07/04/2014 10:18 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 06:59 BST

Fast Food #5: Fish and Chips


This picture brings it all back. Seaweedy swimming togs, sandy buckets and spades and wet towels. Your dad cleaning globs of tar off your feet with a rag dipped in petrol.

Being stuck inside a gently steaming caravan with rain drumming on the roof, your siblings squabbling and your parents getting increasingly ratty, trying to stay between the lines in your colouring book with wax crayons that were too fat and clumsy and broke at the wrong moment.

You wouldn't think it was possible to get that nostalgic about a family holiday on the east coast of England, where the weather was famously "bracing" when it wasn't actually raining.

But oh the good bits: sploshing about in the sea until you turned blue and had to be towelled back to life; chasing elusive little fish in rockpools; fishing for crabs off the pier; being taught to swim by your father; building sandcastles; going for ice creams; riding on donkeys.

And eating fish and chips in a fuggy car on a drizzly day, the smell of grease and malt vinegar mixed with slightly damp newspaper wrapping and damper dog.

Ah joy. I think this is still my favourite takeaway.


We sat on a bench on the seafront at Aldburgh recently and scoffed fish and chips from the packet and it was lovely, except for the thuggish gang of seagulls with evil yellow eyes sidling up and screeching for scraps.

So, how to replicate the experience at home, minus the scene from The Birds?

Apart from spankingly fresh and sustainably-sourced fish, what really makes fish and chips such a pleasure is the batter.

It has to be light and crisp and keep the fish perfectly moist and flaky inside. It shouldn't suck up and retain huge amounts of oil like some versions you get in fish and chip shops. Ick.

This batter is, I think, perfect. It can almost make you feel you're not eating something fattening.


Beer-Battered Fish and Chips

This makes enough batter for at least three large fillets.


200g plain flour

1 1/2 tspn baking powder

275 ml ice-cold lager

Pinch of salt

1 large fillet of white fish per person - such as sustainably-fished cod, haddock or pollack.

Sunflower oil for cooking


Heat the oil until sizzling in a deep fat fryer or to a depth of a couple of inches in a deep frying pan (I know you know hot oil is dangerous but please be careful).

Make the batter just before you want to start frying. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk in the lager to make a thick, smooth batter.


Dip the fish in the batter, coating thoroughly, then lay it in the hot fat and cook for 5-6 minutes until golden brown, turning it halfway through if necessary. Drain on kitchen paper and serve straight away.


I'm not going to tell you how to cook chips, not least because I cheated and used a low-fat fryer, but this does give me the chance to talk about a couple of kitchen gadgets.

The first is as cheap as, yes, chips, and is stupidly good fun to use.


It costs about a tenner and it makes perfectly uniform chips in one of two sizes.

You bung a peeled potato into it, pull down on the handle, and out pop the chips. Simples.


The second is the low-fat fryer, one of my husband's favourite bits of kit. You throw in your chips and a tablespoon of oil, and hot air and a paddle do the rest.


Does it make chips as good as a full-fat fryer? No.

Does it use less oil and require less cleaning? Yes and yes.

Would I buy it again? Given how infrequently we use it and how ridiculously expensive it was, no, not really.

The low-tech, high-fat, beer-battered fish, though, was wonderful.



You can find other recipes for fast - and slow - food at Mrs Portly's Kitchen.