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What I really want for Christmas is a deep fat fryer. A friend lent us his neat, slimline one over the weekend and we had good fun playing with it. After a lot of experiment, my son and I produced proper, twice-cooked French fries that we thought were the match of any bistro chips. Even in Paris.
We did bootlace courgettes in batter (for the sake of our health) and deep-fried banana. But most exciting of all was our makeover of Edinburgh's most famous deep-fried pudding, which we decided to rebrand as Noisettes de Mars Bar en Tempura.
Deep fat cookery is the great vernacular cuisine of modern Scotland, of course. I've been determined to embrace it ever since I heard the chef Anthony Bourdain mock my home town, Edinburgh, as "the world capital of indiscriminate deep-frying".
Next time he is here, he has agreed to come and sample the art at its highest at the Tail End, on Leith Walk, which is without doubt the city's greatest chippie.
Crucially it fries only to order or in small batches: the curse of chippy food is the battered fish sagging in the hot cabinet, two hours out of the oil. It does a whole range of unusual fish, as well as the usual cod or haddock: sea bass, swordfish, herring when in season, plaice, sole and sea trout. Most of these work well, though some deep-fried oily fish, such as herring, are for specialist tastes. Key to the Tail End is its batter: a golden cumulus, crisp and delicate, whose secret nobody will reveal.
It's the batter that has let down my previous attempts to rescue the deep-fried Mars bar from its ignominious role as a butt of jokes for comedians and health fascists. It's true that a whole Mars bar in fish batter is a thing that your GP would not embrace - especially considering the state of the oil in some of Scotland's darker frying establishments.
This time we decided to go minimalist - and produce a fried Mars bar dessert of which nouvelle cuisine and Scotland could be proud. So we chopped the Mars bar into nuggets the size of the tip of a little finger, and did the same with a nice firm banana.
We made a simple tempura, the airy, light batter that the Japanese use for frying everything from vegetables to shrimp. This is made of egg, flour and cold water: it makes a delicate shell to encase a foodstuff and cook it without losing any moisture or flavour. And that should be the prime purpose of frying it in batter - any more is padding. We fried the banana slices and Mars bar nuggets for a couple of minutes at 160C in the deep fryer, and served them with some good vanilla ice cream.
The result? Raptures among the children, as you'd guess. The adults? Dubious, for the most part, though they ate it all up. My mistake was to boast to them in advance about what I was up to: it's a good rule with dinner party surprises to keep mum and let the plate do the talking.
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