TGIFOOD

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What’s cooking today: Air fryer roast potatoes

What’s cooking today: Air fryer roast potatoes
Tony Jackman’s air fryer roast potatoes. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

My friends are picking themselves up off the floor and shaking their heads in astonishment. I’ve bought an air fryer.

Air fryers appear to be here to stay, a component of almost every kitchen. Old hands like me have no choice but to get up to speed. But this journey will be on my terms.

I’ll explain why I say this. Almost every seasoned food writer in the world has caved to the inevitability of the air fryer. Reluctantly. Why? Because good cooking needs fat. Fat – butter, ghee, many kinds of oils – is at the heart of flavour, particularly butter. It doesn’t only cook the food. It adds to the flavour, the character of what you’re cooking in that medium. Caramelisation? You need fat for that, along with sugar.

Those of us who write about food are the same people who, in many cases, have still never quite accepted the slow cooker as having any particular value other than convenience (you shove stuff in it, you switch it on, you leave it, at some point it’s cooked), which is also why most of us think of a microwave oven as a defrosting device. Although meat, for one, is better defrosted slowly in the fridge.

But let’s assess the air fryer in terms of what it is, more than what it purports to be: An air fryer does not “fry” food in “air”. It is a countertop convection oven that’s been cleverly branded. And that’s a great idea. It’s compact, it’s nifty. If it had been marketed as a countertop convection oven I may have bought one ages ago. I can foresee cooking many things in it effectively and happily. It’s the little spraying of oil on the potatoes that gets any possible “frying” done. But I do see the point of air fryers being a “health” choice. There’s much less fat even if not quite none at all. Every family, therefore, should own an air fryer as a sensible way to cook many suppers, quickly and healthily. I’ve recommended to my own kids that they get one. So, to be clear: I am not down on air fryers. They’re here, most likely to stay.

Mine is a good brand: Kenwood, a dual drawer one which means you can cook two things at the same time at different temperatures and for differing cooking times. There’s a sync option too which somehow makes them ready at the same time even though one takes longer to cook than the other. I haven’t got my head around that yet, but I will.

It took me four attempts to turn out something I was prepared to plate up and photograph for you. Load shedding fouled up the first attempt: shrimps which were nearly done when the power went off even though I had scrutinised the schedules and was convinced there was to be no load shedding at that time. How infuriating that is. 

You have no idea how many times load shedding has affected my daily recipe cooking. Most of my food photos are taken in near darkness; Thank Apollo for my iPhone 13 Pro with its extraordinary camera. More often than not the lights go out between 5 and 7pm or 7 and 9pm. I have to chase the light and the food to get it done in time before there’s no light. I’ve even resorted to taking some photos by candlelight. Here’s one: the offending prawns, which were grey and awful. I won’t be sharing that recipe.

The offending prawns, photographed by candlelight. They tasted as dull as they look. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Every day’s recipe is a challenge these days. I have to stop work (that is, the editing and writing part of my job) by 3pm if there’s to be a chance of getting the recipe done and photographed in time. So I have to start work at the crack of dawn. We’re all affected in so many ways by this maddening idiocy by paid officials who ought to be fixing the mess. Mine is one solitary example of its effects.

Next, I made air fryer courgettes. Not bad. Quite crunchy, the insides sensuously soft. But not quite recipe-worthy this time though I’ll give them another go soon. Then I tried my hand at “the world’s best recipe for air fryer cauliflower”. Out of kindness I won’t name the writer or website. Grey. Dull. Horrible. No recipe to share there either.

Then I cooked air fryer “roast” potatoes. They turned out much like roast potatoes, they looked right, they tasted okay, if plain. Were they the best roast potatoes I’ve cooked? Not close. I make super-crunchy roasties. They’re steamed or parboiled first, drained, and shaken in the hot pan t0 remove any remaining water. Then they’re plunged into hot oil which has been preheated in the oven in a loaf tin. In half an hour to 45 minutes or so at a high heat, they turn out so crunchy that they’re noisy to eat. The centre is soft and fluffy. They’re a delight. That is a roast potato.

I don’t set out on any recipe expecting, or hoping, that it will be anything less than wonderful. I want it to work. But I won’t share recipes I’m not happy to eat myself. So, I did enjoy eating these “roast potatoes” which were cooked by hot, dry air and a tiny film of olive oil spray. Let me know if you have a better air fryer method; I’m happy to learn.

Ingredients

Potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered

Olive oil spray

Method

There’s no need to give quantities as the recipe is the same regardless of how many potatoes you’re cooking. Just enough for one layer in the basket of your air fryer, and enough spray to coat them well on all sides.

Place potatoes in a basket of an air fryer. Coat with olive oil spray.

Preheat the air fryer to 180℃ for 6 minutes. Cook at 180℃ for 15 minutes. Shake the basket. Increase the heat to 200°C and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Salt to taste and serve immediately. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.

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  • Frank Kusel says:

    The best thing I have cooked in an air fryer is chicken wings. Patted dry, properly spiced, and lightly coated with flour. Air fryer preheated at 195C for 5 minutes, then cooked at 195C for 15 minutes. Perfect.

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