Saturday, 28 January 2012

Fish and chips to dine for

Some of my fondest memories are from annual childhood holidays to Cornwall. No trip would be complete without an evening visit to the local fish and chippie. With the saliva inducing scent of salt and vinegar rising from the newspaper parcels, we'd quickly drive to the favoured spot overlooking the sea, wolf down the fish and chips, before walking along the beach and skimming stones in the general direction of Padstow harbour.

I say fish and chips, but in my formative years, the jumbo saviloy was king, turning my nose up at mum's slimey looking alternative. When pushed, the only redeeming quality I can think of was that at least the saviloy wasn't battered.

As I've grown older (not that much older), my palate has improved and I regret not savouring the taste of fresh, locally sourced produce. But this recipe goes someway to make up for that.

Fish and chips to dine for

You will need:
  • Three chunky white fish fillets (preferably something sustainable, but cod and haddock will be OK. Purchase it from the fish counter on the day of cooking)
  • 15 to 20 Charlotte new potatoes
  • Half a bag of kale
  • A good handful of thyme
  • Light soy sauce
  • Four wedges of lemon
  • Two hungry grown ups and two braver than I was children
Begin by placing a glug of vegetable oil into a large roasting tin and popping it into an oven heated to 200c.

Slice the potatoes to roughly 3mm thick (thin and even is what we're going for) and discard the ends. Others will argue that there are far better potatoes to roast, but I've chosen charlottes as even when sliced this thinly, they still retain their structure...and this BBC recipe says so too!

Add the potatoes to the sizzling roasting tin and liberally cover in thyme, with a sprinkle of salt.

These need a good 45 minutes to cook through.

Halfway through is a good point to prepare your fish. When fish is super fresh, it really does speak for itself so treat it delicately when it comes to flavour. Season the flesh with pepper and a drop of extra virgin olive oil (Oliviers are top notch, but Bertollis would be great for this too). Heat the grill as hot as it will go and place the fish skin side up and cook for eight minutes. My fillets were super thick so after eight mins, they needed a tad longer so I turned the grill off, flipped them over and left for another minute to be piping all the way through.

For the fusion element (tenuous link I know as it's only a bit of soy, but I'm going for it), heat a deep, non stick pan and add the kale (kale's bang in season - I love this site). Dot with six or seven...well dots of light soy sauce and gently wilt for no more than 30 seconds to retain the goodness - 'simple science': boiling or steaming vegetables can boost their antioxidant properties - actually more so than raw vegetables. Frying is bad as these antioxidants are lost trying to counteract the effect of heating oil. We're not using oil so smiles all round! Kale in this way is a great accompaniment as the salt from the soy compliments the dish, and the crunch make the kale taste great, making it a perfect way to get young ones to eat their greens...and unlike the packets of 'vegetable crisps', you have complete control as to what goes in.

To assemble the plates, take the beautiful thyme infused, crunchy tatties and add the respective portions in the centre of the plate (biggest for the biggest bear, and so on, you know the story). Place whole fillets of fish on top of the potatoes for the grown ups, and cut the third fillet in half for the youngsters. Whip off the skin (personal preference) and squeeze the juice from the lemon on top, garnishing with a sprig of fresh time. Add a portion of kale and serve.

Unlike the fish and chips of my youth, this feast requires eating at the table (hence the 'to dine for' bit), and presents the perfect opportunity to discuss your next seaside trip...

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