Saturday, August 4, 2007

British Fish and Chips

I am not sure why, but there seems to have been a renewed interest lately in British Fish and Chips. I grew up in England and have had many meals of , both home made and from the "chippie". In the towns where I grew up chip shops, like pubs, could be found on most streets. Often you would have two chip shops next door to each other which was a great idea because most chip shops didn't open every night or every lunch time, but fish and chips were always in demand, so when one shop was open, the other one was closed. I have often thought that because this meal consisted of deep fried fish and French fries, it would now be seen as unhealthy and be waning in popularity, but my recent research shows that this is far from the case.

The very British fish and chips has, in fact, become even more popular, and is now served in the trendiest of London's , such as the Anglesea Arms in Hammersmith, the organic Duke of Cambridge in Islington and the Fish Shop on St John's Street which even has hand cut chips. Wow! Reservations are also recommended, so I guess it's not like waiting in line for frying time when I was a kid! The fish and chips I knew used to also be served with mushy peas. They are peas that have been boiled to the extent that their outer shell falls off, they lose most of their color, and are then mashed down into mush. This leaves them with consistency of a paste and hence the name, mushy peas. You can still buy mushy peas in tins in England, so I think they are still popular too.

One of the most successful fish and chip shops in British history was Harry Ramsden's. He opened his first fish and chip shop in in 1928 in a wooden hut in White Cross in Guiseley near Leeds, Yorkshire. His fish and chip empire was so successful that I believe at one point he even bought his own trawlers to cope with the demand for fish, and there are now over 170 Harry Ramsden shops in both the UK and overseas.

Why are fish and chips so popular? Well, for a start most people like the taste of them, kids love them, and the British did at one point convince themselves that they were a healthy well-balanced meal. If you want to read more history and amusing information about fish and chips in Britain check out the website of the National Federation of Fish Fryers, and for those who want to try it, below is the basic of how to make British Fish and Chips.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 portions fish (cod, plaice, haddock)
1 lb potatoes

Batter for Deep Frying Fish
  • 4 ounces flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • Approx. 1/4 pint tepid water
  • 2 egg whites
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil and enough water to form a smooth batter that coats the back of the spoon.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the batter with a metal spoon.
  3. Dip the fish in the batter and coat thoroughly.
  4. Deep fry in hot oil.
To make the Chips (French Fries)
  1. Cut peeled potatoes into chip shapes and soak in cold water, then dry thoroughly.
  2. Deep-fry in hot oil for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Drain on absorbent kitchen towel.
  4. Just before serving, return to the hot oil and deep-fry for 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden.
  5. Drain and serve with fried fish.
The fish and chips can be served with fresh lemon wedges, parsley and tartare sauce, but traditionally would always be served with salt and brown malt vinegar. The newspaper is no longer considered a good idea!

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