Fromage With Love

The recipes & food loves of a wanderlust cook.

Month: June, 2013

London Calling – Vodka & Beer Batter Fish & Triple-Cooked Chips

fishnchips

There is really nothing quite like fish and chips. It is a pairing that, unlike most celebrity couples, has stood the test of time and is still found lovingly side by side to this day. I like to say that fish and chips are in my blood. My parents, once they were married, lived above their fish and chip shop in the 70s, where the whole family would come and help and work together, wrapping hot parcels in newspaper. My dad is very knowledgeable on fish, as beyond the fish and chip shop, he had a fresh fish shop at the local market. My sister would call out the specials of the day standing on a milk crate.

This all happened before I was born (when their lives were dull and grey without me), and yet fish has continued to be a big part of our lives and diet. The fish and chip shop was a lifetime ago, and yet there was nothing more exciting for me, when we were growing up, than when mum and dad would get together in the kitchen, and cook their homemade fish and chips on the stove. We were spoilt as everything was fried in olive oil, and my mother prided herself on her potato cakes, which are, to this day, the best I’ve ever had.

In honour of our recent trip to London, and all the other European towns and cities we visited beyond that, I decided that I needed to recreate these dishes and flavours I had experienced on the trip. And so, here I present to you the first in a series of European recipes – London Vodka and Beer Battered Fish & Triple-Cooked Chips.

FC1

FC2

FC3

FC4

FC5

FC6

FC7

FC8

fishnchips

Vodka and Beer Battered Fish & Triple-Cooked Chips

The recipe I have decided to go with is Heston Blumenthal’s, though with a few minor changes. I have used gurnard tails for this dish, but I also highly recommend flathead. Each tail, when split, will give you two thin fillets perfect for fish and chips. Failing this, any firm, white-fleshed fish will do perfectly.

Unlike my generous parents, I have not used olive oil for my fish and chips this time; instead, I have gone with peanut oil, also called groundnut oil, which is more traditionally used in Britain today. It has a high smoke point, which makes it perfect for deep frying.

I used a medium saucepan to cook my chips, and a wok to cook my fish. I prefer using a wok, as it’s the perfect size to lay down your fish fillets, and it allows greater control over the fish.

Like most of the general population, I do not own a soda siphon, which Heston recommends using for your batter. However, I found the batter was still wonderfully light and crunchy without having to employ a bartender from the 1960s. If you happen to have Don Draper in your kitchen, please, go ahead and use the siphon.

I have paired my fish and chips with a cabbage salad – it’s beautifully tangy and worked to cut through the fattiness of the fish and chips quite well, so I highly recommend you include this. The recipe will be coming shortly.

This triple-cooked chip recipe from Heston Blumenthal means you will end up with a bowl of chips that are so perfectly beautiful, you will almost get tears in your eyes. They are a masterpiece, and Heston is a genius.

And finally, one of the most important notes when eating fish and chips – malt vinegar is the only way.

Ingredients

Chips

2 big, floury potatoes (or 1 per person)
1.5 litres groundnut (peanut) oil
Water
Salt

Wash and peel the potatoes, and cut them into thick batons about 1.5cm thick.

Put the chopped potatoes in a bowl under cold running water for 2-3 minutes to rinse off some of the starch, then drain.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, adding two teaspoons of salt for each litre of water. Carefully add the chips, bring back to the boil and simmer very, very gently until the chips have almost broken up.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully lift the potatoes out of the water and place on a cake rack sat on top of a tray. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge until cold.

Pour oil into a medium saucepan and heat until small bubbles appear around the edge. Test the oil is ready by placing a small piece of potato in the oil – it should be surrounded by bubbles. Gently place the chips in the oil and allow them to cook until they take on a dry appearance.

Be very careful when deep frying on the stove – make sure that it is on a burner further away from you, the handle is turned away from you also, and small children and pets are sitting somewhere quietly and far away.

Remove the chips before they colour and drain off the excess fat (the best way is in a bowl with paper towel). Place them back on the cake rack and allow to cool, then return to the fridge until cold.

Reheat the oil when cooking your fish. Carefully place in the chips when hot and cook until golden brown and floating to the surface.

Drain the chips in a bowl lined with fresh paper towel, season well with sea salt, and pile next to the fish.

Fish

200g plain flour
200g rice flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp honey
100ml vodka
500ml lager
750mL peanut oil (for frying)
3 gurnard or flathead tails (or any white fillets)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thick slices of lemon for garnish
Mix the plain flour, rice flour and baking powder in a bowl. Place the vodka and honey into a jug, stir and add to the flour along with the lager. Stir the mixture until just combined – you want to keep as many bubbles in the mix as possible, so the less you stir, the better!

Heat your oil in a wok, or high-sided frypan.

Rinse your fish and drain. Dust with rice flour, shaking off any extra flour, then dunk in the batter. Hold the fish up over the bowl by one end, then using your thumb and forefinger, drag some of the extra batter off the fish, so it is not too thick when fried.

