#nationalfishandchipday - 3rd June 2016
The dish which was once considered so important that Winston Churchill wouldn't ration it during WWII due to fears of triggering widespread discontent is given a day of devotion today.
Great, glorious British Fish & Chips from a great and glorious fish and chip shop anywhere in Britain can be a heavy challenge to the digestive system. At least, it has become so for my wife and me in later years. We still can't resist the occasional trip for traditional punishment, whether it be from a takeaway or at a Formica-topped seaside restaurant table.
What follows is now our much more regular (at least once a fortnight) way of enjoying a classic. I will find it very hard to forgive you if you don't source your fish from the best supplier possible. Forget the supermarkets and seek out a proper wet fish shop, a good fish van or drive to Grimsby Fish Docks like I did to buy haddock for our meal tonight.
Haddock fillets. Cut a sheet of baking paper large enough to go under and fold over the pieces of fish. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with almost no oil whatsoever. Place on an oven tray with the paper covering and bake at 200°C for about ten minutes... until the flesh has not completely surrendered and is flaky and still looks slightly 'glassy'.
The lack of batter here might put off a few but if you've taken the trouble to find good ingredients why mess about with them? With this approach, you get rid of all that messy deep fat frying too.
Wedges, actually. King Edwards for preference. Cut each potato into six or eight 'Toblerone' shaped pretenders according to their size. Don't bother peeling the skins. Boil in salted water for fifteen minutes and drain. When relatively dry, tip into an oven tray which has a light drizzle of oil on the base and has been heated for ten minutes in that 200°C oven. I added thyme sprigs and crushed cloves of garlic. If you aren't prepared to follow me to the letter, just go with your own ideas... cayenne, rosemary and lemon rinds have all made an appearance here over time. Back in the oven for fifty minutes before serving.
The 'chips' are cooking first, of course. I'm letting you make notes on a piece of scrap paper with strict instructions on timing so that all comes tidily together for plating.
Halve a punnet of cherry tomatoes and put them flat-side down on a tray with a glug of olive oil. Once all are positioned, slide them around and turn onto their curved side. Sprinkle the glistening tops with torn basil and grind more salt and pepper on them than you think is dignified. Prepare these and put in the oven after the fish has gone in. They will get about forty minutes and hopefully caramelise a little in places. Keep an eye on them and take out and rest somewhere warm if they are getting too well done.
Buy a 300g can of Harry Ramsden's Mushy Peas for each couple you are feeding. Heat in a microwave. Sometimes cooking is a doddle, eh.
When all is ready (you did make those notes on timings, didn't you?) serve on pre-heated plates and make ketchup and HP brown sauce available. You might want to add vinegar or find a recipe for tartare sauce. I was so excited about having a special day devoted to one of my favourite meals that those last two were left out.
Don't wait until the third of June next year. This is a great way to enjoy iconic ingredients which really aren't so very difficult to cook at home.