The kitchen can be a dangerous place, but never more so than during the festival of Chanucah — the culprit, fried food. Of course it can be fabulous, but it also can be fatal, not only in the preparation, but also in the eating. If your house does not burn down due to a forgotten chip pan, if you are not charging around armed with air freshener and if you haven’t visited A&E with multiple burns, the fact is, just eating too much fried food can be a heart attack waiting to happen.
But for those of you planning a Chanucah blow-out, there is some good news. Dr Duncan Dymond, consultant cardiologist at St Barts Hospital, says: “Eating latkes etc in moderation for eight days is not likely to make the difference between good and bad heart health, what is much more important is to take a long-term view. Watch your weight and blood pressure, do not smoke and take plenty of exercise”
Tradition dictates that at Chanucah, over eight days, fried food is on the menu. However, you do not want to end up in hospital, and you will not as long as you follow this guide to producing fried food “to die for” — in the metaphorical sense only.
● When frying, make sure you are suitably dressed. Wear an apron, put your hair up and perhaps even sport a bath hat or scarf — it may not look chic, but it saves on a trip to the hairdresser!
● Ensure your kitchen vent is on max, open a window or two, close your kitchen door and stock up on perfumed candles to remove any odious odours (have you ever fried fish?).
● Make sure all pets are out of the room. You do not want a cat, a dog or a budgie jumping up by your side while you are in full frying mode.
● Choose your time to fry. We suggest before the children get home from school. A child-free fry zone is best, especially if you have small children or toddlers.
● Have your oven gloves ready to hand and all your cooking utensils within arm’s reach.
● Pre-line a tray with kitchen paper — this will absorb any extra grease from the freshly fried food.
● When deciding which oil to use, remember oil does spoil; our advice is to use a good quality, fresh oil with a high smoke point, this means that the oil will get hot, but will not smoke. Therefore for deep fat frying, no need to use olive oil — vegetable or corn oil works a treat.
● Never re-use the oil — it has already begun to break down and will contain undesired trans-fat compounds, which are banned in some countries due to carcinogenic properties. Another reason to always use fresh oil is that you do not want to taste the remnants of the food you were frying in the first batch of food.
● When coating chicken or other foods, before frying, place on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes to allow the coating to set.
● Before frying, remove any extra moisture from your food by patting it dry with kitchen paper — this will reduce splattering.
● If you have a deep fat frying thermometer, the best temperature for frying is 350˚F to 375˚F, otherwise you can check your oil is hot enough by testing with a small piece of bread. If it browns in 60 seconds, then you are ready to go.
● Lower your food gently into the hot oil using long-armed tongs. Keep them pointing downwards to reduce splattering when removing the tongs from the oil.
● Do not overcrowd the frying pan as it lowers the temperature of the oil.
● When removing food from hot oil, you need to take care, stand back and use a long handled slotted spoon to shake off excess oil, then place on the ready lined tray.
● Do not touch the oil until it is completely cold, then dispose in your green bin. Remember, never ever put the oil down your sink, you will end up with a very expensive call-out charge to unblock your drains.
● Oil and water do not mix. If you pour water on hot oil the mixture will explode.
● If the oil does smoke or catches fire, cover with a pan lid or use a fire extinguisher but be sure that a) you have one and b) you know how to use it!
So now you have the tips at your fingers and to protect these, never get confused when frying by putting on your marigolds — always and only your oven gloves.
Have a wonderful, safe Chanucah with your family and friends feasting on fabulous fried food.