Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Sustainable Fish and Chips: Whiting in Fresh Breadcrumbs

The Big Fish Fight is a campaign which was launched in January 2011 by the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The campaign is targeted specifically at eliminating the horrendous process known as discard - whereby fishermen are required to throw dead fish back in to the sea to comply with quotas - but also very much at highlighting the plight of the endangered species in our seas and oceans and encouraging people to eat more sustainable species of fish. Last night, I was one of what I sincerely hope were many millions of Britons who watched an update on Channel 4 regarding the success of the Fish Fight to date.

The news was largely good and encouraging and full details can be found on the Fish Fight website linked to in the first sentence of the above paragraph. Many supermarkets and fish suppliers, as well as the bureaucrats in Brussels, have been moved to action to at least some extent. What I have to confess to being extremely disappointed in, however, was the actual content of last night's programme. I felt that there was far too much time devoted to showing the EU Parliament and repetitive interviews. Yes, the information is important but could easily have been condensed in to a quarter of the time period devoted to it. What I would much rather have seen is time spent showing people how to cook and enjoy the less endangered species of fish in our oceans. "Show, don't tell," is an excellent piece of advice in many respects...

There was one statistic given in last night's show which horrified me above all others. I did not realise that whiting - one of the most beautiful eating fish in any sea - was so badly affected by discard. Apparently, more than two-thirds of all whiting caught in the North Sea are discarded! From the second I learned of this onwards, there was no doubt about what would be appearing on this blog today. Beautiful, traditional, British fish and chips - made with the delectable, delicious, sustainable and grossly under-rated, whiting.

Ingredients per person

1 4oz whiting fillet
1 large floury potato
2 slices of bread made in to breadcrumbs
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedge and sprig of parsley for garnish
Vegetable oil for frying


The chips in this recipe are prepared in exactly the same fashion as they have been prepared many times before on this blog. I am seriously considering getting a panel in the right hand column of the blog to which I can simply refer new readers, to save on repetition. Briefly, however, the potato is peeled, sliced and chopped in to chips. The chips are added to a deep pot of cold water, which is brought to a boil before the heat is reduced and the chips are simmered for only five minutes. After this time, they are drained and submerged in cold water for a further five minutes to cool them rapidly. Place them in a plastic dish and in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Dry the chips carefully in a clean tea towel. Deep fry them for five minutes, drain on kitchen paper, cover and leave to cool. Put them back in to the dried dish and the refrigerator for a further half hour. After this time, begin preparing your whiting.

Spread your fresh breadcrumbs on to a dinner plate. Break the egg in to a flat bottomed bowl, season with salt and pepper and beat only enough to combine.

Add enough vegetable oil to a non-stick frying pan to comfortably cover the base. It is important to have a reasonable amount of oil in your pan when frying fish, especially in breadcrumbs, if you don't want the fish to start to break up during cooking. Bring the oil up to a fairly high heat.

Draw the whiting fillet through the egg to ensure it is fully and evenly coated. Pat it gently on both sides in the breadcrumbs and shake lightly to remove the excess breadcrumbs. Repeat this process. Twice in the egg and twice in the breadcrumbs will give your whiting fillet a much more even and crispier coating.

At this stage, get your chips back in to your deep frier. They will require a further five minutes to crisp up and turn golden. They should be removed from the frier and drained on kitchen paper just before your whiting fillet is ready to come out of the frying pan.

Place the whiting fillet carefully in to the frying pan and reduce the heat slightly. Fry for two or three minutes each side until the breadcrumbs are beautifully crisp and golden. Be sure that when you are turning your fish and ultimately plating it, you do use a proper fish turner. Otherwise, you risk breaking your fillet and irrevocably spoiling final presentation.

When your fish is ready, remove it from the pan to the plate. Add your drained chips alongside, garnish with the lemon wedge and parsley and serve immediately. Suggested condiments include salt, malt vinegar, HP Sauce and tomato ketchup.


  1. Hooray for sustainable fish and chips!

  2. Thank you, Joy. I really was horrified when I learned these statistics about whiting in particular. I hope more people can learn what a truly delciious eating fish whiting is.