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.
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.
2 big, floury potatoes (or 1 per person)
1.5 litres groundnut (peanut) oil
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.
200g plain flour
200g rice flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp honey
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.