Lower the fillet into the hot oil, away from you.

As the fish cooks, drizzle a little extra batter over it to give a lovely crusty exterior. When it has turned a light golden brown, turn the fillet over and drizzle more batter on top.

Let the fish cook until it has coloured to a deeper golden brown, then remove it from the oil.

Serve with lemon, triple-cooked chips, and plenty of malt vinegar.

Postcards from London

IMG_0231

IMG_0239

IMG_0246

IMG_0245

IMG_0253

IMG_0247

IMG_0255

IMG_0272

IMG_0270

IMG_0276

IMG_0293

What can be said of London? Just the thought of it brings to mind fantastic accents, fish and chips, big grey skies, hustle and bustle and a slight sense of prim and proper. My first experience of London delivered all of this and more. It left me with the impression of being the big brother of Melbourne – there was a similar feel in the air, similar pockets of green that would pop up surprisingly around the corner, and both sat along the murky green stretch of a river.

But London was so much more than Melbourne could ever be. It was large and proud and full of streets where the brilliantly white terrace houses showed their personalities only by the colour of their doors. It was cozy, and comfortable, and instantly a home. London is the sort of place every Melburnian escapes to at one point or another, and from my first day there, I could see why.

We caught the overground from Heathrow, and as we passed by several neighbourhoods, it was a strange feeling of familiarity, but I knew that it was only what I’ve seen on TV presenting itself in reality. We got to Angel, the suburb where we would be staying, and all I could think was how it was the light blue square of the Monopoly board. It took me 10 seconds from exiting the Tube to see my first big, red, double decker bus, and I couldn’t get the grin off my face. Here it was, where I’d always dreamed of being – I was here, in Europe!

One thing I liked straight away was how wide the streets were. Growing up in a city where the trams have pushed the boundaries of the roads outwards, I’ve always been used to large boulevards, where the air can flow and you can breathe. I think it’s one of the reasons why I would have so much trouble were I to live in Sydney – everything’s so crowded and claustrophobic.

We stayed next door to a pub that opened for breakfast and closed late after karaoke. After some tea and toast and a quick shower, we headed out into the big, wide, London world. We walked the streets of Primrose Hill, where highly manicured ladies with small dogs pitter pattered down the walkway. We saw the whole cityscape and walked towards it through lush green parks, where rows of benches each held engraved plaques, dedicated to the thoughts of those who have passed. My favourite was for Harry Lester, as “this was his special place”.

We had fish and chips for lunch with warm beer, and a drink along the River Thames with a cold cider. At night, it was cheese toasties for dinner before heading to a bar ripped straight out of Mexico, where the bar staff spent more time flirting with eachother than pouring drinks, the music was from the 90s, and the dramas of a love-square held us mesmerised. It was fantastic.

Kitchen Edit

In today’s Kitchen Edit, the timeless pairing of red, navy and white seems to have happened by chance. Maybe I’m still dreaming of Paris (definitely), maybe I’m feeling a little nautical (I wouldn’t say no to a yacht somewhere sunny), but either way, these are some bits and bobs I’m lusting after this week.

Kitchen-Edit-(2)

1. Domayne, Taste Mussel Pot, $29.99

2. When Skies Are GreyBrush My Heart and Hope To Dry – Linen Tea Towel in Oatmeal from Hard to Find, $29.95

3. TypoRobot Novelty Shakers, $9.95

4. Freedom, Tiled Oven Mitt in Blue, $2.20 (yes, really!)

5. IKEA, Sigurd Bench in Red, $129.00

Basic Chicken Stock & Family Chicken Soup

IMG_0215

 

Oh dear, it seems I have been out of action for the blogosphere for over a month – while this has been terribly rude of me, I have a wonderful excuse, I promise. I have spent the last three weeks cavorting around Europe, and with four countries in three weeks, we somehow managed to practically spend each night in a different place.

My being awake at 4.09am and writing this I am accounting to a cheeky bout of jet lag, but my insomnia is being made easier by a large cup of tea, and Nigella playing on the TV as I write.

Now, where do I begin with my adventure? There is so much to tell, so many places and people and of course, plates of food to discuss, that I’m afraid some extra special blog posts will be coming up to focus on all this fun.

As I am yet to wade through the near thousand photos I managed to take across twenty days, I have a recipe in my artillery that was meant to be posted before my departure, but got lost in the fray of last-minute presentation.

And so, here I have it for you now, until the postcard posts begin.

This edition is a two for one special – a recipe for my Basic Chicken Stock, as well as Simple Chicken Soup.

 

Basic Chicken Stock

From the time when I could barely look over a kitchen counter, to this very day today, I adore chicken soup. More specifically, Greek chicken soup, which is made from three good things – chicken, risoni pasta, and water.

