Why, ‘Ere’s a Chippy!


A right proper one, too.

Definitely a fortunate coincidence if you’re in the UK.  If you’re not, though, and the closest chippy, British slang for a fish and chips joint, is nowhere in sight, don’t despair.  Once again, the Cook’s Country Cookbook keeps the kitchen well-supplied.  Their preparation of Fish and Chips furnishes a welcome feast for hungry Brits, starving Anglophiles, or anyone, really, craving great food and a satisfying crunch.

No doubt, crunch is what makes cod a national treasure.  Especially in this recipe, where beer gives the batter slightly sweet malty notes, and keeps it light.  The suds also help the batter adhere to the fish, sealing in the tenderness.  Oil makes the coating audibly crispy, then bounces away harmlessly, letting the fish steam within its golden shell.

Of course, what’s fish without chips?  The paring’s irresistible, as are the snappy-then-fluffy chips of potatoes.  The secret to attaining this beautiful contrast is in cooking the potatoes twice, first before the cod, then right after it’s done.Spider and Chips

…along came a spider.  No, that’s what the gadget’s called, due to its web-like basket.  Get it?  Though the piece above is a Chinese spider, it’s a perfect tool for the job, which is retrieving the chips after Round 1, then again after Round 2, when they’re golden and crackling.  Toss with sea salt then sprinkle on some mildly yeasty malt vinegar…blimey!

Completing the team, though the original recipe doesn’t feature them, are mushy peas, a British standby.  Specifically, Minty Mushy Peas, as chef Jamie Oliver features on his website.  Really, they’re much, much better than they sound.  Good peas, particularly baby peas, are clean-tasting.  Sauté them with chopped spring onions and fresh mint and they’re refreshingly cool.  A perfect foil for all the crunchiness going on elsewhere.  Oh, and you get to mash them!

Pea Masher Finally, using the utensil on something other than potatoes.  A uni-tasker no more!  At last – right, Alton?

Also, some of you are keen to see garden pictures,  OK here’s some of the very same mint that went into the mushy peas, earlier in the spring, as they leapt up in front of the chives:Garden Mint Before closing, a word about the tartar sauce.  The idea behind it came from the same cookbook page that inspired the fish and chips, and it warrants special mention.  Creamy, briny and softly tangy, it compliments perfectly the crispy potatoes and flaky fish.  Both in taste and in texture.

Putting all these ideas together brings the chippy right to your kitchen.  Eat in, at the counter, or take out, to the nook, dining room or family room.  Or, as it’s summer, how about to the back deck?  No matter where, you’ll find the taste is spot-on.  The crunch?  Nearly seismic.  Lucky you, there’s a chippy just down the hall!

*****

Fish and Chips

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 cups beer (*1)
  • 1 (2-pound) skinless cod filet, about an inch thick (*2)
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds large gold potatoes, unpeeled (*3)
  • 8 cups peanut or vegetable oil (*4)

In a large bowl, (*5) whisk together the flour, cornstarch, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt and baking powder.  Add the beer and whisk until smooth. (*6)  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Cut the cod crosswise into eight 4-ounce filets.  Pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut each potato lengthwise into four planks.  Cut each plank lengthwise into thirds. (*7)  (Leave dry, do not place the potatoes in water.) (*8)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels.  Place a large pot over a high flame and pour in the oil.  When the oil has reached a rolling boil, after about seven minutes, using a spider or slotted spoon, carefully lower the potatoes into the oil.  Reduce the flame a bit to maintain a steady temperature.

Cook without stirring for 20 minutes.  Then, stir potatoes gently and continue cooking for another four minutes.  Using the spoon or the spider, retrieve the chips from the oil and place them on the paper towel-lined baking sheet.  The chips will not be fully cooked at this point.  Leave the oil at temperature.

Place a wire rack in a second rimmed baking sheet.  Place the fish filets in the bowl containing the batter.  Toss to coat. (*9)  Using a fork, lift each filet from the batter and let excess drip back into the bowl.  Working in two batches of four, transfer  (once again, carefully) each filet to the oil, dragging it across the surface before releasing it.  This will prevent it from sticking.

Cook fish, stirring gently and occasionally to prevent sticking, for about ten minutes.  Using the spider or the spoon, lift the filets from the oil and place them on the wire rack.  Repeat for the second batch of fish.

Remove any loose batter bits from the oil and let it return to 375° .  Return the fries to the oil (carefully, of course, and using your trusty spider/spoon).  Cook for another two minutes, until crispy and golden.  Transfer back to the towel-lined sheet.

