Hallelujah! I've been converted to the Mushy Pea cause. Like my bizarre loathing for mashed potato, until a few days ago, I didn't like them- or thought I didn't like them. But now all that has changed. Okay, I tucked into an upmarket version, probably petis-pois, half-mashed, and cooked in butter, stock and a bit of mint. But they were good- immensely good.
The best fish and chips I've ever had was at some sort of ramshackled greasy spoon on the windswept coast of Whitby, in the North East of England. Whitby is an interesting place. First, there's this remarkable Gothic ruin of an Abbey, and then it's the place where Count Dracula first arrives from Transylvania in Bram Stoker's creepy novella.
The secret of Fish and Chips is the batter. A traditional English batter is suprisingly simple. It's just sieved self-raising flour mixed with beer, and a pinch of salt. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.
The batter has to be extremely thick, mixed almost to a gluey consistancy. The fish (say, Haddock, or Cod), is then coated in the thick batter, and deep-fried in beef dripping or lard. The batter souffles, and the fish steams within the batter.
Traditionally, English chips are cut into thick chunks, and that's the way many people in this country like them; though I have to admit that I prefer the French way of doing things, where the potatoes are sliced into thin strips and then double fried, but for genuine authenticity, thick-cut is the way you do it.
Serve the whole shooting match with mushy peas, tartare sauce, malt vinegar and salt. Tartare Sauce is made from a combination of mayonnaise, chopped capers, gherkins, garlic, parsley, and shallots. In a later post, I'm going to get my thinking cap on and come up with the definitive version of this versatile sauce.