Spurred on by the tastiest-sounding competition our country has ever spawned, the Loose Women panel have spent some time discussing that age old favourite, fish and chips.
Fish and chips is a British institution enjoyed in plastic trays or paper cones, with plastic forks or our fingers, from a chippy or a restaurant. But what about making the perfect batch of fish and chips at home? To help you fry up a storm, here is our guide to making the fanciest and most flavoursome portion of fish and chips in the comfort of your own kitchen.
While we’re devoted to cod and haddock, your own fish is a matter of taste. The one thing we would recommend to make it as tasty (and ethical) as possible, however, is buying it fresh from a supermarket counter or fishmonger, and making sure it’s from a sustainable source.
While you’re there, make sure you get it deboned as well. Most places will do this at no extra charge, and even if not, paying a little extra is better than biting into a sneaky bone you missed in your own de-boning efforts!
It doesn’t matter if your chosen type of fish is the most expensive on the counter, it can be completely let down by underwhelming batter. Some traditional chippies simply coat their fish in as thick a layer of batter as possible, but the good stuff is actually light and crisp.
To achieve this lightness, you need get plenty of air into the mixture, which can be done by using a raising agent like yeast. Our favourite method, however, is using a carbonated liquid: beer. The end result is beautifully light batter with a subtle yet unmistakeable flavour, which can be enhanced further by frying your fish in beef dripping rather than oil.
The perfect batter recipe
- Beef dripping or oil, for frying
- 400g plain flour (put it in the freezer for 15 minutes before using)
- 3tsp baking powder
- 550ml very cold beer (about 6C)
- 4 pieces of sustainable white fish
- Heat the fat in your fryer or chip pan to 185C.
- Whisk the baking powder into the chilled flour (you’ll see why keeping certain ingredients cold works wonders in a moment), with half a teaspoon of salt. Next, quickly whisk in the cold beer until you have a thick paste, right before you plan to cook the fish.
- Dip your fish into the batter before carefully lowering it into your fryer or pan, where the cold flour and beer will react perfectly with the searing heat to produce a coating with the perfect crisp. Fry one or two pieces at a time.
- Cook the fish for around 4 – 6 minutes, depending on its size, and remove when it’s crisp and golden. Drain the pieces on some kitchen roll before serving.
The secret to creating the perfect chips isn’t just their size (thick cut and rustic, if you were wondering!), but in the way they are cooked. Frying is great, and so is oven roasting, but double frying – now that results in spectacular chips. Removing them from the oil gives them chance to breathe, cool down and set a little, which means that when they’re done frying for the second time, they’ll be even crispier on the outside. Drying your potato strips on kitchen roll before frying them enhances this crispiness even more, as 30 minutes of blotting soaks up excess moisture.
Fry them in the same oil the fish was cooked in for extra flavour, and don’t be adventurous with your seasonings. Cracked black pepper and sea salt carry much more punch than generic table salt, while the combination of rosemary and garlic, or the addition of chilli flakes or paprika lend fish and chips that extra something.
The perfect chips recipe
- 4 medium potatoes
- Beef dripping or oil, for frying
- Peel the potatoes before cutting them into thick batons
- Dry these thoroughly, and sit them on kitchen roll for 30 minutes to dry out
- Heat the fat in your fryer or chip pan to 130C, and fry the potatoes until their edges just start to brown. When this happens, remove them and place them on a wire rack pre-covered with kitchen roll, to drain.
- After the chips have cooled a little, increase the heat of the fryer to 190C and pop the chips back in until they’re golden brown. Once cooked, drain them on the rack then serve whilst still warm.
Some fish and chip lovers are dedicated to baked beans, but we don’t think the perfect fish and chips would be complete without mushy peas. And not just day-to-day mushy peas – minted mushy peas.
The perfect mushy peas recipe
- 1 knob butter
- 4 handfuls podded peas
- 1 small handful fresh, chopped mint
- 1 squeeze lemon juice
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- Place the butter, peas and chopped mint into a pan, put on the lid and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon juice, along with the salt and pepper.
- Mash or food process the mixture until thick and chunky, then serve
If you aren’t all that keen on mushy peas, however, or just want to mix things up a bit, why not serve your fish and chips with pickled onions, pickled chillies or sweet gherkins?
Do you agree with our recipe for the perfect fish and chips? If not, how would you make yours? Maybe you’d just head down to the local chippy instead!