A mandoline: cutting potatoes and making crisps

As a chef I have acquired quite some knife skills the last years. I take pride in those techniques and I find comfort in chopping up five kg of onions. It feels like meditation. But there is more to food processing than a simple knife, think of kitchen aids such as graters, microplanes, blenders and ceramic platergraters. These days there isn’t a kitchen without some electric kitchen aids.


Before electricity, people would cut their vegetables the old-fashioned way: with a mandoline. Instead of holding a knife in your hand, the blade is fixed onto a flat surface. All you have to do is slice the preferred vegetable back and forth across the mandoline. Imagine my joy when, a few weeks ago, I found a beautiful antique wooden mandoline in a charity shop. Since I bought it in the rural part of the Netherlands, I guess that it’s been used on a farm to slice kales for making sauerkraut, a Dutch winter staple.
The mandoline is made of dark and worn beech wood and mounted with two iron blades. It has a small safety box that slides down a rail and a safety handle to press down on the vegetable you’re slicing. These safety measures are a great relief; in my experience mandolines have a tendency to nibble at your fingers until the tips are bloody and the nails are gone. Kids, don’t use a mandoline without covering your hand with a glove or towel.


I was so exited about my find, I started slicing the first thing I came across: a potato. That inevitably led to my fist lesson: the round shape of the potato spins the vegetable, rather than slicing it. If you cut off a small piece from the bottom and the top, the potato is easier to slice. The result: beautiful waver thin slices, thinner then a millimetre.


I couldn’t throw away the sliced potatoes so I started experimenting to make my own crisps. Making your own crisps isn’t difficult or expensive. You need sunflower oil, potatoes, salt and of course a mandoline. Two things are important when deep-frying potato’s: uniform thickness and washing off the starches. The thickness is important to achieve the same crispiness in every crisp. To achieve the crispiness its important to wash off the starch that appears on the potato when you slice or cut it. If you don’t wash the sliced potato then the starches will burn very quickly and you’ll end up with deep brown crisps.


Wash the sliced potato until the water remains clear. You can start frying right away, but tossing wet products into boiling oil creates an almost violent explosion it’s rather dangerous. I chose to dry the slices on kitchen paper. I don’t have a deep fryer so I use about a 2L off sunflower oil to deep fry. The best temperature to fry them is 160 Celsius.

Slide the potato in the hot oil and keep stirring them and pushing them under. Don’t fry to many of the slices at the same time. Fry them for several minutes until they’re golden brown. Put them on kitchen paper en season with salt. If in want of a dip, I recommend using crème fraîche seasoned with pepper, salt, and a handful off chopped chives.

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Nobu VI Beetroot, Goat cheese and Walnut, best vegieburger ever

Just as the title says the best.
Nobu: NOtenBUrger, Dutch for NUtBUrger

Recipe for 5 burgers

The burger:
200 gr Walnuts
three quarters of a red pepper, deseeded
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
150 gr soft goat cheese
330 gr red beetroot
150 gr very fine bread-crumbs
half a bunch parsley

The batter
Self rising flour
water

1. Roast the walnuts for about fifteen minutes in the oven at 200 degrees.
2. Chop all the vegetables roughly, remove the stalks from the parsley, deseed the red pepper. Put all the ingredients in your kitchen machine, preferably a magimix. , and blitz all the ingredients finely. Make sure the you dont blitz the walnuts to fine walnuts remain a bit coarse to get that good burger “bite”. You can also keep a few walnuts apart and chop those more roughly and put them with the mixture later on. The mixture structure should be fine, if not the kneading will be difficult.
3. Mix all the ingredients together, with the fine bread crumps at the last moment. Do make sure the mixture is not to dry, (it shouldn’t fall apart when you try to pick it up) but it also shouldn’t be too wet (that it sticks to your hand if you try to pick it up). Altough it may sound strange; the mixture is better a bit too dry than to wet. Adjust the mixture by adding some bread crumps or a little water.
4. Knead all the ingredients together by hand.
5. Mould the mixture into round burgers, about a finger thick, each weighing 120 to 150 grams..
6. Make a batter from water and self-rising flour. The texture off the batter should be just a bit thicker than full cream yoghurt.
7. Put on some gloves and coat the burgers with the batter. and deep-fry them in oil with temperature of 180 degrees until they’re light brown. Make sure the burgers don’t stick tot the deep-fry basket. The best way to do this, is to let them slide in slowly and shake the basket a bit. Sometimes the batter doesn’t coat the burger when you deep-fry it and the burger will burn. If that happens you should add more flour to your batter and thicken it.
8. Let the burgers cool down. Don’t staple them together or put plastic around them; as long as they haven’t cooled down, the burgers will stick to every touch.

Serving:

Take a vegieburger and deepfry it for 2 minutes until its purple/golden brown.
Cut open your hamburger bun: put it in the oven for 4 minutes, put salsa on one side mayonnaise on the other side of the bun. Insert the burger, close the bun and enjoy.

Serving tip: the Nubu veggie burger is especially good with a salad made from fresh lettuce.

This is a difficult recipe, is takes a lot of love and precision to make these burgers.
Your burgers may fail the first time….don’t be daunted to try again.