Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Salty, crunchy, carby satisfaction

Wedges. Not to be confused with the women’s footwear of the same name, these bad boys are better in every sense – tastier, more appealing and arguably ever more fashionable. I wouldn’t recommend putting them on your feet though, not unless your tastebuds have moved south for the winter.
Last week I was talking to an affable chap from Manchester who, whilst admonitory over my love of duck eggs, admitted at least that he reads this garbled mess on a regular basis. Simon also gave me a bit of a dig about the complexity of some of the recipes herein.
“Can you maybe have a recipe once in a while that doesn’t require eight or nine hundred ingredients?” Simon wondered in hyperbole. I think he was referring to the Thai red curry from some weeks ago, which, granted, was both extensive on the component front and just a little labour intensive.
Simon’s rule of thumb when it comes to my recipes is this: If it (a certain recipe) necessitates him buying more than three ingredients (excluding the meat etc), he won’t give it a whirl. This, I can understand. And yet, once you invest in something like smoked paprika, it can have a great many uses in various dishes, say in fajitas or paella or bean stew and plus herbs and spices keep for ages. I didn’t make this extended point with Simon though, as I knew he was just winding me up.
Also Simon, we’ll have to agree to disagree about the duck eggs, buddy. Now that’s a dish that doesn’t need messed about with with supplementary ingredients. Poached, on toast, real butter and salt – BANG! Taxi for Devlin!
Last week I bought my first new potatoes of the season. They were Maris Piper and I purposely didn’t check as to their provenance. I didn’t want to even think of them tasting of air miles.
Scrubbed and boiled and slathered in butter with a pinch of sea salt. Three ingredients – BANG! In this case, three really is the magic number. I don’t think that new potatoes even need pepper, which in my world was quite a revelation as pretty much everything gets bombarded with freshly ground black pepper.
Speaking of simple meals, I had beans on toast last week with a shiptonne of grated cheddar and I marvelled at its efficacy. Sourdough bread (toasted), butter (obvs), BRANSTON beans (this brooks no argument) and mature cheddar – BANG! (OK, I’m going to stop saying ‘bang’ now). 
I have also been known to add a squirt of barbecue sauce to my beans on toast from time to time to keep things interesting.
Speaking of beans, what clown and/or clowns bought all the beans in Asda? There wasn’t a single tin to be had this day last week. Not one. Did I miss the memo that baked beans are a cure for the coronavirus?
Anyway, this week, as you may have guessed from the imagery and the intro, I was in the form for wedges. This notion strikes from time to time, like dipping biscuits into tea or a fish finger sandwich; an urge that has to be satisfied.
Healthier than chips but retaining the salty, crunchy, carby satisfaction, my wedges work well as a side to burgers or chicken or even lasagne. However, I like them best when they’re a meal on their own and topped with things like crispy bacon, sour cream, spring onions and cheese – always cheese. Come to think of it, they’re kind of like dirty fries only not as … dirty, seeing as they’re not fried. Scruffy wedges?
The proportions here will feed four people as a light lunch. Double or halve as necessary.
7 big waxy potatoes (I used Cyprus, seeing as how they’re new and thus not fusty).
about 100ml of olive oil
heaped tsp of paprika
half tsp of salt
five or six turns of the pepper grinder
two cloves of garlic, bashed and peeled and bashed again but otherwise left whole
pinch of Italian mixed herbs
crispy bacon or chopped ham
grated parmesan and/or cheddar
red onions
spring onions
sour cream laced with a squirt of lime and a pinch of salt
chipotle sauce or sriracha
Start by mixing the olive oil and the paprika and the salt and the herbs and the garlic in a bowl. Cover and set aside for an hour. The idea here is that the garlic imparts its fresh spiky flavour unto the oil so that the cloves can be removed before cooking. Otherwise, if you just used chopped garlic, it tends to burn and go bitter.
Wash, scrub and chop the spuds into wedges. You don’t want massive wedges here or they’ll take an age to cook. Think big chips.
When chopped, rinse the wedges and then soak in water for the guts of an hour until the garlic oil is ready.
Dry the wedges on a clean kitchen towel and then toss in the oil – minus the garlic cloves. Generally I do this on the tray the wedges are cooked in, so that I don’t waste any of the oil. In this case though, you’ll need two trays of baking sheets ‘cause there’s a lot of wedges.
Arrange the wedges in single on the trays and retire to an oven you have cunningly pre-heated to 200C. Give them 20 minutes and then remove from the oven and turn – this helps with eventual crispiness. Give them another 15 or 20 minutes and they should be ready. Test one (remove one and eat – chef’s perk) to make sure they’re good to go and then assemble your plate as you see fit.
Licking the plate when finished is optional but recommended.

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