In Pursuit of: The Perfect Beer Batter
Cost: ~€1.50-2.50, depending on the ale used
Preparation time: ~5 minutes for the batter
Sometime ago, when my blog was in its infancy, I posted a rather ugly entry for fish and chips. Don’t get me wrong – the meal itself was tasty enough, but the photos were very “meh”. I decided to have another go, and tweak my batter because last time the batter was “good”… but it wasn’t “great”. Lacking in salt, with a bit of a hollow flavour and so forth. Well, as it turns out, battered fish and chips aren’t the easiest things to make look good in a photo. Perhaps it’s because I’m rushing a bit to dig in because of the irresistible aroma of deep-fried beer batter, and the knowledge that the delicious plate of hot, crisp onion rings in front of me sure as heck isn’t getting any hotter, and since I just spent the last hour frying food for five people I’m sure as hell not going to be eating it cold! Or perhaps those colours don’t lend themselves that well to photography. Or perhaps I’m rubbish. Or perhaps it’s a combination of all the above. In any case – the photo is at least better than the last time I made it, and so was the batter.
Beloved by millions, fish and chips is enjoyed all over Britain, and a late-night trip to the “chippy” (chip shop) is a common pastime for many people on their way back from the pub. There is a street in my parents’ home-town which is, with the exception of a needlework store, a photography store and a couple of other places, pretty much entirely composed of establishments catering to the late-night drunkard. Pizzerias, kebab shops and, of course, fish and chip shops.
I don’t often get the urge to eat fish and chips. It’s a veritable grease and stodge extravaganza, but the oil-infused siren’s call hits me about once a year and it’s hard to resist. If it’s done right, I’ll enjoy the meal enormously with no regrets, and then I’m good until the next year. Done badly (soggy chips, fish riddled with bones) and I’ll curse myself for wasting the time or money and swear off the stuff for life – that is until the next year when all of a sudden, the desire creeps up on me once again. The best, I mean the absolute best way of eating it is liberally sprinkled with plenty of salt and absolutely soaked with malt vinegar (so much vinegar that it combines with the grease to make the bag that it’s in soggy and translucent). At its very heart though, there are two very important components to a good fish and chips. Three, really, but I can’t “make” fish, so I’m just going to say: “Use good fish!”. Most commonly, cod is used, although since it’s a bit endangered, haddock is now frequently used, and even hoki. I discovered a fish called Atlantic Wolf-fish in my local store which is even more beautiful than cod. It yields fantastically plump fillets, though I later found out that it too is quite seriously endangered, so try and stick with fish in plentiful supply.
Anyway – the two important things: Good chips. Crisp, golden, chipped potatoes with a delicious, fluffy centre are very important. I’m terrible at making chips, as you can probably tell from the photos here, so I’m going to make another “In pursuit of” post soon where I will test a great number of chip making methods – all very scientifically of course – and post my results, as well as the “perfect method”. The other important thing is, of course, the batter. Beer is the in-thing these days, since some years now, for a good batter. It ensures a puffier, crisper shell which stays crispy even as the dish cools, however the type of beer used can vary wildly.
In my last batter I used a lager, but this time decided to go for something with a bit more punch. Something deeper and darker, with more character. I decided to up the salt content as well because I found it seriously lacking in the last one I made. If you’ve never tried fish and chips before, or if you’ve only had it in a restaurant, or even if you tried making it and found the batter a bit lacking then I implore you to give it another shot because I don’t think this will disappoint!
I hope you all had a good weekend – I’ll be back later in the week with a delicious cake (really – it’s awesome!), but until then – fare thee well!
Dark Ale Beer Batter
- 300ml Brown/Dark Ale
- 250g Plain Flour
- 3tsps Salt
- 3tsps Baking Powder
- 1 Egg
You’ll also need
- Onions, fish, sausages etc. to batter
- Oil (such as peanut) for deep-frying
- Start off by mixing the flour, salt, and baking powder for the batter together in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg and then finally pour in the ale. Whisk well so there are no lumps remaining. The ingredients will make enough batter for fish and onion rings for roughly two people.
- Heat your oil in a large, deep pan or wok to between 150 and 160 degrees Celsius. Dip your food into the batter and ensure it’s well coated. Lift it out and shake off the excess and then slide gently into the hot oil. Turn the food periodically and fry until a deep golden colour before removing with the aid of a slotted spoon and setting onto kitchen paper to drain while you fry the rest of the food.
- Arrange all the food on a hot plate and serve with accompaniments of your choice – perhaps some tartar sauce? Enjoy!