I swore that I would not fall prey to copious imbibing of fish and chips. I distinctly remember putting it on a list of cons when making the decision to come and live in Ireland. “Con #6: Fish and Chip Consumption” I knew that it would be possible to give in to frequent “chipper runs” to the Pink Potato around the corner which would clearly be the demise of my yoga-fied figure that I had been so diligently been working on. We discussed it in detail. Made a plan. And I was convinced that I would not lay a hand on a fish and chip more than once or twice in a year.
For those of you who are Irish, fish and chips may be as ordinary and non-exciting as pork and beans would be to an American. But to me, (perhaps us?) it is nearly a delicacy. A luxury. At the very least, a treat. And of course, it tastes far different than any Friday Night Fish Fry I’ve ever encountered. Maybe it’s the malt vinegar drizzled over the top, maybe the Atlantic cod, or dare I say, maybe it’s the mushy peas that my husband puts on my plate when it accompanies an order of fish and chip at Doonbeg. Maybe it’s because the fish from chippers comes wrapped in brown paper. Maybe it’s the cheese and garlic sauce that is sometimes on offer. Maybe it’s the batter that reminds me of all the battered goodness at the State Fair.
I don’t know. But, eating a fish and chip from time to time is simply unavoidable, if not totally unnatural.
It was not often that I would actually prepare a fish and chip dinner at home, because somehow, for me, doesn’t seem like the real thing unless you are ordering from a chipper or ordering it off the menu at someplace like this. But, since we moved out of Adare and onto the farm, I have taken to learning to make nearly everything from scratch here at home as it is less trouble than driving for three quarters of an hour for supper….especially if craving a fish and chip.
At some point, I decided it was time to create our own version of fish and chips here at home. Of course, I had to put a little American spin on it and add beer to the batter (for this post, I used a lovely new Irish craft Ale called Sunburnt Irish Red by 8 Degrees Brewing) which did not go astray, and, in fact, really boosted the flavor. I also add some freshly cut thyme or dill from our garden depending on the day.
But, the best bit is the chickpea chips (or frites if you’re fancy). Both farmers-little and big- regularly request them. The recipe is from an amazing restaurant in Napa Valley, CA called Ubuntu. These chips are somewhat time-consuming upfront, but well worth the trouble. Totally delicious and marginally more healthy than potatoes because chickpeas are protein packed. In fact, you could make a meal out of the chickpea chips alone.
Our little boy has named this version of fish and chips, “Dunmoylan Fish & Chip” since our “chipper” is right here on the farm. Add any Irish ale of your choosing and try the lemon aioli dipping sauce on the side if you please. (or vinegar, tartar… Ballymaloe relish goes great with the chickpea chips too!)
Irish Ale & Thyme Battered Fish
Ingredients (serves 4)
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
375ml (1 1/2 cups) chilled light beer
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, to deep-fry
8 (about 120g each) white fish fillets (such as flathead or whiting)
Sea salt flakes, to serve
Lemon wedges, to serve
Place flour in a bowl. Add the egg and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in beer until batter is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Add enough vegetable oil to a large saucepan to reach a depth of 8cm. Heat to 190°C over high heat (when oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 10 seconds). Dip 2 pieces of fish, 1 at a time, into batter to coat. Drain off excess. Deep-fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and cooked. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat, in 3 more batches, with remaining fish and batter, reheating oil between batches.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
2 1/2 cups chickpea flour , plus more for dusting (avail at natural foods stores)
1 cup cornmeal (maize meal in Ireland)
2 cloves garlic , finely grated
3 Tbsp. kosher salt , plus more to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary
Zest of 2 lemons
Vegetable oil , for frying
In a stainless steel pot over high heat, combine chickpea flour, cornmeal, 7 cups of cold water, garlic, and salt. Whisk gently to prevent sticking on the bottom; over-whisking will cause the final product to “soufflé” and fall.
Once the mixture begins to thicken and bubble (after about 3 to 4 minutes), reduce heat to medium and switch to a rubber spatula. Add remaining ingredients except oil, stir to combine, and continue stirring to prevent sticking. When mixture pulls from the sides of the pot like a dough (after about 6 to 8 minutes), transfer it to a rimmed sheet pan lined with nonstick aluminum foil. Spread mixture out evenly, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and top with another sheet pan. Refrigerate for 4 hours until completely cold and set.
Carefully remove mixture from pan by gently lifting the bottom layer of aluminum foil onto a cutting board. Remove plastic wrap, then cut into “fries” about 3 inches long.
Heat oil in a large pot to 190°C over high heat (when oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 10 seconds). Toss fries lightly in additional cornmeal, and deep-fry them in small batches until crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove and set on paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste and serve with lemon garlic aioli.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together.
Serve as dipping sauce.
And…drum roll please…the winner of the Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland book drawing is: Tim Magnuson. Tim, please email your mailing address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can send the book out to you straight away! A big, big thank you to everyone for participating in my first ‘official’ book giveaway. There will be more to come, promise! xx
Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell. For more food styling + photography work, please contact me at email@example.com.