Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Fish and chips

Personally, it always annoys me slightly that whenever you ask someone to think of an example of British food, the first thing they'll almost always say is fish and chips!  Whether we like it or not, I guess this dish has become the icon of British food.  According to the Wikipedia article, Fish and Chips as a dish originated in the UK in either 1858 or 1863, so it's certainly been around for sometime.  It is actually quite hard to think of another, similarly iconic British dish, unless you start thinking of Chicken Tikka Masala and that sort of thing.
Anyway, I felt that I wanted a change from my usual boiled potatoes the other day, so I set about making my own chips, which I had with a salmon fillet, so this isn't your classic fish and chips dish by any means.

 So, to make chips, first cut a large potato into chip-like shapes.  This was actually a baking potato and I know that 'professional' chip makers think that the variety of potato makes a huge difference to the quality of the final chips.  They are probably right and I think a lot of it has to do with water content, with a higher water content being better.  These were Estima potatoes, grown in Suffolk and they seemed to work well.  I deep fried them in olive oil, keeping the heat below the smoke point of the oil.  Now, I could have used the cold pressed rape seed oil which I've used for various things here before, perhaps I should have done really given that it's British, but it is also quite expensive!  Of course, it's smoke point is much higher than that of olive oil, which may have made it better, but to be honest, the olive oil seemed to work quite well.

 I let them fry, stirring them around occasionally, until they just started to brown.  I then removed them from the oil and allowed them to cool completely, which took about 20 minutes, before putting them back in the hot oil for another 15 to 20 minutes to finish off.  It is really important to let them cool completely like this if you want them to be crispy on the outside and nice and soft and fluffy on the inside!  It takes a bit of time, but it's worth it.

 So, after letting them cool (as shown in the above picture), I fried them again to give the finished result:

 They really were extremely good, even if I do say so myself!  The crispy outside layer had swollen up and separated from the fluffy inside on many of them, which gave them the most delightful texture.  The olive oil also seemed to impart a good flavour.  Of course, you always need to be careful deep frying things like this, but I used the absolute minimum amount of oil in the pan and had a damp dish cloth ready in case of a fire!  I'd recommend that you do the same if you try making chips this way.

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