If you ever get the chance to visit the UK (or Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) you’ll likely come across, or have heard of, and want to try ‘Fish and Chips‘. Though ‘Fish and Chips’ is well known as a British dish, it is a relatively recent addition to British cuisine, with the first ‘Fish and Chip’ shop opening around 1860, by a Jewish immigrant Joseph Malin. Joseph Malin didn’t invent the idea of frying fish in batter as this was probably introduced to Britain from Portugal, and he didn’t introduce the idea of frying chipped potatoes, as this was already being done in Irish and Scottish potato shops, but he was probably the first to combine the two to create ‘Fish and Chips’.
In most towns in the UK you’ll still find a ‘chippy’ or ‘chipper’ as ‘Fish and Chip’ shops are known, and it is still the most popular fast food in Britain, but it is under increasing pressure from alternatives such as Chinese and Indian takeaways, kebabs, pizzas, etc as well as declining North Sea fish stocks and an increasing health consciousness. Until recently, most fish you would find in ‘Fish and Chips’ shops were cod and haddock, but with declining fish stocks, you are likely to see plaice, coley, pollock and skate on offer as well.Chip shop chips are completely different to French fries, in that they are thicker cut, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and should be generously covered in salt and malt vinegar.
Other traditional delights to be found in British chip shops, include black, white, haggis and red puddings, scampi, savaloy, pineapple fritter, mushy peas, pickled eggs and onions, smoked sausages, tartar sauce, etc, not to mention the deep fried Mars bar.
To make ‘Chippy’ Fish and Chips at Home
If you are unable to get a hold of proper fish and chips, then this method will help you re-create the experience as long as you follow each step.
- 900g (2lbs) of fluffy (not waxy) potatoes such as King Edward, Maris Piper or Desiree
- 2kg (4.5lbs)of beef dripping (vegetable oil if you must, but trust me, beef dripping tastes way better)
- Salt and malt vinegar
- 4 fish fillets. Firm white fleshed fish such as haddock, cod, coley, pollock are the best
- 225g (8oz) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 285ml (10fl oz) cold beer
- 3 heaped tsp of baking powder
First peel the potatoes and cut them in chips that have a 13x13mm (0.5″) square section. Soak them in plenty of cold water for 30mins, changing the water twice. Drain the chips thoroughly and wrap in a clean tea towel to dry them really well. Heat the oil to 110C (230F) and cook the chips for 10mins, making sure they do not turn brown. Drain them and place them on a tray in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Heat the oil to 190C (375F) . Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and then dust them with a little flour. Whisk together the flour, beer and baking powder until you achieve a shiny, creamy textured batter similar to semi-whipped cream. Dip the fish into the batter to coat, allow the excess to drip off and them lower the fish into the oil, one at a time. Cook until the batter is golden brown and crispy, which should be between 3 to 5mins, depending on the size of the fish. Drain the fish and transfer to a 90C (195F) oven to keep warm.
Remove the chips from the refrigerator and cook in the 190C (375F) oil for 3 to 5mins until they are golden brown, crispy on the outside and still fluffy on the inside. Drain the chips, place on a tray and transfer to the 90C (195F) oven for 5mins. Remove the fish and chips from the oven. Lay the chips onto some greaseproof paper, onto of some newspaper. Sprinkle with some salt and malt vinegar. Lay one fillet of fish on top of the chips. Apply some more salt and vinegar. Wrap tightly in the paper and leave for 5mins to rest. They are best enjoyed eating with your fingers straight from the paper.