Battered fish and chips. It’s about as quintessentially kiwi as gumboots and L&P. We’ve all had great fish and chips, lightly battered, golden fried, succulently fresh and crunchy. But how do you get that same great, crispy texture at home? Well, you’re about to find out.
Forget all that beer battered fish nonsense. This is the perfect crispy fish batter recipe.
I’m going to let you in on 2 great secrets. The first is my Mum’s secret batter recipe. The second is a tip for making chips I picked up from a chef while working in the kitchen at Vinnies in Raglan (many, *ahem* many moons ago).
Let’s start with the fish first. It has to be fresh. And that means getting down to your fish-mongers, or better still buying it straight from the wharf. There’s lots of places in New Zealand you can do this. And it’s worth your time buying direct from the source.
Once you’ve had super-fresh, day-old fish, you’ll never look twice at those slightly greying, limp fillets at the supermarket again!
And now that you’ve found a great source for fresh fish, what sort of fish should you buy? In New Zealand, I recommend either gurnard, or small fillets of snapper. The larger fillets don’t shallow fry well at all.
In Australia it’s probably snapper or barramundi. These fillets are often huge. So you might need to slice into 3 or 4 smaller pieces. You may even need to slice the fillet lengthwise to create 2 thinner fillets.
In the UK, it’ll be cod or halibut. I have no idea what you guys are eating over there in the US. But any white-fleshed fillet that’s smaller in size, or can be cut into smaller pieces will work fine.
As for the chips, any good quality roasting potato will make a good chip. The more floury the potato the better for crisping up. So you want to look for something like Agria.
When you slice the Agria potatos into 1cm strips, try to slice them as uniformly as you can. The easiest way is to slice each potato lengthwise into 3-4 1cm thick pieces. Then slice each of these in half. This should more or less give you a chip that’s 1x1cm.
Note the tip in the recipe below about blanching the chips in boiling water. This is the great tip I got when I was working at Vinnies. Blanching the chips in boiling water seals the outside of the chip, creating that perfect crunch.
Then you bake them on a crazy-high heat. 250c is good. It seems really hot, but you’ll open the oven a couple of times during roasting, which will let some heat out. If you try and bake your chips at 200c, like many recipes suggest, letting all that heat out will result in a limp, soggy chip. Not good!
And now for the super secret fish batter tips.
It’s probably not all that secret actually. I’m sure my Mum would have gotten her batter recipe from a Women’s Weekly magazine or something. But she’s very proud of her secret batter recipe. And it definitely makes an awesome fish batter.
Her first super-secret tip is to always use self-raising flour. This is what creates that light, puffy batter that crisps up to perfection in the hot oil.
Her second secret tip is to lightly dust the fillets in flour before dipping them into the batter. This helps the batter to stick, and creates a crispy skin between the fillet and the batter. This little pocket of air prevents the fish from being steamed too much inside the batter.
Something else to note, is to only fry 2 – 3 fillets at a time, max. As soon as the cold batter hits that hot oil, the oil will cool down really quickly. If it stays too cool, for too long, because you’ve filled up the fry pan with fish, the batter won’t crisp up and the fish will take too long to cook.
Although this recipe makes a really light and crispy fish and chip, there’s still a lot of oil involved. You definitely want to serve with a really fresh summer salad to cleanse the palate a bit. Lemon or lime wedges are a must to bring out the flavour of the fish.
Our favourite fresh salad is just a bed of crispy rocket leaves with sliced tomato, capsicum, radish and cucumber. We might add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. But sometimes we just squeeze over some lemon juice, and that’s it.
Wash down this summer Kiwi classic with a really light lager, like a Corona with a lemon slice, or a really citrusy Reisling, like the Fanny Limehead.
Battered Fish and Chips Recipe
Battered Fish and Chips Recipe
- 6 gurnard fillets
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- Canola oil for deep frying
- 8-10 large Agria potatoes (or any floury potato)
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp chicken salt
Preheat oven to 250c.
Slice the potatoes lengthwise into 3-4 1cm thick slices. Then cut each slice into 2-3 1cm chips.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the chips, and blanch in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain the water, then leave the chips to drain on a teatowel.
Lay them in a single layer on a large roasting tray. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, then sprinkle over chicken salt. Toss to coat.
Bake in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Turn the chips twice during cooking.
Add at least 5cm of canola oil to a high-sided, heavy saucepan, and heat on the stovetop on a high heat.
Lightly dust the fish fillets in a little flour to coat.
Add the self-raising flour and salt to a bowl. Mix the milk and water together, then gradually beat into the flour. Keep adding in the water/milk mixture until the batter is about piklet batter consistency.
Test how hot your oil is. Add a drop of batter and it should hit the oil and bubble instantly. If the oil begins to smoke, it's too hot, remove from the heat straight away.
Drag fillets through the batter to coat, then fry in the hot oil, 2-3 fillets at a time.
Fry for around 2 minutes, then flip, and fry for another 2 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
Drain the fillets on each side on paper towels as you fry the rest. Pop them onto baking paper in a warming oven, if you have one.
Season the chips with more salt if required. Serve with lemon wedges, and a fresh summer salad of rocket leaves and raw veg. Don't forget the Tom Sauce!