150 years ago, the first fish and chip shop was set up in Cleveland Street, London. Since then, the recipe has changed very little, only what was considered “an offensive trade” in the 19th century, is now a staple for many celebrated British chefs.
Fish and Chips at Canteen in Baker Street
Fried-potato shops apparently spread down south from Scotland and these establishments naturally paired well with fried-fish shops that were making their way north from the south of England. While I’m sure people had eaten the combination before, it wasn’t until 1860 that Jewish proprietor Joseph Malin opened the first proper British chippie.
Today, munching on a take-away of fish and chips is ingrained in British culture. It’s not only in your classic high-street chippie, but in much more up-market restaurants like Geales – even chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsey regularly list the popular dish on their menus.
My most recent episode of fish and chips was at Canteen, (my new favourite restaurant) where founding partner and chef Cass Titcombe gave me a few top tips on how to make the best fish and chips. My plate came with two different types one breaded and one battered, so I could try the difference – While the breaded fish was quite delicious, the batter was absolutely sublime and definitely my preferred choice!
Cass’s top 10 tips:
- Choose your fat – the north of England prefers a meat-based fat, but the south prefers vegetable. A meat-based oil has a better flavour.
- Decide on your cooking method, are you going to use batter or breaded fish?
- If you use batter, brush the battered fish in oil to set it before frying it, or it will stick to the bottom of the pan
- What fish are you going to use? Haddock is Cass’s favourite as it has lots of flavour but fresh and is always best
- Keep the fat/oil clean, don’t reuse
- Make your chips out of Maris Piper potatoes
- Cook your chips in two stages. (For small-ish chips) 130 deg for 5/6 mins; leave to cool; then 190 deg for 3 mins
- If you plan to batter your fish, use beer, or a pale ale, which makes a lighter batter
- If you want to bread the fish instead, then it is easier to gauge the cooking time if you use white, not brown, bread
- When using dried peas, never put salt in the water when you soak them
While this blog post is supposed to be about fish and chips, I can’t resist writing about Canteen, I was so pleasantly impressed that I plan to go back and sample everything else on the menu. The mission statement of the chain (detailed in it’s fantastic recipe book, Great British Food), the design, the menu, the atmosphere – everything about Canteen is right…I just can’t wait to try their pies!
If you ever get a chance to go to one of its four restaurants across London, (Spitalfields, Baker Street, Royal Festival Hall, and Canary Wharf) please do let me know what you think, I guarantee you will be converted for ever!