It’s as simple as the name suggests! Fish and chips is a traditional takeaway dish, comprising a fillet of white fish – usually cod or haddock, dipped in batter and deep fried, and served with thick chunky chips, seasoned with salt and vinegar, and with an optional side of mushy peas or thick, gloopy ship shop curry sauce! And, as a Scotswoman of a certain age, the traditional “fish supper” holds many fond memories for me!
Long before McDonalds and friends hit the British shores, take away shops across the country,especially in seaside towns, took advantage of the fishery trade, and served this up. Nowadays, they’re often served in cardboard or polystyrene boxes, but back when I was a lass, it was normally wrapped in the previous day’s newspaper. In fact, many an enterprising child earned and extra supper by collecting their neighbours’ used newspapers and exchanging them at the chip shop for a free meal!
Throughout the UK, there’s numerous variations on how it’s cooked and served. In Scotland, you ask for a fish supper, whereas down south, you ask for fish and chips – and if you’re treating your mate, that’s fish and chips, twice, not two fish and chips!
In Scotland, you can order a “special supper”, where the fish is breaded instead of battered and cooked to order. Yorkshire loves their “scraps” or “bits”, also knows as “squiggles” if you venture even further south – the bits of batter that have broken off in the fryer and either served over chips or on their own.
I’ll be honest, it’s not the healthiest meal in the world, but it’s soul food!
The best way to enjoy fish and chips? Just visit your local chippie! Want to try at home?
In Game recipe
Fish and Chips
- beef dripping or oil, for deep frying (beef dripping is used in the traditional method and gives a far better flavour, but sunflower orvegetable oil will work just as well)
For the fish
- 4x175g/6oz thick cod or haddock fillets, taken from the head end rather than the tail end of the fish
- 225g/8oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 300ml/10fl oz fridge-cold lager
For the chips
- 6-8 large floury potatoes, such as maris piper, king edward, desiree (depending on how hungry you are)
- Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and preheat the dripping or oil to 120C/250F.
- For the chips, peel the potatoes and cut into whatever size you prefer. Wash well in cold water, drain and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Put the potatoes into the fryer and allow them to fry gently for about 8-10 minutes, until they are soft but still pale. Check they’re cooked by piercing with a small, sharp knife. Lift out of the pan and leave to cool slightly on greaseproof paper.
- Increase the heat of the fryer to 180C/350F.
- Season the fish and dust lightly with flour; this enables the batter to stick to the fish.
- To make the batter, sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl and whisk in the lager to give a thick batter, adding a little extra beer if it seems over-thick. It should be the consistency of very thick double cream and should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt and thickly coat 2 of the fillets with the batter. Carefully place in the hot fat and cook for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan, drain and sit on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, then keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining 2 fillets in the same way.
- Once the fish is cooked, return the chips to the fryer and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden and crispy. Shake off any excess fat and season with salt before serving with the crispy fish. If liked, you can serve with tinned mushy peas and bread and butter, for the authentic experience!
The Best Fish and Chips Recipe
For the Fish
- 55g/ 2oz plain flour/ all purpose flour
- 55g/ 2oz cornflour/corn starch
- Sea salt and pepper
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 75ml/1/3 cup dark beer
- 75ml/1/3 cup sparkling water
- 4 200g/7 oz thick white fish fillets preferably sustainable cod, pollock or haddock
For the Chips
- 1kg/21b potatoes, peeled (See intro for the best varieties)
- 1 litre Vegetable oil, lard or dripping to cook
- In a large roomy bowl mix together the all but 2 tbsp of the flour, cornflour and baking powder. Season lightly with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
- Using a fork, and whisking continuously, add the beer and the water to the flour mixture and continue mixing until you have a thick, smooth batter. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for between 30 minutes and an hour.
- Cut the potatoes into 1cm slices then slice these into 1cm-wide chips. Place the chips into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
- Place the washed chips into a pan of cold water, bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes. Drain carefully through a colander then dry with kitchen paper. Keep in the fridge covered with kitchen paper until needed
- Meanwhile, lay the fish fillets on a sheet of kitchen paper and pat dry. Season very lightly with a little sea salt.
- Heat the oil to 120°C in a deep-fat fryer or large, deep saucepan. Blanch the chips a few handfuls at a time in the fat for a couple of minutes. Do not brown them. Once they seem drier and slightly cooked remove from the fat and drain. Keep to one side.
- Place the 2 tbsp of flour reserved from the batter mix into a shallow bowl. Toss each fish fillet in the flour, shake off any excess, dip into the batter then carefully lower each fillet into the hot oil. Fry for approx 8 minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning the fillets from time to time with a large slotted spoon.
- Using the same slotted spoon, once cooked remove the fillets from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper, cover with greaseproof paper and keep hot.
- Heat the oil to 200°C then cook the chips until golden and crisp about 5 mins. Serve immediately with the hot fish accompanied by your favourite condiment. Debate always rages over what to serve. See what other readers suggest I like a little salt and a dollop of Mushy Peas
The ultimate makeover: Fish & chips
FOR THE CHIPS
- 800g unpeeled, even-size Maris
- Piper or King Edward potatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
FOR THE PEAS
- 300g frozen garden peas
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
FOR THE FISH
- 650g (approx) skinless haddock ,
- hake or cod fillet from a
- sustainable source, cut into 4
- equal-size pieces
- 50g self-raising flour , plus 1 tbsp
- 50g cornflour
- 1 egg white
- 125ml ice-cold sparkling water
- 1 lemon , cut into wedges
- 600ml sunflower oil , for frying
- Scrub the potatoes, cut into 1.5cm thick lengthways slices, then cut each slice into 1.5cm thick chips. Tip the chips into a large saucepan, pour in enough water to just cover, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and gently simmer for 4 mins only. Drain, tip onto a clean tea towel, pat dry, then leave to cool. Can be done 1-2 hrs ahead. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Put a large shallow non-stick roasting tray in the oven with 1 tbsp olive oil and heat for 10 mins.
- Transfer the chips to a bowl and toss in the remaining oil using your hands. Tip out in a single layer onto the hot roasting tin. Bake for 10 mins, then turn them over. Bake 5 more mins, then turn again. Bake for a final 5-8 mins until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
- While the chips are in the oven, cook the peas in boiling water for 4 mins. Drain, then tip into the pan and lightly crush with the back of a fork. Mix in the oil, lemon juice and freshly grated pepper. Cover and set aside.
- The fish can also be cooked while the chips are in the oven. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels. Put the 1 tbsp of flour on a plate and use to coat each fillet, patting off the excess. Pour the oil for frying into a heavy, medium non-stick wok or wokshaped pan. Heat to 200C (use a thermometer so you can check the oil stays at that temperature). Mix 50g flour, cornflour, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Lightly whisk the egg white with a balloon whisk until frothy and bubbly, but not too stiff. Pour the water into the flour mix, gently and briefly whisking as you go. The batter shouldn’t be completely smooth. Add the egg white, then lightly whisk in just to mix. Try and keep as many bubbles as you can so the batter stays light. Cooking two pieces of fish at a time, dip them in the batter to coat, let some of it drip off, then lower into the hot oil using a slotted spoon. Fry for 5-6 mins, making sure the oil stays at 200C and turning the fish over halfway through so it is golden all over. Lift out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper. Check the oil is back up to 200C, then repeat with remaining fish. Reheat the peas and serve with the fish, chips and lemon wedges.