Proper British Fish and Chips

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Quintessentially British, it can only be Fish and Chips. It is our national dish after all. The rumours a true, to those across the pond, we do tend to eat this on a Friday – it’s just the way it is! 

 

This is a full guide on how to make proper British Fish and Chips using an amber ale beer batter, triple cooking chunky chips (easier than you think), the best mushy peas and a tartar sauce from scratch. This is a real show stopper which will absolutely blow people away, the problem is, it blows most fish and chip shops away too. There is nothing quite like deep frying your own fish and your own chips. 

 

To get started with this guide you don’t need a deep fat fryer, just a couple good quality, relatively large heavy bottom pans and a good lot of vegetable/rapeseed oil. 

Tips, Hints and Tricks

I want to keep this blog post as short as possible. but there are a few things to get through first.

 

Let’s started with Deep Fat Frying. Here are some tips and tricks to remember when using this cooking method:

  1. Oil gets very hot. Over 200c in some cases. Be very careful and use good quality, heavy duty pans if you don’t have access to a deep fat fryer. 
  2. A meat probe will be able to tell you exactly when the oil is at the perfect temperature. We highly recommend you invest in one, it takes away the guess work. 
  3. If using pans to deep fry, only ever fill them up to half way with oil and no more. Any further and you could risk the oil spilling over when adding the food to the pan. 
  4. Don’t have the oil too hot. This can cause the outside of the batter to look perfectly golden, but the inside still raw. Similarly, the batter on the outside could be burnt/overdone and the inside perfectly cooked. Follow our recipe card below to pick up the best temperatures for the various stages of cooking.
  5. When placing the fish into the fryer, always lay it away from you, this prevents any oil splashing over you – remember the oil will be very hot and could cause some serious harm if enough comes into contact with bare skin. 

Making a tartar sauce from scratch really is worth the extra 10 minutes. It absolutely blows ALL of the pre-made sauces out of the water by a long way. Here are some tips for making an incredible Tartar sauce from scratch:

  1. The base is essentially a mayo. Egg yolks, oil, vinegar and mustard. Once this is nailed, a world of various condiments opens up to you. Use this as a blank canvas and go wild with different flavours. (Not a tip, but good to know!).
  2. Avoid using extra virgin olive oil. It’s very strong and can add an olive-oil taste to the sauce. Best use half normal olive oil and a vegetable oil such as Rapeseed.
  3. A food processor will speed up the process. You can do this by hand using a whisk, but it can be painful and time consuming. A food processor will sort that right out. Keep the speed on a low-ish setting and pour in a small but constant stream of oil until it’s super thick and creamy. 
  4. Fresh shallots, cornichons, capers and parsley are key here – lemon juice too. They all add some incredible flavour and acidity. Try to slice them very finely and keep them all the same size – you can decide on the size really though, if you want more crunch, slice them slightly bigger. 
  5. Allowing the sauce to infuse for 30 minutes completely transforms the sauce. All the flavours come together and level up. Overnight, even better. 
  6. Make some in advance and keep it in the fridge ready to go. Reduces stress and means the sauce can infuse for longer. Win win. 

Tips for Frying & Battering Fish:

  1. Beer batter is great as its super light. Open the beer at the very last minute to keep as much fizz, and therefore air, in the batter to make as light as possible.
  2. Honey adds the golden colour to the batter (thanks Heston Blumenthal for that tip!)
  3. Another Heston tip – as soon as the battered fish is oil the oil cooking, use a metal slotted spoon/strainer to lift the top out slightly and drizzle with extra batter. This adds extra texture and crunch to the batter and is absolutely key for incredible battered fish. 
  4. Salting the fish beforehand for 10 minutes pulls out some excess moisture. Patting it dry removes the moisture. This means the batter will not become soggy and the fish more flaky and delicious. 
  5. Use a wire rack to drain once cooked. This will prevent a soggy bottom.
  6. Keeping the skin on means it’s easier to batter the fish. But could also mean the skin side of the batter is more prone to being less crisp. Your choice here.
  7. A dusting of flour before battering helps the batter stick to the fish. 

Tips and tricks for the chips. It really is worth making your own, and really is worth deep frying them too.

