Chef’s Spicy Pita with Belgian Fries and Mayonaise

A spicy pork Pita in smoked sauce,
topping a pile of Belgian Fries
“special” style with Mayonaise, Ketchup
and crisp sumak onion

Introduction

We all know those lazy Sundays we sometimes have, a late night on Saturday and you wake up realising it will be a quiet day. Toss some Motörhead vinyl on that turntable and check the freezer for something quick to eat. Hey, I’ve got pork pita meat in here! Oh, and I have potatoes and a fryer, I like it when a plan comes together. I also came to realise that I’ve posted quite some recipes the past few months, but mostly focussed on the meat and much less on side dishes. It’s about time to turn that around and talk more about a side-dish than about the spicy pita that accompanies it! Belgian fries! Now what’s Belgian about them? And why do us Belgian hate it so much that at least half of the world talks about French fries? Maybe it’s not really because we’re that much chauvinistic, at least I’m by far not, and I think most of Belgians aren’t. It’s simply because there’s no better fries than Belgian fries. Now I don’t want to start any fights about it, if you don’t agree then that’s just your opinion 🙂 That being said, fries are often called French fries because it refers to the French cut, which is much finer than the Belgian one. Your typical Mc Donald’s type of cut with fries of about 8 mm width are French fries. Belgian fries are typically around 10-12 mm width and are prepared differently. In most places, “French” (but also larger cut) fries are just fried once at about 180 degrees. If frying sufficiently long, they will come out quite crisp, but often also quite hard in the center. Belgian fries or the Belgian style of frying is different as we work in two rounds. One at moderate temperature of about 140-150 degrees for a few minutes. It is later followed by a second round at about 180-190 degrees for another few minutes. The first one makes the inside of the fries soft, nearly mashed potato like, while the second one will quickly form a nice and brown crispy outside, while maintaining the soft inner texture. It’s no rocket science, it’s nothing fancy, it just needs to be done the right way and anyone can do it. Believe you me, if you tried, you will probably stick with this routine forever! Below I will share all (or most) of my secrets for preparing the perfect Belgian fries, I’ll refer to this post often in future I believe. I’m also planning to start posting some more Belgian classics with fries, like my Guinness and Whiskey beef stew with Fries that’s to come on here soon…

Ingredients

Now I said it was a bit of improvisation with what I had in the house, so I’ll give more suggestions for additions in the serving tips below. Nevertheless this one is great to try and super simple, so I hope you like it as much as I do. The ingredients listed here are for one portion, on a hungry day 😉

  • 200-250 g of pork pita
  • 3 Table spoons of nut oil
  • 3 Table spoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 Onions
  • Half a coffee spoon of cumin, some oregano, smoked bell pepper powder
  • Chili to taste. I added 4 fresh Spanish peppers, a bit of chipotle and some flakes of Moruga Scorpion, Carolina Reaper and Habanero.
  • A (few) spoon(s) of Smoky Hot Italian Fire sauce
  • 2 to 3 large potatoes
  • Fryer with oil
  • A dash of sumac
  • Mayonaise and ketchup

Preparation

First we marinate our pita meat in a mixture of the oil, red wine vinegar in which we add all the peppers, cumin and one onion sliced coarsely. We leave it to marinate for about an hour (or even longer if you start early). Once this is done the meat can be left in a closed container in the fridge, while we peel the potatoes and start hand cutting our Belgian fries. We wash them but also make sure to dry them first before frying, we don’t want water in the oil as it makes it splash!

Now we get to the first round of frying. Pre-heat the fryer to 140-150 degrees and add your portion of fries to it. For coarser cut it can be wise to pre-bake at slightly higher temperatures, as the fries will instantly cool down the temperature a lot when they go in. Typically pre-baking should only take 3 to 4 minutes. I never use a kitchen timer for fries though, as there’s a much better method to follow. At first, you make sure to regularly shake the basket around a bit. After about 2 to 3 minutes, lift the basket from the oil occasionally and listen closely if you hear a sizzling sound. Once that’s there they are done and can be put in a bowl with kitchen tissue to cool down.

Now it’s time to start cooking the pita, while the fries take a rest. I can’t stress how important it is to leave them to cool down before starting the second round of frying!

Add the meat into the frying pan on high fire and keep on stirring while it cooks! Once the meat has a nice and brown color, we add some Smoky hot Italian fire sauce (about 3 spoons or so) and let that blend into the mixture. Turn down the heat and let this simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes. Conveniently enough the time we need to finish our Belgian Fries!

So this already brings us to the final stage of this crash coarse in Belgian fries making! The fries have now cooled down, so we pre-heat the frying oil to 180-190 degrees. Again, for larger sized fries you probably want to go a bit higher and take 190, real Belgian fries should need 180, if they can do with less than you’ve made the mistake of cutting French fries :-D. Once the oil has reached temperature the fries go in and we shake them up a bit on a regular basis. After about 3 minutes, lift the basket every once in a while to listen if the fries are sizzling, then give them a short while more until they seem to whistle to you. Check if the color has a nice brown crisp look and lift them out! Leave the oil to drip for maybe a minute or so and then transfer the fries into a bowl with (fresh) kitchen paper to soak up any redundant grease. Add salt (to your liking, and also ground black pepper in my case) to the fries and shake them up once. Everything is ready for serving!

Did you know?

  • It is important to bake your fries in reasonable small portions? Overloading your fryer will make the fries stick together, they’ll end up being greasier and less crisp. If the volume is too large, the initial cold shock at the start cools down the oil too much to get the fries ready in a reasonably quick frying round. This holds for first and second round of coarse! Less is more!
  • The ear can be your kitchen timer when making fries. After the first round you should hear your fries sizzling when they come out of the oil. After the second one they should be just beyond sizzling and sound as if they’re whistling to you. They should have the perfect tan by that time too!
  • Fries need a proper rest in between the first and second round. They should cool down to room temperature before starting the second round. If you want to speed up the process, spread them on a larger tray and put that in the fridge or freezer for a short while. It just speeds up the process and doesn’t influence the flavour. Of coarse do not let them freeze, then it took you too long and it kind of defeats the purpose of being quicker.

Serving tips

  • This one would also work out great with other types of meat, like chicken for example. I bought the meat pre-seasoned from the supermarket, but you can just as well buy a spice mix to make your own and top it up with the ingredients described above!
  • The mayonaise is mandatory when having fries in Belgium. It’s not that we hate ketchup, it’s just the Belgian thing to do. The fries here are served as a variation on what we call “Friet special” in Belgium. This means the fries are topped with mayonaise, ketchup and onions.
  • I added a dash of sumac to the fresh onion slices I put on top, as I felt it fits this dish perfectly.
  • Mushrooms and slices of bell pepper would work really nice in the pita mixture!
  • The beer is not mandatory, but hey, it’s weekend! Fries and a pint(je) straight from the bottle, it’s how it’s done!
  • Bacon strips could be added to the meat mix for a lovely extra. I had over 300 g of pork meat already, so I didn’t need to add more. Also it is quite hard to find halal bacon these days.
  • Have a fresh brew coffee right after fries! It’s a fantastic combination and it always makes me feel like it aids in digestion. We all tend to overeat on fries don’t we. That’s why! And because it is what my grandfather taught me to do. I think of him every time I have a coffee after a dish with fries. It is something mandatory for me!