Out of the frying pan / Savoury brunchin'

Home fries with northern soul

home fries

If there’s one dish on a brunch menu that I absolutely can’t say no to, it’s home fries.

No matter how refined the rest of the meal – say eggs Florentine with foaming hollandaise, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on lightly toasted brioche, or pain perdu à la vanille – I can always be guaranteed to lower the tone with a big old bucket o’ fried, seasoned spuds. “Resistance is futile” say the home fries.

The first time I made my own home fries I couldn’t help but scrutinize my husband’s reaction, asking him after every mouthful, “Are they authentic? Are they authentic?!” (because there’s nothing more attractive than a needy, approval-seeking wife). But of course I’d completely missed the point. For there is no such thing as ‘authentic’ home fries. Like the Lancashire hotpot, the Spanish tortilla or the French pot-au-feu, every household has its own recipe – hence the home’ bit.

So these are very much my home fries – a fact which, I have to say, does give me a certain amount of home-maker’s, nest-builder’s, domestic goddess’s pride. Nigella, you have taught your pupil well…

potatoes

Most American recipes for what you could just as well dub ‘breakfast chips’ (I have a rule that a weekend’s not a proper weekend unless it contains both chips and cake, which goes a long way to explaining my love of the home fry) call for Yukon Gold potatoes, which I’m pretty sure you can’t get in Wakefield* . A cursory search of Google tells me that our own Jersey Royals make an excellent substitute, and I can see that working – I am partial to home fries with their overcoats on (“Give me some skin” say these home fries). However, as a northern lass, weaned on Yorkshire puds, gravy and – crucially – roast potatoes, I wanted my home fries to have an Anglo-American edge. A crispy, golden brown exterior, practically requiring a sledgehammer to break through to a gloriously fluffy centre – home fries with northern soul and Yorkshire grit – which meant there was really only one spud up to the task: the mighty King Eddie.

Yeah ok, these are basically pan-fried roasties but hey, if that plus the whole ‘breakfast chips’ thing is not selling the concept of home fries to you… Well, you’ve come to the wrong blog. As mentioned, I can eat these with just about anything but I think they come into their own with a couple of fried eggs and some grilled back bacon (they’re also amazing with leftover Christmas ham, fried up in a skillet, as husband and I can attest having practically lived off this fine meal from Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve). For an added touch of northernness, serve with a dollop of tomato ketchup. “You know you want to” say the home fries…

Fried eggs and bacon: home fries' best friends

Fried eggs and bacon: home fries’ best friends

* For some reason, vegetables seem to take their time arriving north of Birmingham. True story: we couldn’t get pumpkins up north when I was a young ‘un, so my poor Dad had the back-breaking task every Halloween of carving a Jack O’ Lantern out of a swede. A SWEDE! This amused my husband no end when I introduced him to said so-hard-you-could-bludgeon-someone-to-death-with-one vegetable in Sainsburys. Doubled over in hilarity, he managed to halt his tears of laughter to exclaim, in a demented paraphrasing of that scene in Dirty Dancing, “You carved a RUTABAGA?!”** Grim up north indeed…

** I can’t think of a better word in the English language than ‘rutabaga’. Suggestions?

Home fries with northern soul

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

900g King Edward potatoes
1 large onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 tbsp vegetable oil, plus a little extra for frying the onions
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp dried oregano
Generous pinch of Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

1. Peel the potatoes and cut any particularly big ones in half so they’re all roughly the same size. Par-boil them in salted water for around 8-10 minutes (to check for doneness, stab one of the potatoes with a butter knife and if the potato slides off the knife slowly, it’s done. If it stays on the knife, it needs a bit longer; if it falls off straight away, you’ve cooked the potatoes a bit longer than ideal). Drain the potatoes and leave in a colander until cool enough to handle.

2. Meanwhile heat a little oil in a frying pan, then sauté the onions until soft and just starting to colour. Add the garlic slices and fry for one more minute. Remove the onion and garlic slices from the pan and set aside.

3. Cut your potatoes into 1-inch/ 2 cm pieces. Next, divide the oil between two frying pans or woks and heat until the surface of the oil starts to shimmer. Add the potatoes to the pans in a single layer (if you pile the potatoes on top of each other, they won’t crisp up), then turn the heat down to medium and cook for around 10 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown underneath. Turn over, and cook for another 5-10 minutes until they’re brown all over then remove to a plate, lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess grease. You have my permission at this point to taste one to check they’re done – they should be golden and crispy on the outside, yet soft and fluffy on the inside. Just don’t eat them all yet, ok?

4. Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish then add your cooked onions and garlic, the paprika and oregano. Season with Maldon salt and black pepper, then toss the whole lot together until the potatoes are evenly coated with the spices and the onions are well mixed in. Serve the home fries with whatever takes your fancy – fried eggs, caviar… Whatever.

Enjoy!

Brunch tip: If you don’t have two pans, you can cook the home fries in the same pan in two batches (just make sure you refresh the oil after cooking the first batch). To keep the first batch of home fries warm, transfer them to an ovenproof dish then place in an oven pre-heated to 125C. Try to resist the overwhelming urge to pick at them while you cook the second lot!

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