Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Sustainable Scottish Fish Supper

If you are not Scottish - or at least intimately familiar with the food culture of Scotland - your perception of what constitutes a Scottish fish supper is likely to be incorrect. This is wholly forgivable, as the name of course suggests that a Scottish fish supper is any type of fish dish served for supper in Scotland. In fact, it is a lot more specific than that. A fish supper in Scotland is something usually sold from dedicated fish and chip shops and consists of a fillet of white fish, deep fried in batter and served with chips. This is of course the most popular fast food throughout the United Kingdom but in the rest of the country, outwith Scotland, it is likely simply to be referred to as fish and chips.

There is, however, a problem surrounding Scottish fish suppers in modern times - a big problem! A fish supper is normally made from haddock, or perhaps cod, two of the most endangered species of fish - if not the most endangered - in British coastal waters and fishing grounds. This means that alternative fish species must be used in fish suppers if this incredibly tasty, traditional meal is to be available to future generations. Coley, pollack or pouting are all excellent choices in this respect but the option chosen in this instance is surely the tastiest of all the sustainable fish species in British waters, whiting.

Ingredients per Person

1 large baking potato
1 skinless fillet of whiting
2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 tsp salt
Cold water


It is not essential to use this chip preparation method but it does make for extra special chips. Begin by peeling the potato, slicing and chopping it in to chip shapes. Put them in to a pot of cold water and put the pot on a high heat until the water begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Drain the chips through a colander and submerge them in a bowl of cold water for a further five minutes to cool them quickly. Drain again and place them in a plastic dish and in to the fridge for at least half an hour.

Remove the chips and lay them as shown on one half of a clean tea towel. Fold the other half of the towel over the top and carefully and gently pat them dry. Fry in hot oil at 300F/150C for five minutes. Remove from the deep frier to some kitchen paper on a plate, cover and allow to cool. They should then be returned to the (dried) plastic dish and the fridge for a further half hour.

When your chips are returned to the fridge, it is a good idea to prepare the batter for the fish and allow it some fridge resting time. Add the flour and salt to a plastic dish large enough to contain the whiting fillet further down the line. Slowly add cold water, stirring continuously, until you have a batter the consistency of paint or thick cream. If you do happen to add too much water, simply add a little more flour. Put the lid on the dish and pop it in the fridge.

The chips should be fried for the second time at a slightly higher temperature, around 350F/170C, for five to seven minutes, dependant simply upon how crisp and golden you like them to be. Drain again on kitchen paper and cover to keep them warm while you fry the fish. Alternatively, where you have a twin basket deep fat fryer (see the end of this post,) the chips can be given their second fry at the same time the fish is being cooked. This makes the whole procedure a lot quicker and easier.

Remove the lid from the dish containing the batter and dip the whiting fillet in to ensure it is completely coated. Hold it up over the dish for a few seconds to let the excess batter drip off before popping it in to the hot fryer. It will take four or five minutes to cook, by which time the batter should be crisp and golden.

Drain the fish on some fresh kitchen paper and plate along with your chips. A Scottish fish supper is likely to be seasoned with salt and malt vinegar, salt and sauce, or perhaps all three and eaten without any further accompaniments. If you do want to boost the presentation and flavour a little, however, try serving it with a wedge of lemon, a sprig or two of fresh dill and a dollop of tartare sauce on the side, as shown in the top photograph above.

Twin Basket Deep Fat Fryers

Deep frying food is not something which we should be doing every day. Even where oil is used instead of saturated animal fats, we should keep this cooking method to once or maybe twice a week. When we are deep fat frying, however, we want to be sure that we do so to best effect. As mentioned in today's post, a twin basket deep fat fryer is an excellent tool to have when making British fish and chips, or any dish where two separate foodstuffs require frying. Below are a couple of ideas from both and which you may wish to consider for making your fish and chips - or even as a Christmas gift for the deep fat fryer in your family or circle of friends!

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