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Much Ado About Fish and Chips

fish and chipsIf Charles Dickens could have sat down with William Shakespeare for a little chat, we know he would have set the bard straight. When it comes to choosing the right London pub for Fish and Chips, it’s never an ado about nothing. The details do matter. Are the mushy peas mushy enough? Do the edges of the fried cod curl into tiny ridges? And do they serve malt vinegar at the table? All extremely important questions to be considered. For research purposes, we kept ordering this dish until the pubs threw us out. So, we decided to perfect our own recipe. After a lot of smoke alarms and a few burnt cod, we think we hit the mark. We’re pretty sure our recipe for fish and chips would definitely have Oliver Twist begging for more, please.


Serves 4                                        Total Time: 60 Minutes [25 minutes preparation; 35 minutes cooking]



The Fish                                                                       The Chips

2 cups all-purpose flour                                          4 quarts safflower oil

1 tablespoon baking powder                                  4 large Russet potatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt                                             Kosher salt to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

6 fluid ounces seltzer

6 fluid ounces beer (BT suggests Boddingtons ale)

4 fillets (6 ounces each) of firm-fleshed whitefish (tilapia, pollock, or cod)

1 cup cornstarch, for dredging


1. Preheat the oven to 200℉ (93.33℃). Heat oil in a deep 6 quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until it registers 325℉ (163℃) on a thermometer.

2. Peel potatoes and halve them lengthwise, then cut lengthwise again into ½-inch-thick wedges. Transfer the cut pieces immediately into a large bowl of ice and cold water while the oil comes to temperature.

3. When the oil is at temperature, drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with paper towels. Fry one-third of the potatoes in the safflower oil, dropping in one at a time to keep the potatoes from sticking together. Fry until well browned, about 5 minutes each batch. Drain and transfer with a slotted spoon to fresh paper towels.

4. Fry the remaining potatoes in batches, making sure the oil heats back up to 325℉ (163℃) between batches. Once the residual oil has been absorbed by the paper towel, season with kosher salt then transfer the fries to a foil-lined baking sheet into the preheated oven.

5. Once the potatoes are staying warm in the oven, raise the oil temperature to 375℉ (190.5℃).

6. Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper, and Old Bay seasoning in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the seltzer and beer. Whisk one cup of the liquid mixture into the dry mixture bowl to create the batter. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream, so add more beer/seltzer mixture until you get the right consistency. Keep the batter chilled until use. *

7. Put 1 cup cornstarch in a shallow bowl or plate and coat your fish completely, then dip the fish into the batter allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Working in two batches, gently slide the battered fish into the hot oil.

8. Fry until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes for each fish. Remove from the oil and hold in the preheated oven while you fry the remaining fillets.

9. Plate your fried fish with the potato fries. Serve with malt vinegar and a side of English peas.

* BT Tip: The batter can be made up to 1 hour ahead of cooking time.

15 replies »

  1. I seem to keep finding fish and chip shops in London posts this week!

    First, I don’t come from London, I’m from the north, and a big fish and chip shop area when I grew up, we had two in our street within spitting distance. Secondly, my grandparents at one point ran a fish and chip shop. Thirdly, again where I come from, the fish used is haddock, cod by request but no one ever did because we all preferred haddock. Fourthly, no comment on the chips, but loads on the batter. Not only can it be made an hour in advance, it should be, like pancake and Yorkshire pudding batter. But, as I recall, my mother just used flour and water, as does my Spanish neighbour when she makes batter. There were no other ingredients apart from a pinch of salt. Fifthly, the haddock was lightly dredged with ordinary flour. My mother may have done a double coating of batter.

    Onto commercial chip pies again. Far better served/wrapped in newspaper. The excitement of unwrapping the newspaper was amazing. And, you had to ask for ‘scraps’. I loved mushy peas, we didn’t usually have them with home cooked fish and chips but always bought them from the chippy. And don’t forget specials and doubles…

  2. The first time I ordered fish and chips in London I was surprised it came with mushy peas. I’m not a pea fan at all. Mushy or not. This looks yummy.

    • The same thing happened to me and I was sure I wouldn’t like it, because of the way it looked! Then I had a taste and became a fan. It still looks weird to me, but I try to look past that. 🙂

    • Good question! The reason for using beer to batter the fish is because the carbonation allows the batter to be light and fluffy when fried and the malted grains add flavor. Good substitutes would be to introduce more seltzer water or club soda for fluffiness while increasing the seasonings so the flavor doesn’t disappear. Another option would be to use a hard cider which would provide both the bubbles and a different flavor profile. Good luck with the recipe!

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