After the chips cool a bit, serve them alongside the fish, in a basket if you’re after the full effect.  Season them with sea alt and sprinkle generously with malt vinegar if desired.  And you should.

NOTES:

1 – A woefully inadequate amount (come on, Cook’s Country, you’re usually much, much better than this).  A full bottle, i.e., about two-and-a-half cups is more like it.  By the way, a light-bodied brew, such as a lager, is recommended.

2 – If you’d rather not splurge on the cod, haddock is nearly as good.  For that matter, so is sea bass.

3 – Yukon Golds work best here, if they’re available in your area.

4 – Choose peanut oil and be glad you did.  Turns this from “really good” to “extraordinary.”

5 – Use a bowl that seems to be much bigger than what you think you’d need.  You’ll see why later.

6 – A consistency perhaps a touch thicker than is paint is ideal.

7 – The original recipe calls for more cuts, producing narrower chips.  I think a wider caliber, similar to steak fries, is preferable, and adjusted the cooking time upward slightly in compensation.  If you prefer narrower fries, by all means.  Just reduce the cooking time a bit.

8 –  Or they’ll turn into gremlins.  (A nod to the movie that starred my first pre-teen crush, Phoebe Cates.)  Seriously, though, no water.

9 – Ah, that’s why we needed the larger bowl!  A medium bowl just wouldn’t have had the room.

*****

Tartar Sauce

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle relish
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for fifteen minutes, to allow the ingredients to cultivate each other’s flavors.

*****

Minty Mushy Peas

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 pound frozen peas (*10)
  • 2 knobs butter (*11)
  • sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Place a medium saucepan over a medium flame.  After it’s heated for a moment, pour in the oil.  Add the onions, mint and peas.  Cover and leave to steam for a few minutes.

Uncover and turn off the flame.  Mash with a potato masher, then stir in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper et voila!

NOTES:

10 – Seriously, frozen peas.  They’re harvested at peak conditions, then are flash-frozen much more quickly than what we ever could achieve at home, thus preserving their top-of-the-season goodness.  Yes, sounds like an ad for the Frozen Foods Council, but it’s true.

11 – I spent a while trying to figure what the heck it was Oliver meant by a “knob,” until deciding he should’ve said, “tablespoon.”  So, two tablespoons altogether.

50 thoughts on “Why, ‘Ere’s a Chippy!

    1. Thank you, Tamara! The fish transports fairly well, making it a good picnic companion, though I fear the chips wouldn’t fare as well. Some things just are best when they’re fresh.

      Good to see you approached the mushy peas with a more open mind than I did. I was skeptical, and figured they wouldn’t make the post when they didn’t work, but was I in for a surprise! Fresh peas, fresh scallions and, above all, fresh mint. do make a huge difference!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice leaves!! Thanks for sharing…. sorry for bugging you.
    Homemade chips don’t compare to bought ones. Although I’d never have the patience to measure 🙂
    Love, light and glitter

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe not, Eliza, and I do defer to a Brit in these matters.

      OK, these don’t compare to what you could get at a chippy, but they are OK for this particular Yank. You have to figure, I’ve had two experiences heretofore (how’s that for proper British word?) with fish and chips. The first was at a chain once prominent here in the States, Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips. The other being at fish fries common around here during Lent, this being a heavily Catholic region and all.

      With those two points of reference, what I tried this week did come close. Not up to British standards, perhaps, but remember, this was a first try, and the inspiration to improve can lead only to good things, right?

      Like

      1. Always improves 🙂
        Some chip shops sell great stuff, others less so. And it will be as uniform as you did it. I like fried chips. Both with potatoes and sweet potatoes.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Eliza! Funny thing is, I didn’t like sweet potatoes, or so I thought. until several years ago.

        In the US, they’re served typically as part of the Thanksgiving meal in November and they usually come slathered egregiously in brown sugar. To the point they’re cloying. Nope, pass.

        Then, one day, I tried them mashed, as one would treat “regular” potatoes – a little butter, a little milk, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Yes! Where have you been my whole life? From there I tried fried sweet potatoes. Another revelation.

        By the way, Eliza, have you tried fried yuca root? Possibly not, as the preparation is most common in Latin America. Yuca is another name for the cassava root, and from which we get tapioca.

        Anyway, they were served alongside Peruvian chicken (pollo a la brasa) and were quite good. Don’t fret, though. Something tells me yuca root might be set for another appearance here one of these days…

        Like

      3. Yuca root. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. I’m trying to add more foods to my diet. Um, to my like list, not yet what I’ll eat. But when I’m living without an ED at least ill have a few more foods 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. With that, Eliza, yuca is on your mind! First, curiosity will make few glancing passes. Eventually it’ll blossom into an interest, then an obsession.

