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Fish and Chips
Deep-fried fish in a crispy batter with fat golden chips is still one of Britain and Ireland's favorite meals. The love for them ranks alongside Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings and the recently nominated Chicken Tikka Masala, as the English National Dish. Visit Pinnacles Fish and Chip restaurant in Seahouses, Northumberland for the best.
No one knows precisely where or when fish and chips came together. Chips had arrived in Britain from France in the eighteenth century. The first mention in 1854 was when a leading chef included ‘thin cut potatoes, cooked in oil’ in his recipe book, Shilling Cookery. Around this time fish warehouses sold fried fish and bread, with mention of them in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist published in 1830.
There are claims to the first ‘chippie’ from Lancashire in the North and London in the South of England. Whoever it may have been, the trade grew to feed a rapidly expanding population, reaching a staggering 35,000 shops in the 1930’s, leveling to around 11,500 now. The Federation of Fish Friers in the UK claim that in 1995 the British consumed 300 million servings of fish and chips, equating to six servings for every man woman and child in the country. The record for the largest number of portions sold in one day by an independent fish and chip shop is over 4,000. Fish and chips helped feed the masses during the First World War and were one of only a few foods not rationed in the Second World War.
The UK’s favorite fish is still cod which accounts for 61.5% of total consumption. Although the issue of North Sea cod stocks is a serious problem, cod landed in the UK is caught within strict management regimes, with quota systems setting safe limits for catches, which are agreed by fishermen, scientists and government. Cod caught within these agreed limits is safe for consumers to eat.
Haddock at 25% is the second favorite, while regional variations include whiting in Northern Ireland and some parts of Scotland and skate and huss in the south of England.
A floury potato is best, as waxy potatoes can often result in greasy chips. The best varieties are King Edward , Maris Piper and Sante. One out of every four British potatoes become chips - that's around 1.25 million tonnes every year.
The traditional fat for frying both the fish and the chips is beef dripping or lard, which gives a crisp chip and tasty batter. Cooking fish and chips in vegetable or corn oil is now commonplace and is suitable for vegetarians. The oil must be clean and a constant temperature of 185°C maintained and as thick chips absorb less oil than thin ones, chunkier chips are healthier.
Very few Britons have adopted the continental habit of mayonnaise with fish and chips, preferring just a sprinkle of salt and vinegar.
On the Side?
Mushy Peas are the classic accompaniment, but since the mid-seventies curry sauce has also gained favor as a side dish. The only other sauces considered suitable are a splash of ketchup or brown sauce, which is more popular in Scotland.
Eat In or Out?
Despite the threat from pizzas and burgers, fish and chips remain the nation’s favorite take away dish, nearly four times more popular than Indian curries. Fish and chips were traditionally wrapped in greaseproof paper and a thick layer of newspaper. This served not only as an insulator but as a plate to make eating outdoors easier - health and safety controls no longer allow the use of newspaper. Many fish and chip purists still declare however that fish and chips eaten from newspaper outdoors, is the only and best way to eat them.
Are they healthy?
Compared to other take-away foods Fish and chips have: 9.42 grams of fat per 100 grams. The average pizza has 11, Big Mac meal with medium fries has 12.1, Whopper meal with medium fries has 14.5, chicken korma 15.5 and doner kebab 16.2. Fish and chips have 595 calories in the average portion - an average pizza has 871, Big Mac meal with medium fries has 888, Whopper meal with medium fries has 892, chicken korma 910 and doner kebab 924.
Where can I buy them?
With 11,500 fish and chips shops throughout the UK and Ireland, finding a chippie is usually easy.
Fish and chip shops are now also found around the world and are especially popular in coastal regions of Spain. There are even four in New York following the success of the first one called “A Salt and Battery,” but Pinnacles in Seahouses still ranks as one of the best.
Statistics courtesy of Seafish UK