Ages and ages ago, somewhere in the nineties, I was in England for the first time in my life. I was very young at the time, the world was very much my oyster, and the wonders of foreign countries excited me. Possibly even more so than they do now, because these days I try to be a well travelled, world wise, modern woman and as such, I judge nothing. As a child you can be as judgemental as you like. New things can be declared good, bad, great or ridiculous and no one will question your grounds or challenge your reasoning.
One of the things that I considered a great success, was the Brits’ tendency to wrap fish and chips in newspapers. I had never seen anything wrapped in newspapers but Christmas decorations and china. Using them to wrap something edible was way beyond my most absurd dreams. The fact that all of this wrapping and selling happened from a van in a seemingly deserted car park only enhanced my amazement.
But times change, apparently, even in a kingdom so immutable it holds onto the same monarch for 60 years. Imagine, British people, my shock and horror upon ordering my first chippie when I returned to the UK about 4 years ago. Rather than the newspaper that I remembered so fondly from my childhood, I was presented with a ghastly, ghoulish, squeaky box made of polystyrene.
The nation made a feeble attempt at justification: “But newspaper ink is really bad for you.” Well, so are binge drinking and shite weather, and yet I’ve seen no-one put a stop to that.
But why complain. I have a load of old newspapers in the house! And fish and chips like from the chippie are not actually that difficult to recreate, even if you don’t have a deep-fryer, like me. Actually it’s dead easy. Fish and chips as from the 90s, in a newspaper. Shallow fried haddock in beer batter, chips from the oven. Even better than from the chip van, if such a thing is possible.
For two, you shall need:
- two big haddock fillets
- a bunch of potatoes
- enough oil for frying, preferably with a neutral flavour (I used sunflower)
- 100 gr of self raising flour
- 2 tsp of corn flour
- about 100 ml of any beer you fancy (I used Tennent’s because it’s cheap, like me!)
- some pickled onions, because no meal from the chippie is complete without pickles
- salt and vinegar, to serve
Peel the potatoes. Slices them into large wedges or similar chip-shaped bits. Pre-boil them for a couple of minutes in salted water, then drain and stick them on an oven proof tray. Cover with oil and stick them in the oven, turn every now and then. They’ll need about 20 minutes.
Make the beer batter. Sift the flour and the corn flour in a bowl and add the beer. Whisk it up until you get a mixture with a fairly thick consistency. It needs to be thicker than you might expect, thicker than pancake batter, for example. I’d say the consistency of natural yoghurt is more or less what you’re going for. It needs to be liquid enough to easily coat the fish in, but dense enough to stick to the fish.
Before battering the fish, sift some more flour on a large plate and coat the fillets in flour. That way the batter will stick better.
Heat enough oil in a pan with a thick base (the oil should be almost a cm deep). Stick it on high heat until you can tell by the little ripples that it’s really, really hot. Now stick the first of the fillets in the batter, making sure that all of it is covered. Lower the heat a little and carefully lower the fillet into the oil. Careful now, it might spit a little. Depending on how thick your fillets are, it’ll need 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully flip it over once you start smelling that chipshoppy kind of smell. Remove once it’s done, and repeat the process with the second fillet.
Put your chips, your fish and a couple of pickles on a newspaper. Generously sprinkle with salt and vinegar. Enjoy the nostalgia. Or just use a plate.