Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

They’re good but they’re not right

Battered fish...Tastes so so good!

Battered fish…Tastes so so good!

Did you clock that semi-row that erupted through the media last week about deep-fat fryers?

I say ‘semi-row’ because I’m pretty certain these things are orchestrated in order to foist TV celebs into the spotlight so they can promote their respective programmes. I think I’m becoming more and more cynical the more I age.

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Last week though, it was wooden-spoons at dawn!

In the red corner, Marvellous Mary Berry comes out fighting with the firmly held opinion that no family should own a deep-fat fryer as they’re so detrimental to a person’s health.

In the blue corner, Greeeeeeeeeg the Baldy one from Masterchef retorts with no little venom, that deep-fat fryers are an essential part of our nation’s culture and that generations of people were reared on chips and spam fritters.

See what I mean about ‘semi-row’?

Mary of course, was promoting her new series of the Great British Bake-off whereas, whilst Greg’s Masterchef isn’t on at the moment, they do both work for the Beeb. What’s worse than a storm in a teacup? A gust of wind in a thimble?

Anyway, without harping on too much about the pros and/or cons of the deep-fat fryer, as coincidence would have it, I was asked for my recipe for battered fish this week. Though as you can imagine, that person wasn’t Mary Berry.

I’ll say only this: I find it ironic that someone like Mary Berry who hosts a show about baking cakes should be condemning people for eating chips. Sugary cakes and biscuits are arguably worse for a body than the odd chip. So there, Mrs Berry.

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This is my recipe for battering fish and it works really well for any meaty white variety, hake, cold, pollock, ling, etc. And if you really wanted to annoy the Mary Berry in your life, this one could also be used for making onions rings. But to paraphrase yer man off Catchphrase, “They’re good but they’re not right.”

INGREDIENTS (for any sort of battered fish – or onion rings)
about half a bottle of cold lager
4oz of plain flour, plus more for dusting
heaped teaspoon of baking powder
your fish fillets
seasoning
Note: This amount of batter will comfortably coat four of five big fillets but even if I’m only battering a couple, I still make the same amount. It’s less fiddley and you have to open a beer anyway.

THE PLAN
Start off by seasoning your fish. A sprinkling of salt and pepper on either side of the fillet will not only season it, it will also draw some of the moisture out of the fish, leaving it that bit more meaty and firm.

In a large bowl add the flour and the baking powder and then whisk in the beer, glug at a time. You’ll only need about half a bottle and you can imagine what I do with the rest. I pour it down the sink – God forbid!

Whisk away, dribbling in the beer until you have a shiny batter that has the consistency of really thick double cream. The odd lump doesn’t really matter.

Pre-heat your deep fat fryer to 190˚C and pre-heat your oven to 170.

Pat your fish dry with a piece of kitchen paper and then dust lightly on both sides with a few pinches of flour. Plunge said fish into the batter, coating entirely. Allow the excess to drip off and then immediately lower the fillet gently into the hot oil. Do NOT add to the wire basket and then add to the oil. It will stick to the basket and you will consider wrecking the kitchen in a rage.

Let it sizzle for between three to four minutes or until golden and irresistible. Drain well and then retire to some kitchen paper to drain further.

Place your fillet onto a baking sheet and then bang in the oven for another four or five minutes (depending on thickness) to finish the cooking. I always do a single fillet first and then judge how to adjust the cooking time for the rest.

These battered fish fillets goes mightily well with a simple potato salad but if you’re feeling like Greg the Bald one, some home-made chips and mushy peas will go down a bomb.

Seriously though, Spam fritters?

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