In the Kitchen with James: Homemade Fish & Chips

Football may no longer be coming home, but in consolation James Fox is bringing home perhaps the most iconic British dish there is, fish and chips.

Photo: James Fox

Football may no longer be coming home, but in consolation I’m bringing home perhaps the most iconic British dish there is, fish and chips. Finding a good chippy in this part of the world is not difficult but preparing this classic combo at home is something that’s tough to get right and hence people seldom attempt it.

The key to making good chip shop-style fish and chips is in the preparation. Making the batter in advance and allowing it to rest in the fridge will help make it light and crispy. Sieve both plain and self-raising flour into a bowl along with a pinch of baking powder and gradually whisk in some English Ale – I went for Bank’s from Wolverhampton, perhaps the best beer for its price available in the supermarkets. Aim for the consistency of single cream.

For the fish anything white and robust like cod, haddock or hake will do nicely. I went for cod as it’s the default when asking for a fish supper in England. Salting the fillet ahead of time draws out some of the moisture which will prevent your batter from going soggy later on.

The final stage of preparation is to parboil your chips. Maris Pipers are the most common British potato and their light and fluffy consistency make for the best chips. Roughly peel and cut them into thick, chip-sized slices before rinsing well in cold water to wash off the starch. Then add to gently boiling salted water until they are soft and almost falling apart. Tossing them straight in the fryer at this stage would cause them to disintegrate so it’s important to leave them to cool and harden in the fridge.

While you’re waiting you can make simple and delicious mushy peas by sautéing peas along with finely diced shallots, garlic and green chilli. Blend that mixture with some lemon juice and plenty of fresh mint and you have the ideal accompaniment to your fish and chips.

After a while in the fridge the main ingredients with be ready for frying. The easiest method is to use a deep fat fryer but failing that, a wok is a decent alternative. Any oil will work fine though beef dripping will give your fish and chips the best flavour. Start with the chips and give them a few minutes on a lower heat (approx. 150 C) then leave them to rest. Coat the fish with some well-seasoned flour then dip in the batter and fry until golden brown. Finally, return your chips to the pan on a slightly higher temperature until they too are golden brown and crispy.

This may not be the healthiest meal out there but it’s immensely satisfying to make and eat and is much cheaper than going to the chippy; perfect to enjoy in front of Sunday’s final even though England are sadly absent.


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