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Fish and Chips: A Traditional British Food Classic

Updated on January 26, 2012
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

Fish and Chips in Great Britain

Fish and chips is almost as quintessentially British as the Royal Family, the Union Flag and Big Ben. The combination in a commercial sense dates back to the mid-19th Century and despite huge levels of competition in recent times, remains Briatin's favourite fast food. Fish and chip shops do not of course account for all the fish and chips consumed in Great Britain, as the dish is very commonly made at home. In this instance, I am not deep-frying the fish in batter as would most commonly be the case if the fish were purchased from a fish and chip shop. Instead, I have shallow-fried the fish in fresh breadcrumbs.

Fish and Chip Principal Ingredients
Fish and Chip Principal Ingredients

Fish and Chips Ingredients

The type of fish which is used in the preparation of fish and chips is usually a white-fleshed fish, commonly cod, haddock or whiting. Other types of fish are used in different parts of the country, however, depending upon availability and local preference and demand.

Pictured to the right are the principal ingredients for the fish and chips dish I have prepared on this particular occasion:

1 haddock fillet

2 or 3 potatoes

1 egg

1 lemon

Bread for making breadcrumbs

Freshly picked peas

Parboiling Chipped Potatoes
Parboiling Chipped Potatoes
Draining and Cooling Boiled Potatoes
Draining and Cooling Boiled Potatoes
Frying Chips in Sunflower Oil
Frying Chips in Sunflower Oil

Cooking the Chips

When chips are made in the UK, sometimes the potatoes will simply be peeled, sliced and then chopped in to chips and deep fried in hot fat or oil. On other occasions, the chips will be twice fried, in the sense that they are fried in the first instance to partially cook them, left to cool slightly and then finished off, back in the pan. This is a means of making the chips crispier and giving them far better texture.

The way in which I cook chips nowadays, however, is by employing a technique popularised by the chef, Heston Blumenthal. What this method involves is firstly parboiling the chipped potatoes in water, allowing them to cool and then refrigerating them prior to their first spell in the hot oil. They are partially fried only at this stage, again allowed to cool and again refrigerated priro to being fried for the final time.

What I also do here is add a little lemon to the cold water to which the chips are first added. This helps to stop them from discolouring as they cool.

If you don't have a deep fat fryer for cooking chips, a deep frying-pan can very effectively used, half filled with sunflower oil.

Beaten Egg and Fresh Breadcrumbs
Beaten Egg and Fresh Breadcrumbs

Cooking the Fish

The egg should be broken in to a wide bowl, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lightly beaten. The breadcrumbs should be spread out on a dinner plate. A little oil should be brought up to a medium heat in a frying-pan and the fish dipped in the egg, then the breadcrumbs on both sides. This process should be repeated for best effect, before the fish is added to the frying-pan. It should take two to three minutes each side on a gentle heat.

Cooking the Peas and Plating the Fish and Chips

The peas should be shelled and boiled in some salted water for three or four minutes. The fish, chips and peas may then be plated up as shown and garnished with a slice of lemon and a little sprig of parsley.

Tartare sauce is commonly served with fish and chips, or any one of a variety of sauces. I prefer, however, merely to add a little salt and malt vinegar all round, with a touch of black pepper on the peas.

Fish, Chips and Peas
Fish, Chips and Peas

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