        Before we’re done, you’ll seek the nearest Puerto Rican bodega, hoping – no, needing – to find his yuca root that’s spawned dreams. You won’t be disappointed!

        ¡Ay, pobrecita!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Naturally, Eliza. The Latin American cultural presence is much more prevalent here in the States than I imagine it is in the UK (Obviously, as it’s to our immediate south.)

        If you can’t find your yuca, though, don’t despair. It’ll be here, with pictures and descriptions to accompany. Other “exotics” too, as appropriate. So please, Rachel, keep reading and commenting. The yuca is counting on it!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting one for Anglophiles, and altho my grandmother migrated from there plus I lived and worked there I am NOT one … their colonisation record is appalling! But they sure know how to make good chips 😉

    Your mint [lol speller changed that to mind] and chives look very healthy

    I must confess that I do very good chips myself, compulsory growing up on the coast where we caught our own fresh seafood 🙂
    What’s happened to those lovely peas … looks more like smashed avo 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well on their way to being smashed, definitely. It’s a potato masher, and by God, it’s going to live up to its name!

      Actually, most of the mushy peas I’ve seen around here seem to be of that consistency. Including preparations at the hands of Brits. Maybe that’s the way North Americans prefer them? Not that we really go for mushy peas that often, preferring instead to limit it to the classic fish and chips.

      For what it’s worth, the mushy peas had much more textural character than what the picture would suggest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Or in some cases, as in snap peas, in the pod. Best when picked straight from the vine, and consumed amidst the garden’s green exuberance.

        It’s almost as though I have personal experience. As in, my mother would send me to the garden to pick peas for dinner, yet somehow the basket would return not-quite-full.

        Um, no comment.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Peas? Parsley? What of parsnips? Potatoes? Purslane? Pears? Peaches?

        “P” has to be one of the most produce-forward letters. Look at that! “P” also starts a word that encompasses all fruits and veg – Produce!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. produce is the better word for me, but no swearing [parsnips] please this is family content!
        I eat heaps of peaches and pears, if it’s not in season we do them well in juice here, yum!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Peach season up here isn’t for a couple months yet, either. At least for peaches worthy of the name. Some second-rate globes are available now, but they only whet our appetites for the glory that’s coming!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. fresh off the tree is always best … I feel a relocation coming on, maybe August and best will be it’s 5 doors down from our farmers market … the cheese selection, farm free range eggs and fresh produce will be mine regularly … a dream come true without the effort of doing it all myself 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      6. No doubt, Kate. In fact, it’s their talent’s badge.

        As you know, French and Italians cheesemakers find caves and cellars to be superb places to give their product a certain…patina. An hour in the subtropical sun, not so much. Still, you make the effort, which I applaud. Someday, your ingenuity will produce results. Did you ever consider bringing along a cooler or ice chest filled with blue ice (I hope you get my meaning, as I’m unsure if the Australian terms for these things differs from those we use in the States)?

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I’ll lend you one of the catapults I’ve been using to toss care packages across the Pacific.

        You send the cheese my direction, I put it in the fridge, then will launch it back to you when you email me you’re back home.

        How can this possibly go wrong?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! I am so happy to see you advocating for mushy peas. The first time I had them was when I visited the UK and they were delicious! There are some cans of mushy peas that can be found in the international foods aisle on this side of the pond but they are not in the same league as making your own. Nice use of the mint!

    Do you have a favorite malt vinegar? I wasn’t in love with Heinz brand. One of my social media friends from the UK recommended Sarson’s, so that’s the one I’m trying next. I couldn’t remember the name of the excellent one we had at some of the restaurants in the UK and am hoping I can find it.

    Fish and chips may be one of my favorite British dishes (aside from toad in the hole, of course). Yum!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciated, Summer. It was an advocacy I didn’t think I’d undertake, as I was a little, let’s say, leery, going into things. Honestly, I was afraid they’d be dull and clotted tasting.. Imagine my delight to find something instead that was bright and fresh! Yes then, don’t forget the mushy peas!

      As for malt vinegars, the grocer offered three choices – Holland House, Heinz, and what we got this week. Holland House was out, sight unseen, due the line’s overall reputation for cheapness in quality and saltiness in quantity. That left just Heinz and London Pride. Much as I would’ve liked to have chosen the former – a good Pennsylvania brand, and all – the London Pride was more overtly British (obviously) and seemed a better fit for an iconic British dish. Plus, it was a touch more expensive, and lacking any direct knowledge of either, I do believe you generally get what you pay for.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t tried London Pride but I can tell you the Heinz malt vinegar is nothing like the malt vinegar we had in the UK. I need to figure out ways to use it up because I didn’t care for it on chips. lol

        (P.S. Nothing against the Heinz brand in general! I was just disappointed in that particular product.)

