Why fish and chips is still the best catch of the day for the British…

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NATIONAL Fish & Chip Day 2017 is, according to its organisers, set to be even bigger than last year’s inaugural event as it brings together everyone involved in creating this iconic British dish on Friday (June 2). 

That includes chippies, pub chains, restaurants, retailers and the fishermen and farmers who provide the sustainable, natural ingredients needed to create this family favourite – which is, of course, traditionally eaten on a Friday.

As long as they are eaten in moderation, fish and chips make a balanced and nutritious meal providing a valuable source of protein, fibre, iron and vitamins.

In recent years, we have seen more and more fish and chip shops and restaurants offering a bigger selection of choice, too. 

Many, for example, now offer gluten-free versions of the dish so those who suffer from coeliac disease can still enjoy the freshly cooked, golden meal. 

Plenty of shops are also offering lighter meals with pan-fried or poached fish and salad as alternatives to traditional battered fish and chips. 

Ben Miles, who has been running St John’s Fish Bar in Tunbridge Wells for the past six years, told the Times when he was interviewed last year that part of their recent refurbishment included the installation of new fryers to the tune of £40,000, which also included a specialist machine for gluten-free products.

What makes frying equipment worth that kind of money? “Two things: Fuel efficiency and a healthier product,” said Ben. “The quicker and hotter a fryer fries, the better the food. 

“With fast and clean frying, only a small amount of the oil remains in the food, making it better for you. Good fish and chips don’t have to be sinful.

“Quality is important to us here, so making sure you have the best equipment is worth the money.”

St John’s Fish Bar uses Middleton’s Dove Farm batter mix and rice flour for their gluten-free products, but the idea didn’t come about just to be ‘on trend’. 

Ben revealed the reason was much closer to home than that. “One of my children is dairy intolerant,” he explained. “When I did my research as a parent, it dawned on me just how many people suffer from dietary intolerances, which triggered a desire to offer my customers genuine gluten-free options – I can’t deny anyone some delicious battered cod!”

St John’s Fish Bar sells around 700 pieces of fish a week, and always ensures it’s sourced from monitored waters.

“This issue is important to me, as I’m in this business for the long haul, said Ben. “Our fish comes from the North Sea near the Faroe Islands, where the trawling is regulated carefully by the Marine Stewardship Council. 

“The area is completely protected from being over-fished, and it’s great to know where our product comes from. It is certainly worth paying the extra.”

When asked how he enjoys his own fish and chips, Ben quickly replied: “A small, skinned, battered cod with chips, a little bit of mushy peas on the side and a can of Shandy Bass.”


Fish Facts

A nationwide, online survey of 1,675 people for the National Fish and Chip Survey 2017 found the following:

Cod is the most popular choice of fish for all ranges, racking up 64% of the votes, with haddock and plaice coming second and third respectively.

The most favourite place to enjoy fish and chips is at the seaside, with 47.43% saying that’s where they enjoyed eating them most.

The second choice was the home, with 40.74% of the voters saying they enjoyed eating them there.

Salt and vinegar was the clear favourite accompaniment, with 70% of respondents choosing it before mushy peas (34%) and curry sauce (27%) – although mushy peas and curry sauce are less popular in London and the South East.

A third of Brits enjoy fish and chips once a month.

Fish and chips weren’t rationed during WWII because it was thought it would be too detrimental to the morale of the nation. Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to fish and chips as ‘Good Companions’! 

Fish and chips played a part in the D-Day Landings – British soldiers identified each other by crying out ‘fish’ and waiting for the response of ‘chips’.

The UK’s fish and chip industry is excellent for our economy. As a large-scale employer with more than 10,000 shops across the country, this makes it a considerable business sector.

There are currently approximately 10,500 specialist fish and chip shops in the UK. These dramatically outnumber other fast food outlets.

Fish and chips were first served together as a dish around 1860 – although the dish’s origin is contested. In London, the Malin family claim to be first, as do the Lee family in Manchester.

British consumers eat some 382 million portions of fish and chips every year. That’s six servings for every man, woman and child.

The annual spend on fish and chips in the UK is in the region of £1.2billion.


Wjy not try this traditional dish with a twist at home?

Crisp-fried herbed halibut with shoestring potatoes

Crisp-Fried Herbed Halibut With Shoestring Potatoes

What you need:

750g waxy potatoes, such as Belle
de Fontenay

Sunflower oil, for deep-frying

1 egg white

1 tablespoon milk

750g halibut fillet, cut into 8 pieces

3 sprigs of fresh chervil

3 sprigs of fresh flatleaf parsley

100g plain flour

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

½  teaspoon chili powder

Sea salt and freshly ground
white pepper

An electric deep fryer

Serves 4

What you do: 

Using a mandolin, cut the potatoes as thinly as possible into strips, then put in a bowl of cold water to rinse off the starch. Drain and dry well with paper towels.

Fill a deep fryer with oil to manufacturer’s recommended level and heat to 350°F. Working in batches, fry the potatoes until golden, drain on paper towels and keep hot.

Put egg white and milk in a bowl and mix. Rub fish with egg white mixture. Finely chop chervil and parsley leaves. Sift flour into a bowl, then add chopped chervil and parsley, sesame seeds, chili powder and seasoning.

Deep-fry celery and parsley leaves. Be careful, they spit furiously, but will be crisp as soon as spitting stops. Remove and drain on paper towels. Dip fish into flour mixture to coat, and fry 2 pieces at a time for 2-3 minutes until just cooked. Drain on paper towels and serve with fried leaves and crisp shoestring potatoes. 

Recipe courtesy of Traditional Pub Grub, 

Ryland Peters & Small  (£9.99) Photography © Ryland Peters & Small


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