This dish is insane; What’s crispy is so crispy it’s practically impossible to keep a normal conversation going while you eat, the fish is so juicy it’s unheard of, and the fluffiness of the interior of the chips is out of this world. Like I said: Insane.
I must admit to a weakness for deep fried stuff. There’s just something utterly irresistible to the earth shattering crisp exterior and soft interior. But even the presence of fresh fish and vegetables will never make this dish healthy, so let us at least make it TOTALLY worth getting fat from!
Gourmet you say? You will find no shaved truffles here. You will find no mounds of Almas caviar. You will find no gold flakes, and you will find no grade A wagyu. What makes this take on the classic beer battered fish and chips “gourmet” is the exquisite simplicity of it: It is made simply, but it is extremely well made.
A bit Heston Blumenthal, a bit Gordon Ramsay, a bit of kitchen science and a whole lot of Norwegian pragmatism and access to the most incredible freshly caught North Atlantic cod (Norwegian Skrei, which is in season right now), and winter potatoes straight from a local farmer has gone into this dish.
Mini Masterclass: The key to the crunch!
It’s pretty obvious when you think about it; the presence of humidity prevents things from crisping up, so driving out exterior moisture is the number one goal in this recipe.
There are thankfully very easy ways of doing that.
Let’s start with the fish: Simply salting it at least 30 minutes before frying makes a staggering difference. The salt will, through the process of osmosis, drive out a lot of excess moisture, firm up its flesh for a better texture, and make it retain more moisture and thus become juicier. Kitchen science FTW.
Next up is the batter: I have tried so many variations of beer batter it’s not even funny; from the simplest to the most elaborate beer & vodka based batter from a siphon, the one I’m about to share now is the best one to date. And it’s stupid simple.
When you bake bread with long fermentation time, you get a crust like no other. The reason for that is that enzymes over time breaks down the complex carbohydrates in the flour to simpler carbohydrates, and it is these simple carbohydrates that creates the amazing crust of a proper sourdough bread.
So that is what we’ll do: put sourdough starter in our batter. And if you don’t have a sourdough starter, just let the batter sit in the fridge overnight for pretty much the same results.
And finally the potatoes: The perfect potato is a quite large potato with high dry matter – starchy, not waxy.
Dry matter (DM) is the total solid contents minus water content. This consists of structural compounds, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, nutrients, pigments, fats, and sugars.
In Norway, this would be Beate or Asterix. In North America it’s Idaho, Russet or Yukon Gold. The very best potatoes for fries are older winter potatoes (November-March), so don’t go making this in the summer, as you’ll only end up with pale, limp and very sad chips.
- 800 g cod fish, fresh as you can get*
- 1 kg starchy potatoes
- 1.5 liter oil for frying
*You could probably use any kind of fresh white fish, but haddock, cod or some of the other true cod fish like cusk makes amazing fish and chips.
The beer batter
- 100 g corn starch
- 100 g wheat flour
- 100 g low hop beer*
- 50 g water
- 1 egg, yolk and white separated
- 100 g sourdough starter
- 10 g fine sea salt
*Ideally use a English style ale, like a Mild or Bitter. A Pilsner would work too.
- 200 g mayo
- 100 g sour cream or crème fraiche
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp capers, chopped
- 2 tbsp pickled cucumbers, chopped
- 2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
- Fine sea salt salt to taste
The mushy peas
- 400 g highest quality frozen peas
- 30 g real butter
- Fine sea salt to taste
1 lemon in wedges to serve
Everything with this dish can be made well ahead.
Mix together everything for the batter except the egg. Let sit for as long as you like. Overnight in the fridge is fine.
If you don’t have a sourdough starter, simply omit it, add an additional 50 g water and 50 g flour, and let it sit overnight in the fridge instead.
Next, make the tartar sauce. Simply mix together everything and let sit for as long as you like. Overnight in the fridge is fine.
You can start with the potatoes days or weeks ahead if you like, and simply freeze them after the first round of deep frying.
First peel the potatoes and cut into rustic steak house fries, so they have some texture and oomph. Next boil in unsalted water until they nearly start breaking up, but still hold together. Carefully lift them onto a wire rack to steam off for about an hour. Or four, if that suits your schedule better.
Next, deep fry the potatoes at 130C until they are juuuust starting to take on a little bit of colour. Lift them out with the slotted spoon and onto the wire rack to steam off.
Bring the oil up to 180C.
Take your batter out of the fridge. Separate the egg yolk and white. The yolk is mixed straight into the batter; the white is whipped stiff, then folded into the batter. This is what makes the batter light – no need for baking powder!
Make sure you have seasoned your fish with fine sea salt at least 30 minutes ahead. Pat dry your fish. Dredge in flour. Shake of excess flour, then dip into the batter and deep fry until golden crispy. Set aside on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil, toss in the still frozen peas, and just when the water boils again, drain, then mash well. Mix in the butter and season with salt to taste. Keep warm under lid.
Give the chips a final go in the 180C oil until deep golden brown and crunchy. Set aside on the wire rack and give it a quick sprinkle of fine sea salt.
Give the fish a final dip in the oil, just to crisp it up right before serving; a minute or two should drive off whatever moisture might be left.
Plate the chips and fish nicely along with a helping of mushy peas, tartar sauce and lemon wedges for the fish.
We love to wash it down with a proper Extra Special Bitter. Fuller’s ESB is our favorite, but Old Speckled Hen is not bad either 🙂