Who doesn’t like the crispy bits on the top of a mac ‘n’ cheese? They are my favourite bits. The crispy bits of anything frankly, and I must be honest, I have a real problem with crisps. If there are any in the house, I just can’t help myself. From the toxic orange cheesy corn snack to swish expensive Spanish crisps fried in extra virgin olive oil, I am helpless when in range. So, I rarely have them inside the front door.
Some days however, when I am controlling my access and there are none in the house, I still want some or something / anything to snack on. This has been a life long problem, and I first tried to make crisps when I was a child from the left behind small potatoes in the field in front of my house. I wanted to replicate exactly what I had had from the shops so, after a few efforts I was disappointed, and stopped.
As an adult I have had a lot more success. The small child inside me rejoices, and the adult who would really like to fit into that lovely red vintage dress of yore ponders while tucking in. Last week I made purple potato crisps which were a massive hit (the photo here is from my instagram feed – a lot more gets posted there than ever makes it here so make sure you follow on instagram, facebook or twitter).
I haven’t just made snacks with the humble spud. I have experimented a lot. I love leftovers, and I love trying different things with them. It may not be possible to polish a turd (nor should you eat one), but leftovers can be so much more glamorous than the original dish, once the original dish was decent to begin with. Taking risks with leftovers is no big deal, they are there to play with anyway (and also, finally, to eat), so years ago in university I looked at a plate of leftover spaghetti and fried it. And that was it.
I soon found out that this is far from an original idea, the Italians do it (pasta fritti), the Maltese do it (called froga which is like a leftover spaghetti frittata). I have a recipe for an omelette with leftover papardelle with ragu in my first book, Comfort & Spice, too. Leftover long pasta lends itself brilliantly to an omelette, you should try that. Added to this, instant noodles are simply cooked noodles deep fried to extrude the water and dry them in order to preserve them, this works really well for pasta too, and you can keep your fried pasta snacks in an air tight container for a while.
I say this is a great leftover dish, but the reality is that I often cook the pasta to make this at home. Fried pasta is a fabulous crispy snack, with each shape giving a different result. Here I have used large round pasta shape which lends itself well to frying. Don’t use cheap pasta, just because you are frying it. Good ingredients make good eating, so use the best you can get.
You can use lots of different toppings – good melting cheese grated fine and used sparingly works well and dried spices and chilli too. I had some lovely manchego and some smoky Spanish paprika so I gave this rendition a nice Spanish twist.
I don’t have a deep fat fryer, so I just fill a large deep frying pan with oil to about 2 inches. You could do this in a sauce pan too but fry in batches, making sure that the pasta is in a single layer with room to mooch about or it will all stick together in a gloopy mess. A thermometer is useful and helps get best results, but it is not essential. Continue reading