  1. Triple cooked is the way to go (Thanks again Heston). Boil for 5 mins. Deep fry for 7-8 mins on low then drain and rest. Deep fry for 5-6 mins on high. It is more simple than you think, and totally worth the effort. 
  2. Maris Piper potatoes are the ones here. They were made for chips!
  3. Salt the chips directly after frying, the salt clings to the chip better. 
  4. Not essential, but if you have time, freezing the chips for half an hour once part boiled allows them to really dry the outer layer and therefore become so much more crisp. If not, just try to let them steam dry completely before frying to avoid a soggy chip.
  5. Us brits normally serve our chips with Malt vinegar when accompanied by Fish. The acidy helps with the rich batters and fried foods – it’s a known fact that acidity makes the mouth water too.
  6. Wash the chips before boiling until the water runs clear. This removes any excess starch and allows the chip to become much more crisp and fluffy.

Not forgetting the mushy peas, the most simple recipe ever and 100% needed with proper British Fish and Chips:

  1. It’s simple really. 1 tin of Marrow Fat Peas, some malt vinegar, some salt, get them on a medium low heat and simmer. Crush with the back of a spoon, but leave a few peas whole, and that’s it. 
  2. The Marrow Fat Peas are crucial here. They won’t work without them. Find them, buy them, enjoy them. 
  3. Malt vinegar too. It adds the perfect flavour and acidity levels. 

The Video

The Recipe

Proper British Fish and Chips

Beer battered Fish and Homemade chunky chips with the most incredible mushy peas and home made tartar sauce. A real british classic, done right.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Dinner
Cuisine British
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • Deep Fat Fryer (optional)
  • Deep walled, heavy bottom pan - ideally 28-32cm wide.
  • Frying basket (optional) [Can use a slotted spoon instead]
  • Food Processor (optional) [Can use a whisk instead]
  • Sharp Knife
  • Mixing Bowl x2/3
  • Medium Saucepan
  • Colander
  • Small saucepan
  • Meat probe
  • Whisk

Ingredients
  

Fish

  • 2 150g+ Cod Loin Fillets skin on or off - your choice.
  • 150 ml Amber Ale (e.g. Doom Bar) Any gassy beer will do though.
  • 75 g Plain Flour
  • 75 g Corn Flour
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2-3 tbsp Plain Flour - For dusting

Chips

  • 2-3 Maris Piper Potatoes, Peeled
  • 1 tsp Salt

Peas

  • 1 Tin Marrow Fat Peas
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 2.5 level tbsp Malt Vinegar

Tartar Sauce

  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 150 ml Rapeseed OIl
  • 150 ml Olive Oil NOT Extra Virgin
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 30 g Capers
  • 50 g Cornichons
  • 30 g Shallots
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Parsley

Frying

  • 500 ml Rapeseed Oil for Frying We can re-use oil another 1-2 times.

Instructions
 

Tartar Sauce

  • Start by making a Mayonnaise base. Add the eggs, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard to a food processor. Blitz until smooth and emulsified.
    Top Tip - If using a whisk, simply whisk until combined.
  • Put the food processor on low and add the oil through the opening in the lid. Add it slowly to avoid it separating. A small constant stream is ideal. See video for examples.
    Top Tip - a squeezy plastic bottle as seen in the video is a great idea. Also a jug with a pourable lip is good.
  • Once all the oil is incoporated the Mayonnaise should be ready - it should be thick. Add the mayo to a mixing bowl.
  • Finely chop the capers, cornichons, shallots and parsley. Keep them small and similar sized.
  • Fold in the capers, cornichons, shallots and parsely into the mayo with a couple pinches of salt. Taste and add more salt or lemon if needed. Go easy on the lemon.
  • Once done, store in tupperware or a glass jar. place in the fridge to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Will keep in the firdge for a couple days or so - remember, they're fresh eggs.