These simple components come together to make the very thing that I would without a doubt wish to be my last meal on earth. What could be more comforting, more soothing, than a big pot of chicken soup on the stove? With each spoonful I take, I am reminded of my grandmother’s hugs, my mother looking after me when I was ill, and the feeling of being satisfyingly full.

When I was nine, and visiting my aunty in Greece, she asked me what she could make me for lunch. I asked for chicken soup, despite the 35 degree day. And out of what could only be pure love, she obliged, and I happy consumed my chicken soup.

In my family, there are two types of chicken soup – the type I make today, which is my go-to version, a kind of easy, everyday type, and the more famous Greek chicken soup – avgolemano, which uses rice, and an egg-lemon sauce to distinguish it. The latter is most traditionally served at Easter, but can be eaten throughout the year and is delicious in its own right.

Now, the most integral part of any chicken soup, but particularly this one, is the stock. There is absolutely nothing, nothing like homemade chicken stock, and I truly insist you give it a go. My mother, and my mother’s mother would both do as I do today, and it is the best way to get chicken soup in your life. Go to the markets on a Saturday morning, and buy your chicken bones. It will take literally five minutes to get the chicken ready for the stove. Follow the method below, and potter around the house for a few hours – it thankfully can very much take care of itself. Dispense the stock into jars or containers (or even ice cube trays!) and keep in the freezer, ready to thaw at a moment’s notice. From there, you are eight minutes away from chicken soup, whenever the mood strikes.

If anything else won’t tempt you, chicken soup has to be one of the most economical dishes going around, is filling, nutritious and delicious. Chicken bones go for between $1 – $6 a kilo, while risoni is less than $2 a bag. You can end up serving dinner for the whole family and the neighbours too if you like them for under $10. Apart from this though, chicken soup is a sustainable way of cooking. These bones, which generally would go to waste, means that the entire animal is going to good use, and if you’re choosing to include meat in your diet, it is important that we consume as much of the meat as possible, for the very least out of respect.

If also, you leave the bones to cool slightly, pull the viable meat that is left on them (you should get at least a couple of cups worth), which can then be used in your chicken soup, or in sandwiches. Or if you’re like me – while the pulled chicken is still warm, season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil and eat as is. Part of this being a sustainable meal is making sure nothing goes to waste – there’s good chicken on those bones!

Because we are using the very bones of the chicken, an important note to remember – it is obvious that the lower quality the chicken, the cheaper the bones will be. At your standard butcher, chicken bones will be $1 a kilo. For free-range chickens, the price is $2 – $3. For organic, the price can be up to $6 a kilo, but when you are creating a broth that is sucking all the vitamins and minerals out of the carcass, do you really want to be ingesting bleaches, ammonia and hormones that can be in non-organic chickens? Try and buy organic, or at the very least free-range.

While others may add vegetables or herbs to their stocks, this is the way my family has always made their stock, and in all honesty, I don’t think it needs anything else. Aren’t the best things the simplest anyway?

 

IMG_0201

IMG_0202

IMG_0203

IMG_0206

 


Ingredients

2.5 kilos of chicken bones (organic or at the very least, free-range)
Enough water to cover the bones
4 tablespoons salt

Remove chicken bones from bag and wash thoroughly under a running tap before putting in a deep stock pot.

Cover with water until water is a centimetre above the chicken bones. Add salt, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.

While simmering, use a small, extremely fine sieve to scoop any grit or foam that comes to the surface – this will create a beautifully clear stock.

Simmer for two and a half, to three hours, depending on how concentrated you would like the stock. The water will decrease as it simmers, but you do not need to top up the water. Note that the water tends to overboil with the lid on – just place on top on an angle to allow the steam to escape.

Drain bones, and pass stock through a sieve to allow it to be clear, and free of any chicken. You should be left with roughly five litres of chicken stock.

From this point – the possibilities are endless – use it for soups, risottos, bakes, or anything else your heart desires! Otherwise freeze in containers to be on hand.

 

 

Family Chicken Soup

My absolutely, never fail, favourite meal of all time. So simple  – one of the shortest recipes I probably will ever write. We traditionally use small pasta in our chicken soup, which can sound strange, but works so well. Risoni, or stelle, which are small star-shaped pasta are best. Of course, you’re also welcome to use alphabet pasta if you need to practice your A – Z, or enjoy finding your name in your spoon. This soup is best on cold days, if your suffering from a cold, or if you simply have cold hands and would like nothing more than to warm up with a hot bowl in your grip.

 

IMG_0208

IMG_0209

IMG_0211

IMG_0215

 

 

Ingredients

2 litres of homemade, organic chicken stock
Half a litre of hot water (for a richer, deeper stock, omit water)
3/4 cup of risoni, stelle or similar pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon (optional)
Chicken (optional)

Bring stock and water to the boil, and add 3/4 cup of your pasta of choice.

Simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the pasta is soft to the bite.

Season with salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

Scatter in chicken pulled from bones, or small pieces of roast chicken.

Serve with some crusty bread, and revel in the absolute perfection of chicken soup.