Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Too many shops trying to cook the cheapest food, in the cheapest oil, and with as many other ethnic dishes as possible. Visions of chunks of batter slopping around in half an inch of grease, and chips that are French Fries, and nothing that remotely resembles my holiday favorite.
At itís best, fish and chips more closely resembles an art form! In my 'yoof', I suspect the shops fried in dripping. My Mum certainly did. It wasnít lard, Iíd remember the smell, but nowadays, the best shops use sunflower oil.
The batter should be thin, coating the fish but not smothering it. The fat should be REALLY hot, smoking in fact, so that the batter puffs up and crisps up, while the fish cooks quickly though before the batter absorbs any oil. Soggy, greasy fish, comes from the fat not being hot enough! (Not easy to achieve with today's thermostatically controlled fryers)
The chips should be thick, half an inch across, chunky chips, not double fried, not oven chips (yuk) and real potato, not some reconstituted rubbish! Again, the fat should be so hot that the outside of the chips crisp up, while the potato inside remains fluffy.
The chips can wait, draining for a moment, while the fish achieves a wonderful warm golden colour, it takes 7 minutes, then you have perfection.
My local shop is excellent. It is run by a family of Turks, and they stick to traditional fish, with the usual sausages, pies and chicken. No kebabs, curry or pizza. But the best shop Iíve ever found, is near where my daughter lives in Aberdeen, Scotland.
It is being run by the third generation of this Scottish family, and they have an accent so broad my daughter has to translate for me, as they speak the local dialect, Doric, and I find it easier understanding the Turks!
The shop is five minutes walk from Aberdeen harbour, (any closer and the cod could flap their way in under their own steam) and the fish is bought there early each morning. By 9pm, earlier on a weekend, the queue is snaking around the shop, and outside and round the corner. Depending on the weather of course whether thereís more people inside or outside! Thereís lotís of Ďhey now lassieí and arm waving, as the people joining the back of the queue, dart in, place their order, and dart back to the end of the queue again, knowing it will be cooked by the time they get to the front.
Each time someone opens the door and comes out clutching their fish supper, an equal number of bodies squeeze in! Thereís a fair amount of good natured banter about the food coming out and the people paying for it.
The fish supper you actually get is a bit of a lottery, since by the time you reach the head of the queue, youíve:-
forgotten what youíve ordered,
you canít see because your glasses are all steamed up, and
the person in front of you is treading on your toes and missing either their pickled egg, or their gherkin!
Still, cod, haddock or rock salmon who cares.
Itís my national dish and I love it. Not for everyday, but all things in moderation.