Homemade Fish and Chips
For generations, fish and chips have fed millions of memories. Eaten with greasy fingers oceanside, as a payday treat at the end of the working week, or as a late night snack on your way home from the pub, few can resist the tasty combination.
Fish and chips are what's known as a perfect pairing. It sits alongside wine and cheese, salt and pepper, and Hamish and Andy. Homemade beer-battered fish and chips are about as good as it gets, so head to market, stock up on some fresh fish, and get cooking.
Go on, you know you want to...
Homemade fish and chips
Here's the trick to homemade fish and chips straight-up... choose smart ingredients.
Grab a Beer
Beer is a great base for batter because it simultaneously adds three ingredients - carbon dioxide, foaming agents and alcohol. Each brings a different aspect of physics and chemistry to create a crust that's light and crisp.
Beer is loaded with CO2, which when combined with hot oil, bubbles and froths up. This expands the batter mix, giving it a lacy, frangible texture. Beer also acts as a thermal insulator, meaning that when you dunk a battered piece of fish into a deep fryer, most of the heat will be absorbed by the batter, rather than the delicate food it encloses. Bubbly beer batter can heat to well over 130 degrees celsius, the point at which so-called Maillard reactions create golden brown colours and delicious fried flavours - all while the fish gently simmers inside.
The final wow-factor of beer in batter is that alcohol evaporates faster than water, meaning that the batter dries faster during cooking. The faster the batter dries, the lower the risk of overcooking the food.
Walk into Urangan Fisheries, Boat Harbour Fisheries, Maddigan's Seafood or Coles Pialba Place and you'll be spoilt for choice with the different species of fish on offer. Talk to your fish supplier about what's being caught locally, or opt for traditional favourites like flake, whiting, snapper, barramundi or flathead. Alternatively, you can try your luck at catching your own fish at Urangan Pier, Platypus Bay, Sandy Strait or Point Vernon. It's important you choose a fish that has firm flesh, big flakes and not much oil.
Waxy potatoes are great for salads, but for chips, it's all about the floury varieties. Floury potatoes contain lots of starch, which makes them fluffy and dry when cooked. The current reigning champion of the Australian chip business is the Russet Burbank, a long, almost tubular potato which is perfect for cutting into chips or skinnier French fries. Running a close second are varieties like Sebago, Atlantic and the Australian-bred Colliban.
Fry once at a low temperature and then again at a high heat for best results. This gives your chips a fluffy inside and a crisp outside. For extra crispness, pat your chips well with paper towel before the first fry to remove excess starch and to stop your chips from sticking together in the oil.
When deep frying fish and chips, choose an oil with a high smoke point, like rice bran, grape seed, sunflower, canola or extra light olive oil. The flavour should be neutral and the oil refined. The oil should be heated to between 180 and 185 degrees Celsius. This high heat will ensure your fish and chips cook faster and absorbs less oil. Nothing's worse than greasy, soggy fish and chips!
To test the temperature, add a cube of bread to the oil. You'll know it's the right temperature if the bread turns golden brown in around 15 seconds. If your bread cooks in less than ten seconds, it's too hot.
Always make sure you leave room to add the fish and chips to your oil. You don't want your oil to overflow as you drop your ingredients in.
- If you're using the same pan/fryer and oil, cook your chips before your fish. Oil absorbs the flavours of what it's cooking, so cooking your chips first will prevent your chips from having a fishy flavour.
- For evenly cooked and moist fish, cut your fish into even pieces about 10cm long and 3-4cm thick. You'll know the fish is cooked when it flakes with a fork when tested.
- Whiz together some mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, chopped gherkins and chopped fresh dill or parsley for the ultimate tartare sauce.
- If you're feeling confident and want to try fish and chips like award-winning celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, add vodka and honey to your batter mix. The Fat Duck proprietor also recommends drizzling extra batter over the fish as it fries.
Fish and the Fraser Coast
It seems only fitting that fish be on the menu a lot when you live in or are visiting Hervey Bay. Surrounded by the ocean and Mary River, fish is an important part of the Hervey Bay culture and no Hervey Bay experience is complete without it. Hervey Bay residents love seafood so much that they celebrate it and all things ocean every August as part of the Hervey Bay Ocean Festival. There are also many marine tour providers who will happily help you catch your own, and while you're out to sea why not meet some whales. Is fish a big enough part of your life? If not, it's time to factor it in.