I've been aware of the existence of the Tefal ActiFry for some time. A magical machine that cooks chips with very little oil. That's pretty much all that I knew. However as intrigued as I was by the concept I didn't think it would be worth the cost or worktop space purely for cooking chips. This was until Tefal got in touch and asked me if I'd like to take part in their #ActiFryDay challenge and replace a Friday night takeaway with a healthier ActiFried alternative. I was surprised to learn that in addition to chips I'd be able to cook up a whole range of takeaway favourites. Sweet and Sour Pork, Lamb Kebab, Chicken Tikka and Beef and Vegetable Stir-fry were among the surprising variety of ActiFry recipes at my disposal.
The Tefal Actifry Express XL duly arrived (rrp £249.99). It's a bit of a monster and looks somewhat like an alien spaceship. The first couple of times I used it I diligently put it back in its box, however this has now been binned and it sits on a shelf in the utility room. Much too big to have out on the worktop at all times in my opinion. Of course the first thing I had to make was chips. I used Scottish Rooster potatoes as that's what was under the sink. I excitedly tweeted a photo of them cooking only to be told that they were no good. I'd normally take such a disparaging comment with a pinch of salt (and lots of vinegar) but it came from Calum Richardson, owner of the award winning The Bay Fish & Chips in Stonehaven. He explained that unfortunately Scottish tatties don't make good chips as they have too high starch and sugar content. He also advised me to thoroughly wash them once chopped and that the varieties to look out for were English Maris Piper or Markies. Armed with this insider information I went shopping and tracked down some Maris Pipers.
With the right variety of potatoes my next batch were much more successful and I've since experimented with chips, wedges, sweet potato wedges and patatas bravas. My first impressions of the ActiFry were as follows:
- not as quick for chips as I thought. Time taken is comparable to cooking in an oven as opposed to a deep fat fryer
- noisy and bulky
- constantly stirs so nothing sticks to the bottom, however the constant stirring can break up some foods
- only requires one spoonful of oil to cook 1kg of perfect crispy chips
- very easy to clean - removable parts can go in the dishwasher
- can be opened and closed throughout the cooking cycle
- easy to operate
- no preheating required
- hands free cooking
- transparent lid lets you see whats going on
- doesn't keep cooked food hot so you need to watch your timings to ensure your whole meal ready at same time
- for best results you need the right variety of potatoes
Having mastered the basics it was time to push the potatoes aside, take up the #ActiFryDay challenge and create a healthier takeaway. A survey by Tefal revealed that Brits are consuming well over half a billion takeaways a year. Based on the nations favourite takeaway dishes, this suggests we could collectively be eating up to 12,400 tonnes of saturated fat. 1 in 7 of us are eating 2,900 calories per takeaway at least once a week. Scary statistics! By cooking Chicken Tikka Masala in a Tefal Actifry the saturated fat content is reduced from 17.4g in a typical takeaway portion to just 1g per serving.
ACTIFRY CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
500g boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 2cm pieces
100g Tikka Masala curry paste
2 pots (150g size) natural low fat yoghurt
1 ActiFry spoon of vegetable Oil
1 Large finely chopped onion
390g canned premium chopped tomatoes
150ml of water
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 teaspoons on lemon juice
1. In a large bowl mix the Tikka Masala paste with 4 tablespoons of yougurt. Add the chicken in the coat then cover. Leave the marinate in the fridge for two hour or overnight.
2.Heat oil in ActiFry for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the marinated Chicken and cook for a another 10 minutes.
3.Add the chopped tomatoes and water cook for another 10 minutes. Add the yogurt, sugar and lemon juice. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.
I was really impressed with how my curry turned out. The hot air and oil combination gives some delicious charring on the edges of the chicken and being able to get on with other things in the kitchen whilst the curry took care of itself was a real bonus. I used rapeseed oil which worked really well and added in half a bag of spinach that was lurking at the bottom of the fridge for the final couple of minutes. Completely forgot about the sugar and lemon juice! Photo here is from before the yoghurt was added so that's why it's so dark in colour. I've still got lots of experimenting to do and from a quick Google search it seems that I can cook pretty much anything in an ActiFry. Still to be tried are sausages, frozen oven chips, risotto, stir fry and on the menu for later this week are these Parmesan Crusted Chicken bites from Sarah at Taming Twins. This will be my first attempt at making something without the paddle. If you are an ActiFry aficionado please do leave any hints, tips or meal suggestions in the comments as I'd love to try them. Happy FryDay!