Churchmouse Altarmousefinal copyFor the past few years I have been trying to make homemade chips — French fries — which approximate the golden brown, deep fried ones one buys at restaurants or takeaways.

At the weekend I experimented again, having made a few changes. We were happy with the result, which stayed crispy throughout our dinner.

For those who wish to make their own rather than cutting open a bag of frozen oven chips, here’s how to do it.

Churchmouse’s tips:

1/ Use floury potatoes good for roasties or chips (e.g. Maris Piper, King Edward).

2/ The older the potatoes are, the better. A few years ago a television documentary on restaurants that prepare the best chips in Britain revealed that their potatoes age for three weeks prior to being made into chips. Surprised, I worked with older potatoes and found that their texture when roasted was indeed better than that from fresher potatoes.

3/ Use a good quality lard, beef dripping or goose fat with as much water content removed as possible when heating in the oven prior to adding the potatoes. N.B.: I do not recommend using vegetable oil.

4/ Cook the potatoes in the microwave — a.k.a. Chef Mike — and let cool thoroughly 45 minutes to an hour before putting them in the hot fat.

5/ Once the potatoes are sufficiently cool enough to handle — 15 to 20 minutes — peel and cut them into traditional long chip batons. Spread them out on a cutting board to cool further — another 30 to 40 minutes. This releases most of the water content which evaporates as steam, whatever the weather.

6/ Water is the enemy of fried and roasted foods meant to be crisp, e.g. potatoes. Get rid of as much of it as you can prior to cooking.

Churchmouse’s roasted chips (fries)

(prep time: approx. 60 minutes; cooking time: 30 minutes; serves two)

This recipe requires a microwave oven and large roasting pan (12″ x 15″ or 30 cm x 40 cm) with an outside rim (1 1/4″ or 3 cm deep).


5 medium sized potatoes good for frying or roasting (see Tips 1 and 2 above)

2 rounded (not heaping) tbsps animal fat (see Tip 3)

1/2 tsp salt


1/ Clean and remove eyes, if any, from the potatoes. Wipe dry with kitchen towel. Cut a 1/8″ (1/2 cm) slit lengthwise along the potato so that it releases steam when it cooks in the microwave. Leave the jackets on.

2/ If the potatoes are of different sizes, group the smaller ones together and microwave for two or three minutes, until soft. Medium-large sized ones will take five minutes. Large ones will take seven, possibly eight, minutes.

N.B.: Potatoes just purchased will take a minute or two longer for each size. The object is to make sure the potatoes are fully cooked, not just ‘parboiled’ in the microwave.

3/ Remove the thoroughly cooked potatoes and place them, well spaced for air to circulate, on a cutting board to cool. Leave them for 15 to 20 minutes.

4/ Peel the potatoes, being careful to remove as little of the flesh as possible except for the slightly hard bit which might have formed on the bottom — the one disadvantage to microwaving potatoes.

5/ Discard the peels and carefully cut the potatoes into batons. You should end up with 20 or 24. Keep these well spaced on the cutting board. Let the batons cool and dry for a further 30 to 40 minutes.

N.B.: Newly purchased potatoes might require 40 minutes.

6/ Twenty-five minutes before the second cooling period of the potatoes is over, preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Fifteen minutes before this second cooling is over — therefore, ten minutes after you preheated the oven — put the two tablespoons of fat in the bottom of the pan. I recommending sprinkling 1/4 tsp salt on the fat at this point, just in case the beef dripping or lard smokes in the oven. Place the pan with the fat in the oven. Heat for 15 minutes.

N.B.: The fat should be sizzling hot before adding the potatoes. The fat should also be free of any excess water; preheating it will take care of this. Keep young and other vulnerable people at a distance when removing hot fat from the oven.

7/ By the time the fat has warmed up for 15 minutes, the potato batons should be completely cool. Remove the pan from the oven and add the batons to the fat, ensuring they are well spaced. You do not need to spoon hot fat over the tops and sides.

N.B.: Put the larger pieces at either end and group the smaller batons in the middle. They cook more evenly that way.

8/ Return the pan to the oven and let cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to check for brownness; that will let you know if you need five or ten more minutes.

9/ When potatoes are done, remove the pan from the oven and serve immediately. As there is no excess of fat in the pan, you should be able to put them directly on the plate without the need for draining on kitchen towel.

10/ Sprinkle the chips with salt and they’re ready to eat!

(Graphics credit: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod)