In the UK we eat 748 million burgers every year. That equates to one a month for every man, woman and child.
Fast food is a serious business, as we all know. But of all the different types (Chinese, Pizza, Fried Chicken and so on) Fish and Chips stands tall as the original, the Grandaddy if you will, of instantaneous culinary satisfaction.
Here in Blighty we get through around 230 million portions of F&Ps a year. That’s only 1 portion every 3 months for every man, woman & child (obviously this is a huge generalisation. I mean have you ever tried feeding a 3 month old fish & chips? Makes a horrible mess and social services have a right go. I digress.)
In 2009 we celebrated 160 years of the humble chippie (it was either opened in London or Lancashire, depending on who you believe). By 1929 there were 35,000 shops serving battered fish and sweaty chips and even today there are still 10,000.
Some old adage says you should only eat fish whilst you in sight of the sea, but of course that isn’t terribly practical unless you a) live by the sea or b) have a lot of money and time on your hands (and haven’t got anything better to do).
Thus, with absolutely none of this in mind I decided to make fish and chips. I’ve done this before but I’m a firm believer in repeating myself when I think no one is listening, or reading for that matter. First you need to decide which fish you are going to use.
Some say haddock is the best for deep frying, others halibut, plaice, even sole. I say balls. Cod is the only fish you can use because that’s the way it is. The way it was. And the way it always will be. Amen.
Then the purists will tell you to spend an age looking for a specific type of rare potato. Which will go crunchy on the outside but fluffy on the inside once deep-fried. Well friends I can tell you now, that’s all crap too.
The secret to perfect fish and chips won’t please the health conscious or the food police. No, it won’t please them at all. Double frying. Twice frying reduces the chance of over-cooking (and therefore burning) and ensures that everything tastes unbelievably good – which is no surprise since the better things taste the worse they are for you, and everyone know that’s a scientific fact backed up by scientific research undertaken by scientists.
Where the hell was I? Oh yes fish and chips. You will need:
- 4 cod fillets, dusted with seasoned flour
- 6 large potatoes
- Vegetable oil
For the batter
- 2½oz cornflour
- 7¼oz plain flour
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- Bottle lager or beer
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
For the home-made tartare sauce
- 7fl oz mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
- 3 tbsp gherkins, drained and chopped
- squeeze of lemon juice
- 2 tsp shredded horseradish
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper
First make the batter – whisk the ingredients together until it has the consistency of double cream and set aside. The beer will help bubble up the batter.
Then heat the oil in a large pan. Now many recipes will start going on about heating the oil to specific temperatures, measuring with thermometers and so on.
I tried doing this but it’s a pain. You are better off just putting a small piece of bread in the oil once its heated up – if it starts to brown after 40 seconds or so it’s okay – any faster and it’s too hot, any longer and it’s too cold. However you do it nothing substitutes for a bit of trial and error.
While the oil is heating up cut the chips. I like my chips big and chunky. This is Britain. Not France. You can’t eat battered fish with match sticks.
Now fry the chips in batches for about 2 or 3 mins until they just start to colour. Remove and drain and put on a baking tray. Keep warm in the oven.
Chips after first fry
Dip the fish in the batter. Gently but quickly lower into the oil (making sure its sufficiently hot) and cook for a couple of minutes. Again remove and drain and keep warm in the oven.
Fish after first fry
Combine the ingredients for the tartare sauce and set aside.
Fry the chips in the oil again until they are cooked to your liking. I like slightly floppy chips so I do this first before the fish then keep them in the oven to warm. If you like your chips crispier you should do them last and serve them straight away.
Lastly re-dip the fish in the batter for a second coating and fry for a minute or two; it doesn’t take long!
Be warned though, people will try and thieve your chips.