Okay, so you love Fish and Chips do you? Well then let me show you How To Make British Chips To Outshine Your Fish, says an American married to an old fashioned Brit!
Chips vs Fish
Be honest, when you order Fish and Chips, you are really after those fabulous potatoes.
The fish simply assures you that you have made a healthy choice!
Potatoes have a long and sometimes ugly history in reference to famine and poverty throughout Europe.
However, the stories and the history of what brought British Chips and Fish to our world today, are enlightening.
Allow me to share what I have learned from my colonial British husband on the topic.
Let’s Start With The Authentic British Fish Which Is Not Authentically British
Fish and Chips were first introduced to Britain by the Jewish community.
It all started in Holland, when the Jewish community fled for safety, to Great Britain, a well loved fish recipe came with them.
The Dutch, like the English, were great fishermen.
While in Holland the Jewish community was not allowed to do much in the way of industry, but fish is what was most commonly available to eat.
Finding yourself a Jewish immigrant in England, back at that time, meant you sought out familiar foods to cook with.
Fish was one of them.
Familiar, and the best way known at that time, to replicate a great meal!
The Beginning Of British Fish Warehouses
Working the north sea area’s coastline of England, the waters were a treasure in fish.
With the development of the railways, fish caught by the fleet in Great Britain from the east coast, could be brought into the innerland of Britain in vast quantities.
It was where the people of Britain became heavily populated, because of the factories.
Having left the farms, for work in the city areas, life as they knew it in the countryside, changed.
Railway made it possible to ship large volumes of fish from the coast, inland to the population centers.
It was there and then, that the fish warehouses became a necessity.
Fast Forward To Better Times And Best Fish Cooking Methods
It was in the mid 1800’s that Joseph Malin, an Eastern European Jewish Immigrant, opened the first ‘Chip Joint’!
As often was the case, in those times, a storefront was opened to sell goods and wares, while the family lived in the back of the storefront.
The contribution of this first storefront of Fish and Chips, turned this dish into the national dish of Britain.
The batter that was made to dip and fry the fish in, was made with flour and a fizzy beer.
Creating a luscious crisp casing around the fish, often Cod Fish, this recipe drew lines around the block of that tiny storefront.
The potatoes though… that was a different story.
My question to my historian minded hubby, was ‘why potatoes’?
Were they grown in the United Kingdom?
His reply, “Potatoes were easily available, easily cooked.
Britain was relatively wealthy.
The farmers were wealthy.
English grew potatoes, which originally came from South America, of which the British realized it to be a major staple and easy to grow.”
While I was living in Brazil, for a few years, potatoes were absolutely abundant!
So much so, that when I went to the grocery store, I never saw such mounds of potatoes in America as I saw in South America.
National Dish – British Chips And Fish – Rationing
As was written in War History Online:
“Alongside tea, the meal has since become a symbol of British culture, even though ironically its two main components come from different cultures.
During both world wars, Fish and Chips were one of the only meals that were consistently available.
It was feared that if the British population was denied their fish and chips morale would suffer.“
Hubby assured me that Fish and Chips were not rationed!
How Are British Chips Different From French Fries?
Aside from the fact that in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand this style of potato is call Chips, there really is no difference from the French Fries we know here in America.
Once the potatoes are cut, however you want to cut them, they must be rinsed in cold water to remove some or the starch.
Second important step, is to dry the moisture from the potatoes, not easy when you are cooking lots!
From here, the temperature of the oil is most important; too hot and it burns, not hot enough and you quickly end up with soggy potato sticks.
For this reason, and because I detest working with large amounts of hot oil, I created this fabulous Hot Chips recipe.
Golden Brown British Chips Without The Deep Fryer
I don’t know about you, but I have never been a fan of using a deep fat fryer.
Such a large amount of oil is needed, and then it can become rancid if saved for too long and reused.
Throwing out that amount of oil, after each use, just seems wasteful.
And so, I prefer to use a hot cast iron pan and only enough fat to cook with the amount I am intending to cook.
The secret, is in the batter!
Not a fizzy beer batter, where it often seems there is more breading around the fish, than fish.
