Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Never Mess With a Classic

Well, 2nd day of the year and I am harbouring that bloated and lethargic over indulged feeling that I'm sure you are all familiar with. What better way to lift those January blues than with a brisk walk by the sea to drum up enough hunger to enable you to feast on a Great British and much maligned Classic - Fish and Chips. Eat them at my favourite chippy in the whole wide world, Colmans Fish & Chips in South Shields (www.colmansfishandchips.com) and you may just realise how good life can be.

I know that this dish has been the subject of some abuse over the years, mainly from our French friends over the Channel. I have heard people laugh at this food, wondering how anybody can get excited over a piece of fish dipped in batter, deep fried and served alongside a bland and equally deep fried vegetable, the potato. We have been lambasted for our pride in a dish that supposedly heaps on the pounds and questions our arteries. And to cap it all off, served in an old newspaper which once wrapped covers your take away in yesterday's print (of course, due to Health & Safety Regulations, this doesn't happen any more).

Personally, I think these people who scoff at our National dish are missing the point, as well as not ever being lucky enough to taste true well cooked and un-tampered with fish and chips. Pure cod (from sustainable stocks of course) cooked to perfection in crisp and crunchy batter, with thick home cooked Maris Piper potato chips and a dollop of homemade Tartare Sauce. Wash it down with a good old cup of tea, nice and strong and if you can fit in your stomach, bread and butter to finish yourself off with (hot chips, melted butter, starchy bread, what more do you need in life I ask?!). For me, this whole dish dish solves clinical depression, hangovers, arguments and World disputes. It sooths the belly like no other when you are almost falling over with hunger and when it is good, really really good, you walk away knowing that you have just eaten a true British Classic. And as far as I'm concerned, that is something to sing about. Rather loudly please.

To Serve 2
500g Maris Piper Potatoes
Sunflower Oil
2x thick loin fillets of cod
Salt and Pepper

For the batter:
120g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
150ml ice cold water

For the Tartare Sauce:
Mayonnaise (good home made with a bit of mustard essential)
Teaspoon finely chopped green olives
Teaspoon finely chopped gherkins
Teaspoon finely chopped capers
Teaspoon chopped fresh chives and parsley

1 - Make the Tartare sauce by combining the ingredients in a bowl.
2 - For the batter, mix the flour, salt and baking powder with the water. Keep cold.
3 - Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise into chips 1cm thick. Heat the oil in a large deep pan to 130 degrees C. Drop half of the chips into a frying basket and cook for 5 minutes until tender but not too coloured. Lift and drain then keep aside.
4 - Heat the oil to 160 degrees C, season the cod, dip in the batter and fry for 8-9 minutes until golden brown. Lift out, drain and keep warm in the oven.
5 - Raise the temperature of the oil to 190 degrees C and cook the chips for a further 2 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain and serve with the cod and tartare sauce, not forgetting a huge mug of tea.

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