The traditional grease-up holds real nostalgia value for those of us who grew up in Britain before the burger and pizza chains took hold, but it’s a pity about the offerings generally available. People tend not to want to order battered cod in restaurants and, to be perfectly honest, we don’t serve this to customers at The Merchant House, we cook and eat it ourselves. Chips are the obvious accompaniment but another possibility is something light and fresh like a green salad.
Deep-frying with any success is dependent on the use of decent oil at the right temperature, fresh fish and an interesting coating of batter. The batter is there to protect the fish during cooking as well as to give a crunchy contrast afterwards. Most batters call for a raising agent in the flour otherwise they will be heavy and dull. The ultra-light batter used for tempura relies on egg and chilled water but baking powder, or self-raising flour, will also do the trick. Similarly, yeast or whisked egg whites folded in at the last moment will give the necessary lightness.
To make the batter, mix together the beer, flour, olive oil and a little salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold them into the batter.
Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or other large pan suitable for deep-frying. Working in batches, dip the fish fillets in the batter and slide them into the hot oil. The fish will rise to the surface when cooked. Lift out, drain on paper towels and serve hot.
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