We are not Catholic. A strange way to introduce a topic, I know, but that is the most popular question when I speak to people about Friday night fish& chips. There is no religious or spiritual reason we have this on Fridays other than joy, gluttony and oftentimes some sloth. Whatever the reason, unless something pretty important comes up, we have fish & chips on Friday nights… and we and the girls watch movies. It is the highlight of most weeks for both our girls – and truth be told us too! Our eldest is on her way to Cape Town for a week on Sunday, which is causing me some sadness, so when she asked me to add Fish & Chips to the recipes, I did not quite know how to let her down! It is a little bit of a cheat, mostly it is super simple, but with some variations here and there, this is our Friday night supper. It is also a cheat because we do not supply fish. Or potatoes until we manage to find a reliable supplier! But this is a sentimental post, so forgive me please. We used to have it out, then when Coco was old enough, we got takeaways so she could watch a movie. Eventually we (the adults) could not stand the thought of it anymore, so it became a home affair! Trust me, nothing tastes better than making it yourself, even the kids agree – and that’s saying something! We really do change it up a lot – from salmon, to kingklip to hake or sole (try skate wing, it’s delicious!). We bake, grill or fry… we like to play. Here is a rough idea… this time with a beer batter and tartare.
200ml best quality mayonnaise (make your own if you want)
2 gherkins finely chopped (not giants)
2Tbl capers finely chopped
clove of garlic minced
2Tbl flat leaf parsley finely chopped
For the chips
5 large potatoes scrubbed and cut into chunky chips
grape seed oil
250-300g freshest hake per person
50ml soda water
oil for frying
Salt & Pepper
I start with the tartare. If you have time, make the mayonnaise yourself, nothing really compares. If you are pressed or would rather just relax with a glass of wine, dollop you best store-bought mayonnaise into a little bowl. Add the gherkin, capers, parsley and garlic. Mix carefully, it will be quite thick, now add a squeeze of fresh lemon and some salt and pepper to taste, give another stir, taste and adjust seasoning. If you have and you like add some finely chopped fresh tarragon – very French!
Now the chips, turn the oven to 200° but don’t worry about bringing it to temperature, I actually prefer it not to be. Put your chipped potatoes into a dish in a singlish layer. Drizzle with a couple of spoons of grape seed oil, sprinkle with salt and some paprika and give a good toss with your hands to coat chips thoroughly before putting in the oven. They need to cook for about 30-40mins, give them a good shake halfway through and a good turn over with a spatula about 10 mins before the end. Keep an eye on them though, don’t let them burn, but you want them nice and crispy.
Cut your fish into suitable portions. Lightly coat the fish in well-seasoned cornflour – either in a packet or on a plate. Set the fish aside. Put a large, deep pan on a med-high heat and pour in your oil. I like to keep it quite shallow but if you want to deep fry – do. I do about an inch of oil. While you wait for the oil to heat up to around 180°, measure the flour and cornflour into a large bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper and make a well in the middle. Pour the beer and sparkling water into the well and whisk until well incorporated and smooth, adjust if you need to. I find ratios vary depending on the flour I use. To test the temperature of the oil, drop a bit of batter in and if it’s beautifully golden in about 30 seconds, it is ready. Now hold the hake firmly but delicately and drag it through the batter, hold briefly to let the excess drip off and then carefully lower into the oil. I cook it for about 4mins before turning, but for deep frying about 5 mins should do. Use your eyes here – you know what colour it should be to be delectable, so go for that. Don’t overcrowd the pan, do it in batches and place on paper towel when cooked.
Our usual with this is creamed spinach instead of mushy peas, sometimes with some al dente tenderstem broccoli tossed in balsamic and olive oil and maybe with the most basic of salads – think sliced avocado and maybe a baby tomato if in season. But simply as is will do. I like to serve it with a wedge of lemon, but a drizzle of vinegar is great too. On a Friday after a long week, we insist on a lovely glass of chilled wine to accompany it, but the girls gobble it up happily without.
Serve it with gay abandon…and a movie of your choice!