Chips

  • Peel the potatoes.
  • Cut the potatoes into chunky chips - roughly 5mm thick and 20mm wide.
  • Wash the potatoes under running water until it runs clear.
    Top Tip - this removes excess starch and allows the chips to crisp up better when fried.
  • Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Add the washed chips to the pan and boil for 5 minutes to soften slightly.
    Top Tip - the water should be tasting salty. This will in fact season the chip from the inside slightly.
  • Drain on kitchen paper and let the steam evaporate
    Top Tip - Heston Blumenthal places them in the freezer for half an hour to really dry them out. Do this is you have the time, it's not essential.
  • Start heating the oil in your fryer/pan. Bring the oil to 160c.
    Top Tip - test a chip, if it floats to the surface and bubbles, it's ready.
  • Carefully place the fries in the pan (use a fryer basket if you have one here - makes life easier) and cook for about 6-7 minutes or until a light crust has formed.
    Top Tip - not looking for golden brown here, just a light curst. Fry in batches if the pan is small, don't overcrowd the pan.
  • We are assuming you don't have space to fry chips and fish at the same time. So now is the time to start the fish/peas. Save the chips for later to finish off.
    Take the oil off the heat for now.

Peas

  • In a small sauceapn, add the full can of peas, liquid too.
  • Add the vinegar and salt. Bring to a simmer.
  • Once simmering, lightly mash with the back of a spoon and stir every now and then.
  • After about 7-8 minutes the peas should become thick and mushy, but still have chunks of peas too. This is not a purée.
  • Set to once side ready for use
    Top Tip - When ready to use, spalsh a tbsp of water on top if looking dry and re-heat on the hob for 30 seconds.

Fish

  • Prepare ther fish if needed - i.e. cut into loins and remove any bones (see video). Keep the skin on to ensure it's easy to handle, or remove the skin if you prefer it without.
  • Salt the fish and leave to sit for 10 mintues to remove some excess moisture. Pat dry after.
  • Get the oil back on the heat. Slowly bring it up to 180c.
    Top Tip - Test some batter, if it floats and sizzles a lot it should be ok. Really is best to use a meat probe though.
  • In the meantime, Combine the 75g of Plain Flour, 75g of cornflour, honey, salt and beer. Whisk together well.
    Top Tip - Open the beer at the last minute to retain the fizz.
  • Dust the fish lightly with plain flour.
  • Dip the fish into the batter and make sure it is well covered.
  • Add straight into the hot oil carefully
    Top Tip - allow the fish to drop away from you to avoid hot oil splashes.
  • Repeat for the second piece of fish.
  • Add texture to the batter by drizzling with more batter on top whilst cooking - see video.
    Using a slotted spoon bring the fish slightly out of the oil to drizzle on the batter (thanks Heston Blumenthal for the tip).
  • Cook the fish for 4-5 minutes in total - no more. The fish should be piping hot inside, and the batter crispy on the outside.
  • Add to a wire rack to drain. Place in a lightly warm oven to keep warm whilst we finish the chips.

Chips Pt. 2

  • Remove the scraps (little bits of batter) from the pan and drain. Keep these for garnish.
  • Add the part cooked chips to the hot oil (180c) and cook until golden and crispy (about 5-6 minutes).
    Top Tip - if using a small pan, fry in batches. Not ideal to leave the fish sitting too long. but better safe than sorry.
  • Drain on kitchen paper.

Serving

  • On a warm plate, add the rested Battered Fish.
  • Add the fresh chips
  • Add the mushy peas - remember to warm them through with a splash of water to revive them.
  • Serve with a generous dollop of Tartar Sauce.
  • Enjoy on a Friday night for something truly British.

Notes

  1. Tartar Sauce can be prepared in advance. It's best left to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Even overnight if you want. 
  2. Salting the fish first pulls out excess moisture and seasons the fish. Will result in a crispier batter.
  3. For the batter, open the beer at the very end. We want to retain as much fizz as possible.
  4. Honey adds colour to the batter (another Heston Tip).
  5. Mushy peas HAVE to be made using Marrow Fat Peas and Malt Vinegar. It's very simple, and kills most fish and chip shop versions, who always make theirs too runny. 
  6. Chips take time - first part boil, then part fry. Then the final fry to add colour and crispiness. The final fry should be the last thing you do to make sure everything can be served at best. 
  7. Cook the chips in batches if you need to prevent overcrowding in the pan.
  8. Resting the fish on a wire rack stops the bottom going soggy. Although don't rest too long, or it just won't be as good. 5-6 minutes is the max. Best rested in a slightly warm oven.
Keyword Chips, Fish, Fish and Chips, Peas
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Nice to meet you!

I'm James. A full time technical analyst and part time home cook. I live in London, England and run the Fork & Twist website. I'm passionate about good food and I'm so happy you're checking out one of my recipes.