        I think “mushy” tends to make people think of baby food or things that are overripe. The peas might draw more appeal if they had a name like “pea puree with mint” or something of that nature.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Agreed, Summer. Or how about “Mint-Amped Spring Greens,” which is equally descriptive?

        I suppose “Mushy Peas” are so ingrained in British culture they’re a comfortable part of the culinary tableau. Uncommon, though, are outsiders like you or me whom the name doesn’t unnerve, site unseen.

        Can’t say for sure I’ve had English malt vinegar, and thus, I can’t speak to London Pride’s “authenticity.” It does sport a British flag and a crown, so it has to be the real deal, right? Regardless of how genuine it is, I do think it adds a really nice taste profile.

        Some fish was left over, and I wrapped it carefully and put it in the freezer. There it will remain for a few months until the weather starts getting chilly enough again to enjoy fish sandwiches. The still-mostly-full bottle of London Pride sits on the pantry shelf, awaiting its moment.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, to redeem your British honor, Eliza, and that of most of my now-distant ancestors, it was a Brit (Jamie Oliver) who came up with the idea for minty peas.

        In fact, when doing my due diligence for this entry, I read Mushy Peas are Fish and Chips’ tried-and-true companion in the UK. Still, more than one writer warned they were an “acquired” taste. Almost threw me off the trail, in fact, until I came across Oliver’s idea. Yes! Mint and spring onions to the rescue!

        Like

      2. I followed a lot of Jamie Oliver’s programme. Unfortunately the site no longer seems to exist. I scanned in a number of pages I’ve printed from the site, but it’s a loss that it isn’t about…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. He’s still somewhat prevalent here in the States, but the shows very well may have aired originally in the UK three years ago. I’ll have to check out the copyright date the next time Oliver’s on.

        Besides, you know the way these TV networks and websites operate, Eliza. The moment you get interested, the content disappears. Every time!

        Like

    1. Most likely.

      While I have a surprising respect for many frozen vegetables, Summer, that regard most definitely doesn’t carry over to their canned “brethren.”

      In fact, in researching future entry ideas, Haitian cuisine sparked interest. Djon djon rice, in primary focus. Unfortunately, all instructions I’ve seen specify using canned peas. Even in the photos accompanying the recipes, the peas appear dull, grayish and lifeless. In a word, unappealing. If I do decide to pursue, this definitely will have to change!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, Summer, I did! Not from the usual source (Amazon) either.

        The Big A did carry djon djons at one point, but they suddenly disappeared, as in, didn’t even show up in a search. Something very mysterious, a voodoo-tinged sorcery, at play here.

        Fortunately, I found a much smaller vendor who carries djon djons. So small, in fact, she processed my order through PayPal. Still, I trusted her and, as a reward, dried djon djons were waiting on the doorstep when I got home from work Tuesday!

        Much like the donabe, we’ll see the results at some point in the future, as yet, TBD.

        Donabe, Diriz ak Djon Djon…man, we’re about to get all multicultural up in this joint!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So you went the ebay or etsy route? Those are the two sources where I was able to find them. Also, were they in some sort of store packaging or were these foraged by the seller? Now I am really curious!

        The Indian grocery where I buy fresh curry leaves was closed so I recently made a purchase from a small farm in Florida. They came wrapped in foil and a baggie, but they looked and smelled like curry leaves, so I figured (hoped? haha) all is good. I might be willing to take some risks to find the ingredients I want. If you’ve found a good source for djon djon mushrooms, I might have to go and place an order myself!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Actually, Summer, nothing fancier than a Google search. I typed “djon djon shipping” (the last word to avoid getting hits on a bunch of recipe-only sites), and up came something called The Island Girl. Honestly, I was so excited to find the mushrooms, it subdued my usual caution. Ordering could have been risky, but, fortunately, not this time.

        High marks to you for your dedication to obtaining fresh curry leaves! The lengths we foodies take to source our ingredients! Reminds me of a trek I made three or four years ago to obtain Sawtooth Herb, which I absolutely “needed” to make a Cambodian dish. After half a dozen fruitless inquiries, I finally found a nursery in Puerto Rico. As with now, with the djon djons, it could’ve been a foolish gamble, but the foodie gods smiled on me then too!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It appears you are lucky as The Island Girl is now out of stock for djon djon mushrooms. 😦 I’ll have to check in from time to time to see when they restock.

