Fish, chips and sauce

Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times suggests that cooking in beer is almost as good an experience as drinking the stuff. He says beer is a complex set of tastes almost the equal of wine as a cooking liquid. But, unlike wine, you can use beer in the same volume as you would water or stock. So what has this got to do with fish and chips? Read on, dear reader, read on …

Fish, chips and sauce
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To make a truly superior fish and chip experience for four lucky diners, you will need:

  • 1 room temperature bottle of lager
  • 4 hake fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup general purpose flour
  • ½ cup Maizena
  • Sunflower oil on demand
  • 8 potatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper on demand

And for the sauces:

  • 200ml mayonnaise
  • 1 small sweet and sour pickled cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon pickling masala
  • Some sprigs of fresh coriander (dhania)

It’s a good idea to begin with the sauces, since you will want to dish up the fried components as soon as they are ready.
Decant 100ml of mayonnaise into a bowl. Coarsely chop the capers and pickled cucumber and mix them with the mayonnaise. Pour into a small serving container and…that’s it. Finished. Unless of course you want to do it slightly differently, which will involve macerating the ingredients in a food processor. This will create a totally smooth, slightly green, highly flavoured paste.

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Both versions are excellent.

Sauce number two is a lightly curried job, which involves mixing the remaining mayonnaise with a teaspoon of pickling masala. A dash of red Tabasco adds its own magic. Decant into a small serving container and dress with a leaf or two of fresh dhania. Now for the hake. Pour the flour and Maizena into a bowl, with a teaspoon or two of freshly ground black pepper. Add half a cup of warm beer plus the two eggs. Mix this to create a sticky paste. Pour this mixture into a flat dish and dip the hake fillets into it, ensuring that both sides are well covered by the raw batter.

Select a deep fryer or high-sided frying pan. Pour in fresh sunflower oil to a depth of 25ml and bring this up to high heat. Pay extra attention to what you are doing from this point onwards. Accidents happen to the nicest people. Immerse the battered fillets in the hot oil and fry for two minutes a side or until they are done the way you like them. Remove, arrange on brown paper to drain, then keep them warm under cover.

Using the same, or alternatively, fresh oil, and at high heat, fry the peeled and chipped potatoes. A Swiss buddy of mine who believes that chips were invented by his people, likes to fry his chips for a second time after a short sojourn on fresh brown paper. He says – and who am I to doubt him? – that the second frying crisps up the outer shell, leaving the interior soft and luxuriously chip-like.

Serve this glorious meal with both sauces available to diners, plus coarse salt for the chips and maybe even for the fish as well. Leave the final seasoning to each individual diner.