It’s Good Friday, The Flame has left out a pretty decent piece of cod. “It’s fish for tea, we can have it steamed with some roasted veg”. I think not. Within seconds I have decided I’m doing my own chippy tea. A quick check reveals a worthy instruction from Hugh and his mates at River Cottage. It works a treat. Even done in a pan it cooked beautifully. Well worth a go. I knocked up a tartar sauce as well. That was a revelation.
He asks “What makes a good batter? What creates that crisp, savoury, golden coating that seals in all the moisture of the fish it covers?” The answer he reckons is beer. It not only adds lightness to the mixture but adds a nutty, wheaty edge of flavour to the crunch. Beer isn’t the only important element. A good batter needs to have the right consistency: too thick and floury and you’ll end up with a pancakey, chewy result; too thin and it won’t stick to the fish. He reckons the thickness of emulsion paint is what you are after! This recipe is useful because you can use it when you’re deep frying almost any fish or shellfish.
Ingredients – could halve this for two, I had quite a bit over.
200g plain flour
Groundnut oil, including plenty for deep frying. (I used vegetable oil)
About 250ml good beer –- anything really, including stout, but preferably not cheap lager. I used a nice Staffordshire IPA
Mixed fish of your choice. I had a nice piece of cod.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prep 30 mins
Cook 5 mins
To make the batter, sift the flour into a bowl, or put it in a bowl and whisk it (which is almost as effective a way to aerate the flour and remove lumps). Add 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil, then gradually whisk in the beer, stopping when you have a batter with the consistency of thick emulsion paint. Beat it well to get rid of any lumps, season generously, then leave to rest for 30 minutes or so.
Heat the oil in a large, deep, heavy-based pan until it reaches 160°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into it turns golden brown in 1-1½ minutes. I used my digital thermometer. It seemed to work a treat.
Dip your chosen piece of fish into the batter so it is thoroughly immersed, then lift it out and hold it over the bowl for a few seconds so any excess batter drops back in. Now lower the battered fish into the hot oil. Do this one piece at a time, if using large portions, or in small batches for smaller pieces, so as not to crowd the pan.
Fry large pieces of fish for 4–5 minutes, and smaller items, such as squid rings, for 2 minutes or so, until golden brown and crisp. Scoop them out with a wire basket, or ‘spider’, and transfer to a warm dish lined with kitchen paper. Keep them warm while you fry the remaining fish, then serve straight away, with your homemade tartare sauce. (See below)
As well as the obvious fillets of white fish, such as plaice, pollack, coley, cod, haddock and whiting, we’ve had great success with beer-battered dogfish goujons, squid rings, even scallops.
Quick tartare sauce (by Jo Pratt)
200ml/7fl oz mayonnaise
3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
3 tbsp gherkins, drained and chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix together all of the ingredients in a small bowl and serve straight away or store in the fridge until needed.