Recipe: make your own fish and chips

For a taste of the seaside, cook up your version of this classic dish at home – it’s delicious and easy. Here is how to make your own fish and chips

28th July 2017
Fish and chips

Fish and chips is the iconic seaside meal. With the sand between your toes, you hold your tasty prize wrapped warm and tight in chip-shop paper. That moment before unwrapping is always lip-smacking and often intoxicating (just think of the vinegar fumes!). 

Irresistible though this warm parcel of goodness is – and much as we all love a good chippy – home-made fish and chips is easy and even more delicious to cook at home. As long as you are near enough a good fishmonger, you can still enjoy a taste of the seaside while far from the sea.

Claire

I always use fish from a sustainable fish source – ask your fishmonger to advise you.

Just picture eating home-made fish and chips, with your eyes tight shut and the sun on your back... Scratch that, there is rain, always rain, but the hot food helps to warm you and will banish any damp holiday blues. Whatever the weather, this is an impressive dish to make for your friends and family. 

Spanking fresh fish in a deep golden beer batter, chips and minted peas with a punchy tartare sauce to swoosh right through – this is food full of fond memories.

How to make your own fish and chips

Beer-battered fish

Beer-battered fish

A good batter is crisp; it is imperative to get some air into the batter. Use a raising agent, such as baking powder, and/or a carbonated liquid, such as beer or sparkling water, to help with this. Oil temperature should be very hot (180°C) and batter temperature should be very cold (pop an ice cube in your batter to help with this). On impact, the cold batter in the hot oil should seal around the fish rapidly, avoiding a soggy crust. Deep fat fryers present a challenge for many, so try a good and solid high-sided pan instead. A digital thermometer will help allay any cooking anxiety. The quantity of vegetable oil (do use beef dripping if preferred) is sizable. If cooled and drained with a fine meshed sieve, the oil is then reusable. 

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Vegetable oil  for frying – enough to half fill a deep pan able to house the fish fillets
  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt, plus more to serve
  • 600ml very cold lager, or other fizzy beer
  • 4 pieces of sustainable white fish about 150g each – use pollock, gurnard, sustainable cod or haddock – cut in chunks or use whole fillets as appropriate in size, with the skin on or off as you prefer

Method

1. Chill a metal bowl in the freezer. Put a cooling rack over a tray lined with kitchen roll and have a slotted spoon, strainer or good long tongs at the ready. 

2. Heat the oil in the pan to 180ºC. 

3. Just before you want to fry the fish, whisk together the baking powder, salt and flour in the chilled bowl, then quickly whisk in the cold beer until it is a thick batter – the consistency of double cream.

4. With the bowl of batter as close to the pan as possible, dip each piece of fish into the batter and then carefully lower it into the hot fat, holding it for a few seconds to help it not stick to the bottom of the pan. Fry one or two fillets at a time so that you don’t overcrowd the fryer and reduce the temperature. This will make the batter soak up too much oil, turning soggy. 

5. Cook the fish for about 4-5 minutes until crisp, golden and cooked through. 

6. Carefully lift the fish out of the hot fat and drain on the rack, serve immediately, sprinkled with a little more salt to taste.

Tempura-battered fish

Tempura fish

Ingredients (Serves 4) 

  • Oil for frying
  • 170g plain flour 
  • 2 tbsp cornflour 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 400ml ice-cold sparkling water 
  • 4 pieces of sustainable white fish about 150g each; or courgette and lemon slices
  • if making the vegetarian option (left)

 

Method

1. Chill a metal bowl in the freezer.
Put a cooling rack over a tray lined with kitchen roll and have a slotted spoon, strainer or good long tongs at the ready.

2. Heat the oil in the pan to 180ºC. 

3. Mix the flours, salt and water together very briefly with a whisk – don’t over beat it, a few lumps is fine. Add a couple of ice cubes to the batter and begin with the frying immediately.

