Are there two happier words in the gastronomic world, honestly? I’m not suggesting this would be my final meal, not by a long shot. Roast chicken remains firmly at the top of that list, followed by, I suppose, roast lamb in some form or other, or a beautiful, quivering tarte a l’oignons, with buttery pastry that crumbles in the mouth. Or perhaps a steaming bowl of pasta, the noodles hugged generously by a rich ragu, a snowdrift of Parmesan on top might be a worthy last mouthful.
It’s just that there is something completely and wonderfully naughty about fish and chips. Maybe it’s our culture of instant gratification, but I think the lines run deeper. As a young boy we’d go every Saturday to Drakes in Ripon (though the slightly further Southgate Fisheries was always superior), and I remember the drive home being utterly interminable, the waft of vinegary, crisp batter and slightly soggy newspaper making my tongue do a little jig all of its own, as if warming up for the heavenly onslaught that edged ever closer. Later, when in my teens, I’d spend August driving a tractor for Dad during harvest, often late into the night. When this was the case he’d pitch up at some point in the evening clutching that paper parcel of joy and a can of Tetley’s. Reward for hard work. Fish and chips remains, in my eyes, the last bastion of completely acceptable British fast food.
It must be the association of hard work with fish and chips that led me to making some yesterday. I’d been in the library most of the weekend and needed some relief. There’s actually a chippy nearby in Clifton that I haven’t ventured into yet, but I felt doing it myself would be lighter, cheaper and, well, better. Incidentally, does anyone know the chippy I mean? It’s round the corner from the Quadrant on Princess Victoria Street….let me know if it’s any good. (I have since been. It’s bloody awful).
Trout and chips with crushed peas and parsley
2 medium spuds
2 medium trout fillets
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
A good handful of peas
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, paprika and oil
Cut the potatoes into wedges and bring to the boil in a pan of salted water. Simmer until cooked (15 minutes or so), drain. Heat a couple of tablespoons oil in a frying pan and add the wedges, frying on each side until golden. Remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven.
Put a small pan of water on the boil for the peas. Season the flour with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of paprika. Beat the egg. Dip the fish into the egg, shake off a little, then toss in the flour, again shaking off the excess. In the same pan that you fried the spuds in, add the fish, skin side down. Fry for 3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, boil the peas for 3 minutes. Drain, add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Gently crush with a potato masher.
Dry the fish on kitchen paper and serve with the chips and peas, and a good squeeze of lemon.