        I guess I have some time for you to give a review on these. I’d be interested to know whether you think there is a more readily available mushroom that could work as a substitute, or whether the djon djon’s flavor is so unique that replacements simply won’t do.

        Sawtooth herb is also known as culantro, correct? I actually know a store in the area that sells this! (Ok, it’s a 30-minute drive, but close enough.) They also carry fresh breadfruit on occasion. I was so happy when I found them.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Quite the store, Summer, to feature both culantro (you are correct, and I subsequently saw it in the “international” aisle, as a salsa ingredient) and breadfruit. Haven’t seen breadfruit here, though occasionally the local market features jackfruit. Somebody has to buy the thing, I’d imagine, because the market’s trotted out jackfruit more than once.

        Honestly, I probably won’t try the djon djons until next year, as they’re dried and still are sealed. In a cool, dark place (i.e., the pantry) they should keep. It’s just that they disappeared suddenly from Amazon, without so much as an “Out of Stuck,” or, “Currently Unavailable.” Just poof! and they were gone.

        I suppose I panicked, as in, “It’s now or never, bud.” Once I got the notion to try djon djon rice (among other things), I couldn’t very well forget about it, nor to leave it in Fate’s hands, wit the hope that maybe, somehow, djon djons would return someday.

        Anyway, Summer, stay tuned long-term, as there will come a day when we both will see if this whole djon djon thing is worthy of the rumors.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. It’s the same situation here, where the jackfruit is plentiful but breadfruit is hard to find. I actually prefer breadfruit to jackfruit, so it’s all a bit disappointing. I’ve heard some say that they think breadfruit tastes like fresh bread. I’m not sure I’d say that. I think it’s unlike anything I’ve had before and I mean that in an entirely good way.

        Oh bummer that we’ll have to wait a year for the report on djon djon mushrooms. Then again, I might be able to get my hands on some in the meantime and form my own opinion on them. 🙂

        Certain fresh and frozen foods tend to be the toughest to obtain since they can’t be readily ordered online. I remember when I looked into getting flying fish for the national dish of Barbados. I think I’m going to have to get on a plane if I ever want to try them. lol

        Liked by 1 person

      7. You know something, Summer, you’re extraordinary?

        To craft dishes with the finesse you do is inspiring. Then to back it up with all the information you have, and to provide strategies to use it advantageously, is extraordinary.

        Already, we’re describing superpowers.

        Then, for you even to know where Barbados is (no disparagement of you, but of general ignorance), but to become savvy enough of its cuisine to try to source flying fish…

        How’s the invisible jet been treating you lately, Wonder Woman?

        Liked by 1 person

      8. You’re too kind! I had to do a little research to try a dish from each country of the world. The cuisine of some areas was completely unfamiliar to me. It was a fun project that made our dinners more interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Repeating, certainly, an earlier observation, what a lucky family you have, Summer!

        Sure, anyone can find dishes from France, Italy, Mexico, Japan…

        What about Chad, though? Don’t want to overlook Bhutan,, Botswana or Barbados (and its flying fish!) either!

        How did you source many of the ingredients? Even if you trekked into Manhattan, scoured Amazon, and kept an eagle eye on the rest of the internet, most of the more obscure preparations must’ve evaded you.

        You knew about djon djons, absolutely, but I suspect obtaining them was among the least daunting of the challenges you bested.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. In some cases I had to make substitutions (researching what might be best in terms of replacements). When we traveled, we made food stops at places where I knew I could get international ingredients.

        Winchester Market in Memphis might be one of my favorite brick-and-mortar resources for international foods in the country. If I lived in the area, I’d be a regular! I was lucky to be able to get things there when we were in the Memphis. I also did a lot of ordering online. The C-Town stores in Connecticut are another great resource.

        I think it’s partially a matter of knowing where to look for things. Even so, some fresh items simply cannot be obtained here, so it is necessary to make do.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Occasional substitutions, Summer, got it. Still, you’ve cultivated an impressive battery of resources. Between them, and your superb culinary instincts, there scarcely is a challenge that’d get the better of you. Witness your one-dish-from-each-country project. Not only did you dream it, you made it happen!

        Not much around here as far as “specialty” grocers go. There are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but they’re on the other side of town, and thus, aren’t practical options. No Wegman’s either (sigh).

        Fortunately, the area’s largest grocer made a decision twenty years or so ago to go after the “upscale” shopper, and to leave the bargain-hunter to its lesser competitors. As result, at least it’s 50% of the way to a Wegman’s, which is better that 0%, otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

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