I grew up in the UK in the 60s when there were almost as many fish and chip shops as there were pubs. As the fish and chips came out of the hot oil they were put into grease-proof paper bags, then wrapped in old newspapers. This created an unforgettable aroma as you ran home with the hot package and it didn’t detract at all from the flavour. They were delicious! Sixpenny worth of chips was an after school treat, doused with dark malt vinegar and sprinkled with salt. Now everything has to be wrapped in pristine white paper, prices have shot up, the batter on the fish seems thicker and many of the fish and chip shops I remember as a child have closed.
Everyone – well almost everyone – loves fish and chips. If you fall into that category then an electric deep fat fryer is a good investment. I keep mine in an old fridge in the garage, where we store wine and beer. I only use it for fish and chips so I leave the oil in the pan and use it 2-3 times over one or two months, before throwing it out and starting afresh.
This batter takes less than a minute to make and it’s very light and crunchy.
canola, sunflower oil or similar
3-4 medium potatoes (choose a variety suitable for chips)
400g thick, chunky white fish fillets, such as cod, hoki
1/3 cup self-raising flour
salt and pepper to taste
soda or sparkling mineral water
1-2 cups frozen peas, cooked
Heat oil in deep fat fryer. Peel and slice potatoes and cut into chips (fat or thin, as you like) then dry well with paper towels. Test oil and when a chip starts to sizzle as soon as you put it in, it’s hot enough. Cook chips until tender but pale, then lift the basket and let the oil get very hot again, before lowering for a final crisping. Tip chips into a dish lined with paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Cover loosely with foil so they stay hot.
While chips are cooking cut fish into long chunky sticks 2-3 cm wide. Mix flour with salt and pepper and enough soda water to make a very thick batter. Go slowly, you won’t need much. Add all the fish to the batter, then turn to coat thoroughly. When chips are done cook the fish for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Gently lower them into the oil one piece at a time. Drain on paper towels and serve with the chips, tartare sauce, lemon wedges and peas.
Note: if you don’t have a deep fat fryer a deep pan will do. The oil needs to be about 10cm deep.