries and potato wedges are easily available not only in the supermarkets and even in smaller shops.

100 grams of French fries contain 327 calories and that is quite a bit considering you cannot stop yourself with just that much. However you can have them occasionally without much guilt pangs. Well after gorging on them, run a mile or two more so as to burn off the excess calories consumed.

Well there is some good news for you. These days, air fryers are easily available in the market, which consume 80% less oil as compared to deep frying in the conventional way. All you need to do is brush the food with a little oil, place them a basket that fits into the body of the fryer and adjust the temperature depending on the food you want to cook. The food gets cooked in hot air and hence a boon for the health conscious. I use it frequently and gorge on the supposedly fried goodies without feeling guilty.

Recently while doing a live show, I came up with an innovation. I made fries from sweet potatoes instead of using regular potatoes. I used oil spray to spray a little oil on the fries and baked them in preheated oven till crisp. Tossed them in chaat masala, red chilli powder, some salt and a dash of lemon juice, I served them with great flair and believe me they were super hit.

So learn how to make the basic recipe of fries and then sky is the limit. You can then serve them with a variety of dips and sprinklers and see them disappearing faster than you prepared them. Bingo!

Here are some recipes to get you started!

       French Fries                  Country Style Fries             Baked Potato Wedges


Dine not on these

What are the foods that make good morning snacks or lunches and are not wanted for dinner? There are certain foods that take a long time to be digested properly. It is best recommended that such foods be taken only when you are sure you have enough time for them to be digested before you retire for sleep. Late night dinners cause problems for some. Even if you do have a good digestion power, heavy dinners are not recommended for long-term healthy living.
Fried chips, burgers, tikkis, batter-fried nuggets etc are a strict no-no. These foods are high in fat, are greasy and pose tough problems for the digestive juices. If you must have them, have them early in the day …or then go for baked alternatives.
Orange, grapefruit, lemon juice all have acidic bases. And can possibly harm the lining of the stomach when the stomach’s own juices are lethargic at night. An empty stomach in the morning has a strong acidic medium because no food has been put in it. Those who have orange juice on an empty stomach are adding acid to acid and this can create a stomach ache or later acid reflux problems. Have a glass of fresh juice at midday as a snack. Synthetic juices are avoidable because of the high sugar content.
Ice cream makes the quickest dessert after a nice dinner, right? It is also the slowest of all the foods to be digested because the fat takes the longest to break down! Ice creams with their high fat content can cause bloating, cramping and gas if had late at night. We certainly do not recommend that you have it for breakfast but as a snack, and if your daily calorie count allows, ice cream is fun.
Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are a nutritious lot and loved in salads. Being rich in fibre they are healthy but for one reason are dismissed from many plates: they cause gas build-up in the gut when had raw. The solution is simple, lightly blanch them and add to salads. Cooking deactivates the sulphur compounds that cause gas.
If you have stopped having beans because they give you gas trouble, I suggest you keep trying them till your stomach produces enough enzymes to be able to digest them. The enzyme needed to break down beans is found only in our stomach bacteria. And if you don’t routinely eat beans, you might not have enough of this enzyme to comfortably digest them. The result, of course, is that once in while helping of beans gives you gas and bloating. Beans are the healthiest thing around so be open to having them regularly.
Believe it or not chocolate! You must be sorely disappointed to read this, but yes, chocolate can cause distress. But only if you overeat it! Forewarned is forearmed so one occasional treat of a brownie or milk chocolate is recommended but not a big feast of it. But anyone who suffers from gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can experience problems from even a small portion of chocolate. That’s because chocolate causes the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax, allowing stomach acid to come back up.
Food with the kick of peppers is fun to have but can also irritate the lining of the oesophagus on the way down. The result: an unpleasant heartburn-like feeling after you eat. So rather than trying to mask spice with high-fat cream, opt for milder versions if you routinely suffer side effects.
So what is a good dinner dish? Try these suggestions!

Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor.

Make your own convenience store

A few days ago I had discouraged you from frozen foods and many of you have asked me you do not want to as the attractions are too many in the malls plus the convenience of cooking. We do expect a lot from frozen foods, don’t we? This is got me thinking and now as we turn more health conscious we can expect to see frozen foods that are low in calories, low in fat content and have less sodium. But one word of caution. You cannot always judge the frozen food by its cover. Not even by the delicious picture that goes on the cover or the catchy name on it.

Well, one simple rule while shopping. Read the label. Check the total calories. See the portion size. They may be smaller than what you expect them to be. This is a smart way used by the packagers to keep fat levels down. Look for the percentage of calories from fat, not on the number of calories. Often fewer calories mean less food, not necessarily less fat. This is what we mentioned earlier about smaller portion sizes. They might put in some type of sauce to make a mini meal look complete but you will have to rustle up a salad and finish off with a piece of fruit to satisfy the appetite. Some prepackaged preparations come with handy sachets of readymade sauces. Skip this product and skimp on the calories and sodium. We have to be more realistic about this.

Look out when shopping for frozen eats! Here’s the what and why:
Read the ingredients: Some cases meat might not be all meat. It might be mixed with soy or wheat products. This makes it lower in fat. The taste might not be different but the portions certainly become heartier. If the label says it is a cheese dish and the list of ingredients reads cheese way down on it then you know this is cheating hence forget picking it up. It is safer to buy a product with generous amount of low fat cheese than buy something that cheats.

Always supplement your frozen meal with lots of either frozen or steamed vegetables which are quick and convenient. Remember the recommendation is to have five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. As for desserts, you could indulge in fruit yogurt etc but remember they are still sweetened with sugar and can be high in calories.

Why not make your own freezer work wonders for you in the convenience department?

Happy cooking
Sanjeev Kapoor.