4. With the bowl of batter as close to the pan as possible, dip each piece of fish into the batter and then carefully lower it into the hot fat, holding it for a few seconds to help it not stick to the bottom of the pan. Fry one or two fillets at a time so that you don’t overcrowd the fryer and reduce the temperature.

5. Cook the fish for about 4-5 minutes until the batter is crisp, beginning to turn golden and the fish is cooked through. 

6. Carefully lift the fish out of the hot fat and drain on the rack. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little more salt to taste.

Perfect chips

chips

When it comes to the chips, I think it is best to concentrate on cooking the fish well in plenty of oil while at the same time producing chips that are low maintenance and a worthy, toothsome backdrop to the fish. This is supposed to be easy, after all. 

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 6 large floury potatoes – Maris Piper or
  • King Edward
  •   4 - 6 tbsp vegetable oil to fry
  • Salt to taste

Method

1. Boil the potatoes in plenty of well salted water until you can pierce each easily with a skewer or knife.

2. Drain well. 

3. Slice into chip shape.

4. Get a large frying pan very hot, add enough oil to cover the base at least
1cm deep.

5. With the pan and oil both very hot, add the chips. They shouldn’t stick if the pan is hot enough. Give the pan an assertive shake to dislodge any that do. Fry in two batches, keeping the first batch warm on a plate nearby and adding to the second batch for a quick tumble altogether to heat through before serving.

6. Turn the heat down to moderate and cook the chips until golden and crisp.
Turn chips over on each side so they colour and cook evenly. 

7. Remove from the heat and drain on a clean tea towel or some kitchen paper. 

For veggies: Courgette and lemon fritti with mint and chilli

tempura

I’ve presented these as a vegetarian option here, but I don’t imagine that anyone will want to grumble if served this incredibly moorish treat, as these tempura-battered courgette and lemon slices are highly addictive to eat. An Italian take on English battered fish perhaps?  

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Oil for frying
  • 4 firm courgettes
  • 4 unwaxed lemons
  • Tempura batter (see recipe, right)
  • Small bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped
  • Chilli flakes to taste
  • Salt to taste

Method;

1. Slice the courgettes and lemon as thin as you can; try to slice the courgettes on the oblique so you get as long a slice as possible. Use a mandolin or sharp knife to do this. 

2. Heat the oil in the pan to 180ºC.

3. Dip the courgette and lemon slices in
the very cold and freshly prepared tempura batter.

4. Carefully lower the slices into the hot oil.Fry three or four at a time, taking care to not overcrowd the pan lest the slices stick together in too much of a clump and/or also reduce the temperature of the oil, which will make the batter turn soggy. Fry in batches.

5. Fry the slices for about two minutes.
The lemons and the courgettes will soften sufficiently in the time it takes the batter to turn crisp and slightly golden. 

6. Carefully lift out of the oil and drain on kitchen paper, scatter with chopped mint, some chilli flakes and a little extra salt and serve immediately.  

Side dishes

Minted Peas

peas

Not the traditional mushy peas – instead, cooked garden peas blitzed with a little butter and lots of fresh mint. Bright green, sweet-tasting and easy to make, minted peas are fish and chips’ best friend. 

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 400g peas, fresh or frozen
  • Small bunch of mint, leaves picked
  • and roughly chopped
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 5g butter.

Method; 

1. Boil the peas in plenty of salted water
until cooked.

2. Remove one third of the cooked peas
and blitz in a food processor or blender.

3. Add the blitzed peas back to the rest
of the peas and stir though the mint and
butter to serve.

Tartar Sauce 

tartar

This is home-made... but cheating slightly. Use good quality shop-bought mayonnaise and add chopped shallot, gherkin, caper and parsley with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon. Made at home – and about one minute to make good. 

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 200g mayonnaise 
  • Approx. 4 small gherkins, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. small capers, finely chopped 
  • 1 or 2 shallots, depending on size,
  • finely chopped 
  • Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped 
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method;

Add all the ingredients together in a bowl, squeeze the lemon and mix well. Easy! 

 

All images by Jason Ingram

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