Saturday, 14 November 2009

Time for a traditional treat

After yesterday's almost apocalyptic weather warnings, the day actually hasn't been too bad. I did well this morning, getting to the market quickly and being an efficient shopper (for once), getting there and back between any major showers.

Today is a culinary event day – but not one that takes hours of prep. It's a day for good, old-fashioned fish and chips. Vicki sometimes has cod in – today was such a day – and as she gets it from a sustainable source, I can enjoy it without guilt.

I also bought big potatoes for the chips, plus a tin of mushy peas. This is proper northern fodder – it used to be England's favourite dish, but those times have gone, and with them, most chippies. Those that remain rarely seem to serve hand-cut chips anymore. So it's a treat to do this at home – and something that I do, at most, twice a year.

And for method, it's a classic case of 'in Delia I trust'. At present, the potatoes have been peeled and cut, and I've popped them all in a pan of cold water. That helps to get rid of some of the starch as well as plumping them up. In a while, I'll drain and then dry them carefully in a clean tea towel.

Batter for the fish is a doddle. Sift 110g plain flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Add 150ml water plus one scant tablespoon. Whisk together into a smooth batter. Bring your fish out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.

Then heat your oil or lard (I use vegetable oil). To test it's ready, chuck in a small cube of bread. If it browns in a minute, the oil is hot enough. Carefully pop your chips into the oil. If they spit, it means the potato is still moist. Give them around five minutes, then lift out with your chip basket or a large slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen paper. Bring the oil back up to your starting temperature.

Meanwhile, heat some more oil in another pan – the same temperature guide applies. When it's hot enough, dip your room temperature and dried fish pieces in the batter and then pop them carefully in the oil. That'll take about five minutes, but watch for the batter turning a lovely golden as a good guide too.

After the chip fat is heated back to temperate, add your chips for another one to two minutes. Then lift out, drain on greaseproof paper of kitchen towel and serve immediately. At this point, I'm afraid I diverge from northern tradition, and pop a great big dollop of mayonnaise on the side of my plate. According to people who know me, it's an indication of the corrupting effect of the Continent. I just love dipping my chips in it. The Other Half opts for the more usual malt vinegar.

And don't forget to gently warm through your peas. If you want to be really authentic, serve with slabs of white bread with butter on, and mugs of steaming tea. However you serve it, though, it's the perfect accompaniment for a Rugby League match – and tonight sees England take on Australia in the final of the autumn's international Four Nations tournament.

I don't hold a great deal of hope for England's chances, but you never know. And nothing beats beating Australia!


  1. If I were going to propose marriage to anyone, it would have to be Sybarite. If she weren't already in a relationship - and if I didn't love being single so much - and if I were a man, or if she was.