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  • Writer's pictureChef Dylan

BEER BATTERED FISH




This recipe is super simple. As a kid I loved the crunchy golden batter on the outside and the soft flakey fish on the inside.

The classic combination of battered fish and chips has strong ties to the UK and as much as I've had my fair share of delicious fish suppers during my time over there this recipe is inspired by the way my father taught me to make it. You can add some homemade chips and a simple salad and you will have a classic pub meal on the table in about an hour.


Homemade fish and chips takes me straight back to my childhood. Searching through my memory files suddenly the sight of my Dad pulling the ring on a can of Tooheys, sneaking a cheeky swig and then pouring the golden coloured liquid into a bowl with the unmistakable yeasty smell filling the air flashes before my mind’s eye. Beer makes such a great base for batter because it adds 3 important 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. 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 crisps, the lower the risk of overcooking the fish.

Did you know? 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 this was practiced 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 fishing trip, my sleeping body being gently rocked by my father as he whispers “It's 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 “That's 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 the clouds are a dark shade of lilac and pink and cries of the circling seagulls fill 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 really livens up the fish.


Chef Dylan tip: If you have a keen fisherman in the family, buying a small domestic deep fryer is very inexpensive and you will get a lot of use from it. They are a great little piece of kitchen equipment especially when the proud hunter brings home their fresh catch of the day.


PREP TIME: 15 mins

COOKING TIME: 15 mins

SERVINGS: 2-3


INGREDIENTS

  • 700g boneless flathead

  • 2 tbsps SPARTAN

  • ¼ cup rice flour

  • Lemon wedges, for garnish

BEER BATTER

  • ¾ cup plain flour

  • ¼ cup rice flour

  • 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 fillets or fingers 7cm x 3cm fingers 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 or fill and heat your deep fryer.

  4. While oil is heating, take 3 or 4 pieces of fish and season with SPARTAN. Massage gently on both sides then coat in rice flour and shake off excess. Repeat with the rest of the fish pieces.

  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. A word of caution: 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 or deep fryer. Fry in batches for ~3 minutes, flipping after about 2 minutes, until deep golden.

  8. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining fish. Serve straight awaybut they'll stay crisp for approx. 15 to 20 minutes.


TO SERVE


Serve up with chips, preferably homemade and drizzle with some fresh lemon.

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