Mark Hix takes a knife to the nation's favourite tuber (and yes, you can have chips)

WHERE WOULD we be without the trusty old potato? Mashed, roasted, baked or fried – that's just the beginning of the endless possibilities. No wonder (or Golden Wonder?) that we're eating more and more potatoes. Yet sales of unpeeled spuds are actually going down. How do you explain that? Because we're buying oven chips and frozen chips, potato waffles and bags and bags of crisps.

Where would we be without the trusty old potato? Mashed, roasted, baked or fried – that's just the beginning of the endless possibilities. No wonder (or Golden Wonder?) that we're eating more and more potatoes. Yet sales of unpeeled spuds are actually going down. How do you explain that? Because we're buying oven chips and frozen chips, potato waffles and bags and bags of crisps.

The British Potato Council's job is to persuade us to eat potatoes, which is why they've decided that from Monday it's National Chip Week. Sadly this is all about "promoting the potato in its processed form". My job is to show you the best way to do it yourself, which may seem easy, but I promise you that it's worth picking up some professional tips.

Although kids probably think potatoes originate already sliced and from the freezer, frozen chips just don't compare with the thrill of freshly cut potatoes, fried until they're golden – whether you put them in a butty or serve them with a grilled steak.

You need to start with the right spuds for the task. Not all potatoes fry well. Same goes for mash and roasting too. I find King Edwards and Maris Piper are good all-rounders. Floury ones fry and mash all right but waxy potatoes won't crisp up, and if you're mashing them you will end up with a pan of glue.

Although some varieties are naturally waxy, the way you store large old potatoes also affects their texture. If they are exposed to very low temperatures, the starch turns to sugar which means the potatoes brown too quickly in the fat. Potatoes should be kept at a constant temperature.

In our restaurants, such as The Ivy and J Sheekey, we offer two types of chips. There are allumettes, the really thin ones, and a chunkier option too. As you can imagine – because, yes, we make all our own – we get through a few potatoes in the process. Every so often there's a chip crisis and we have to change varieties. Suddenly a batch won't crisp up in the fryer, probably because the potatoes have been stored for too long or allowed to get too cold. We'll be on to Philip, our vegetable supplier, driving him mad.

Of all the many types of chip cutter I've come across, the one I most liked the look of [pictured overleaf] is a smaller version of the one we use in the restaurants. It's like a giant garlic crusher, with a chip-sized grid you press the potato through lengthways. In practice, like so many gadgets, I've only actually used it twice, because it's quicker to use a sharp knife. My gran used a crinkle-cut chip cutter, but I haven't seen one of them in the shops. Another gadget I would recommend is a Japanese mandolin made by Benriner. It's really sharp and comes with a selection of blades for shredding, dicing and cutting chips.

We use vegetable oil for our chips. But when I'm roasting potatoes I like to use beef dripping or goose fat, as it really penetrates the potatoes, giving a luxurious flavour. Roast potatoes is another simple dish that can go horribly wrong, and I can't understand why people use vegetable oil for roasting as it's so boring. It's always worth saving the fat from roasts and storing it in pots in the fridge or freezer.

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