• Chef Dylan

BEER BATTERED FLATHEAD



With Father’s Day coming up I began thinking about a meal my father taught me to make. As I was searching through my memory files suddenly the sight of my dad pulling the ring on a can of Tooheys, him sneaking a cheeky swig and then pouring the golden coloured liquid into a bowl with the unmistakable yeasty smell mixing with the flour filling the air flashed before my mind’s eye.

This recipe is very simple and as a kid I loved the crunchy batter and the soft flakey fish inside. You can add some homemade chips and a simple salad and you will have a classic pub meal on the table in about 45 minutes. If you have a keen fisherman in the family, buying a deep fryer is very inexpensive and you will get a lot of use from it especially when the proud hunter brings home the catch of the day.


Did you know? Beer makes such a great base for batter because it simultaneously adds three ingredients - carbon dioxide, foaming agents and alcohol - each of which brings to bear different aspects of physics and chemistry to make the batter light and crisp. The alcohol in the beer also plays an important role in moderating the internal temperature and crisping the crust. Alcohol evaporates faster than water, so a beer batter doesn’t have to cook as long as one made only with water or milk. The faster the batter dries, the lower the risk of overcooking the food.

The classic combination of battered fish and chips has strong ties to the UK. Fried fish was first introduced and sold by Jewish refugees arriving in London’s East End around the 16th century. Almost certainly the oldest fish and chip shop or ‘chippie’ was opened in London by Joseph Malin around 1860, who sold "fish fried in the Jewish fashion”.


Pre-1960s portions were traditionally wrapped in old newspaper and some of you dear readers may recall this here too in Australia. This age-old tradition was used to soak up excess grease and kept prices down. This practice survived as late as the 1980s when it was ruled unsafe for food to come into contact with newspaper ink without any grease-proof paper in between, though plain unprinted paper is still popular today and arguably more sustainable than the alternatives.

My father had me when he was 21 and was a mad keen fisherman. By the time I was five he had managed to go halves in a ‘put put’ boat with his friend Michael Gleeson, a spirited befreckled young chap with a mop of fiery red hair. I will never forget my fist trip, my sleeping body being gently rocked by my father as he whispered, “Time to get up mate”. I blink and struggle to see as it’s still dark, and the faint light from the kitchen down the hall is my only source of light. Dad sits me up and dresses me in a pair of tracksuit pants and a jumper as we head into the kitchen. I smell fresh coffee and Mum is up making us some lunch from last night’s sausages, halved and placed into a toasted sandwich lathered with tomato sauce. We pick up Mick from his house and it's still dark, with only the orange glow of street lights illuminating our way.


Dad and Mick are excited as we pull up to the jetty. Dad says, “Look up there,” as he points to the clear starry night. “There is Halley’s Comet.” I watch in awe as a star with a bright tail zooms across the sky. “A great omen,” says Mick. “You won’t see that again for another 75 years boy” he says looking at me. “We’ll probably never see it again in our lifetimes” he adds.

We get into a small dinghy and dad begins to row us out to the boat. Mick lifts me up and Dad starts the engine. As the ‘put put’ sound of the motor slowly takes us through the headlands the sun is rising and the clouds are a dark shade of lilac and pink, and the cries of the circling seagulls fills my ears. ‘We’ caught 30 fish that day and I was convinced my dad was the best fisherman in the world.

I’ve added a little twist to this recipe by using my Spartan marinade on the fish. Its lemony peppery goodness which really livens up the dish.


PREP TIME: 10 mins

COOKING TIME: 20 mins

SERVINGS: 2-3


INGREDIENTS

  • 700g boneless flathead fillet

  • 2 tbsps SPARTAN

  • ¼ cup rice flour

CRISPY BATTER:

  • ¾ cup plain flour

  • ¼ cup rice flour (makes it super crispy)

  • 1¼ tsp baking powder

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • 1 cup very cold lager

  • 4 - 5 cups vegetable oil

METHOD


  1. Pat fish dry using paper towel. Cut into 7cm x 3cm fingers, or larger fillets if you prefer. If you have very thick fillets, cut in half horizontally.

  2. Place ¼ cup rice flour in a shallow bowl.

  3. Heat 10cm oil in a large heavy based pot over medium high heat to 190°C.

  4. While oil is heating, take 3 or 4 pieces of fish and sprinkle with SPARTAN. Massage gently then coat in rice flour and shake off excess. Repeat with the rest of the fish. You can leave them like this for up to 15 minutes.

  5. Cold batter: Just before cooking, whisk together the flour, rice flour, baking powder and salt. Add the very cold beer into the batter and whisk just until incorporated evenly into the flour. Do not over mix; don’t worry about flour lumps. It should be a fairly thin batter but fully coat the back of a spoon. If too thick, add more beer but only 1 tablespoon at a time.

  6. Dip a piece of fish in the batter then let the excess drip off very briefly.

  7. Carefully lower into oil, dropping it in away from you, one piece at a time. Don't crowd the pot, fry in batches. Fry for 3 minutes, flipping after about 2 minutes, until deep golden.

  8. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining fish. Serve hot. However, it will stay crisp for 15 to 20 minutes.


TO SERVE


Serve with lemon wedges and tartare sauce alongside a leafy green salad on the side dressed with a classic vinaigrette and chips, preferably homemade.