Friday 25 October 2013

Fish n Chips


Oh, wait...I have kids...

Yes, it is the more difficult part of the week to be sure, but I do always look forward to Fridays because you know what we cook on Fridays?

"FISH AND CHIPS!!!"  the children cheer.  Well, breaded fish fillets and roast potatoes, if you want to get technical, with a side of peas.  We may experiment with other recipes during the week, but Friday is sacred and usually hailed as the culinary highlight of the week by my kids.  They especially like the trip to the fishmonger in Marchmont who gives them each a sweet.  They are less enamoured with the potato shop, but you can't have it all.

Compared to other meals this week, there is a fairly simple list of ingredients.

The fish this week is haddock, though it was plaice the last two weeks, and cod occasionally graces our table as well.  We once made the mistake of buying skate and it was a bone-filled disaster.  If anyone has any recommendations for other white fish that would work well this way, please suggest one.

The breadcrumbs didn't start off their life like that.  Last night they looked like this:

Remnants of beautiful baguettes from The Wee Boulangerie just down the road from us.  If you live nearby and haven't been, GO.  Their bread is amazing, and it is run by a local mum who just started the business about a year and a half ago.  Sadly, this bread was now past its prime, so it met the food processor and was left out overnight to dry before being blitzed again:

As you foodies may know, New World potatoes originally came in all variety of colours, and the ones we now consume are just a small part of the spectrum of colours that are available.  The potatoes we bought this week Shetland Blues (I'm guessing a pretty new variety) grown in East Lothian, and purchased at an organic farmer co-op in Marchmont.  We've been getting them for a couple months there, and as the weeks have passed we have seen the potatoes in stock grow in size.  When they were smaller, they were mostly white with purple streaked through them.  Now they are deep purple (the photo doesn't do them justice).  I've heard the deeper the colour, the more good things are in them (anti-oxidant type things or their relatives) but after they get through our cooking process I'm not sure there are many health benefits remaining. As a rule, we like leaving the peel on potatoes when we cook them, but as it is so hard to see, due to their colour, if you've scrubbed all the soil off these guys, I now take the safe option of peeling the spuds.  There is only so much earthy flavour one can take.

So here they are peeled and rinsed.

I usually do this ahead of time and then just soak them in water to prevent them going grey before I cook them.

Eventually I cut them into wedges:

And steam them until they are nearly cooked but still have some firmness to them.

Then I shake them around a bit to roughen up the sides.  This helps give them the perfect roast potato texture of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Meanwhile, I heated their roasting pan with some vegetable oil in the very hot oven.  Duck or goose fat is best, but we usually just use plain vegetable oil.

Around 40 or so minutes later they looked like this (the colour is hard to gauge due to the type of tatties) and it was time to get on with the fish.

At this point my husband took over so that I could focus on managing the children.  He looked at me a bit funny while I took photos, but he didn't mind too much.  We set up an assembly line of a seasoned bag of flour, a bowl of beaten egg, and the breadcrumbs.

The fish was cut for easy handling, then covered in in the flour mix, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, then set aside until all the pieces were ready.

Then into a healthy pan of oil they went.  And my mother wondered why it was so tasty when I made it for her...

Once browned on one side, they were flipped over and browned on the other, then put on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  On another hob, we steamed the frozen peas.   Frozen peas here in the UK are pretty good - all are frozen within three hours of being picked, and they are trying to get that down to an hour.  My mother always used to put a sprig in mint in with the peas, but we don't add anything to them.

Once all the fish was cooked, we sat down to eat. Can you blame us for looking forward to Friday night's dinner?

RECIPE (sorta)
Fish n chips with a side of Non-Mushy Peas

about a cup of flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs
3 fillets haddock, plaice, cod or other white fish
about a cup and a half of breadcrumbs
1 lb potatoes
vegetable oil a'plenty
1 1/2 cups green peas

Wash, peel (if necessary) and chop potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks
Soak if not using immediately, then steam until starting to soften at edges
Preheat oven to 220 C, placing roasting tray with  3/4 cm oil in oven to heat up with oven
Shake potatoes around in steamer to roughen and fluff edges
Taking care to avoid any oil splatters, take hot roasting tray out of oven and add potatoes, then immediately return to oven.  Check after half an hour to make sure they are browning.
Make assembly line of fish cut into manageable chunks, a seasoned bag of flour, a bowl of beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs
One by one, take each piece of fish and coat it in the flour mix, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, then set aside until all are covered
Heat 1 cm oil to medium high heat.  Put peas on to steam.
Carefully place pieces in hot oil.  Cook until browned on bottom (no more than a couple minutes) then flip to brown other side, then remove to paper towels and blot.
Once all is cooked, serve with your choice of condiments.

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