Just a simple, light batter that makes them crisp, yet still a substantial potato.
Crispy British Chips
Imagine a thin batter that is derived simply by dredging the potato sticks in something wet and then something dry, of which both impart a bit of flavor.
Not a heavy batter, that becomes more batter than potato, just a light flavorful dusting.
Also imagine, not needing a gallon of oil to cook your chips in!
With the use of a hot cast iron pan, a little oil, butter or meat drippings, these dusted potato sticks are more crisp, than oil fried, more flavorful, and healthier than your beer-battered fish!
How To Outshine Your Fish
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1 – Make Holes
With an apple corer, remove as many long tubes of potato from a large Russet potato.
Creating cylinder pieces of potato, makes for a very attractive finished dish.
An entire circle of the potato slice has the chance to become golden and crisp, and not simply two flat sides.
Be sure to save what remains of the potato you poked holes in, for quick ‘smashed’ potatoes for another meal.
Step 2 – Blanch Potatoes
In a pot of boiling salted water, drop the potato pieces in, cover and quickly blanch them.
About 1-minute is all that is needed.
It helps remove some of the potato starch and allows them to cook quickly when they are dredged and dusted and cooked in a skillet.
Step 3 – Dredge
In one bowl, mix the milk, egg and garlic and lay the potato pieces in to coat.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, pepper and salt.
Lay the egg coated potatoes in and give a shake to dust all the sides of the potato.
Step 4 – Cook
Place oil and butter into a medium-hot cast iron pan.
Lay the dredged potato pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.
Turning, so all sides have a chance to cook to a golden brown.
Remove from the pan, lay on a cooling rack for just a few minutes, and serve.
Because Charles Dickens Said So!
Among many other fascinating artifacts, my husband has the full collection of leather bound Dickens Novels.
How exciting it was for me to find mentions in two of his novels pertaining to British Chips And Fish!
No need to run to the library, I’ve got them both right here for you!
“Confined as the limits of Field Lane are, it has its barber, its a coffee-shop, its beer-shop, and its fried-fish warehouse.”
A Tale Of Two Cities
“Hunger was shred into atomies in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.”
- Apple corer – for extracting potato shapes from a large Russet potato
- Medium pot with a lid – to blanch the potatoes
- Large skillet or Cast iron skillet
- 2 Dredging dishes
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Garlic press
- Paper towels
- Stovetop or burner
- Large Russet Potatoes
- Cayenne or black pepper
- Vegetable oil, or meat drippings (beef dripping or bacon fat)
Great Potato Recipes You Are Sure To Love
Oh, how we love our potatoes!
Over the years I’ve created so many delicious potato recipes, of which I am happy to share with you.
Other’s You are Sure To Love!
- Fancy French Fondant Potatoes – a classic potato recipe served with Beef Wellington
- Hasselback Potatoes – with an easy cutting tip
- Potato Latkes – perfect for serving poached eggs on top of
- Potato Salad – gotta have potato salad, but only if it’s with homemade olive oil mayo
- Potato Stuffed With Lobster Tails – a classic Mediterranean dish from Spain
How To Make British Chips To Outshine Your Fish
- Apple Corer
- Large cast iron skillet
- 4 Large Russet Potatoes scrubbed
- 1 Egg
- 1 Garlic clove crushed
- 1/4 cup Milk
- 1 cup Flour
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne or Black pepper
- 3 cups Water
- 1/4 cup Vegetable oil or meat drippings
- 2 tbsp Butter
- With an apple coring tool, remove as many tubular shaped potato pieces from the whole potato.
- Place the potatoes in a pot of boiling water with 1 teaspoon of salt, turn the heat to medium and simmer for 1-minutes. Remove and run under cold water.
- Lay the potato pieces out on a towel to dry the potatoes.
- Meanwhile, whisk the milk, garlic and egg in a bowl and place the dried potatoes into the mixture for 10-minutes, or overnight.
- Whisk together the flour, remaining salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Place the egg-washed potatoes into the flour mixture.
- Place a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat along with the oil and butter. Once the butter melts and begins to bubble slightly, place the flour dusted potatoes into the skillet and cook on all sides until golden brown. Remove and serve.