Classic fish and chips are a British institution but you may be surprised to learn that the original fish and chips can be traced back to 16th-century Jews who were fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition and found refuge in the British Isles.
Fish was important for Marranos, the crypto-Jews, forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition who ate fish on Fridays, when meat was forbidden by the Church, and also saving some to eat cold the next day at lunch to avoid cooking on Shabbat.
As the Jewish community began to flourish in England, it spurred a taste for its beloved fried, battered fish throughout the country.
According to Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food,” Thomas Jefferson tried some on a trip to London and said he ate “fish in the Jewish fashion” during his visit.
The official pairing of fish and chips didn’t happen until later, and seems that once again it is credited to a young Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin, who opened the first British fish and chip shop, in London in 1863. The shop was so successful it remained in business until the 1970s.
I use a thick white sea fish for this recipe; Atlantic fish are not available here fresh so I am using Sea Bream (דניס ים) The fillets are dipped in a flour batter that includes both dark beer , baking powder and sparkling water to ensures a light & crispy result. The chips are floury regular potatoes but sweet potatoes are also delicious . Use one pot to fry the chips, then the fish, then the chips again (for that crisp exterior and fluffy interior) to ensure both fish and chips are ready to eat at the same time.
For the Fish:
- 60 grams all-purpose flour (divided)
- 60 grams cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Sea salt (to taste)
- 1 pinch black pepper (to taste)
- 1/3 cup dark beer (cold)
- 1/3 cup sparkling water (cold)
- 4 x 200-gram fish fillets (thick, white fish)
For the Chips:
- 1 kg potatoes (peeled)
- 1-liter vegetable oil for frying
Steps to Make It
- Set aside 2 tablespoons of flour. In a large bowl, mix the remaining flour with the cornstarch and baking powder. Season lightly with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
- Using a fork to whisk continuously, add the beer and the sparkling water to the flour mixture and continue mixing until a thick, smooth batter. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for between 30 minutes and 1 hour.
- Cut the potatoes into a little less than 1.5 cm -thick slices, then slice these into 1.5 cm-wide chips. Place the chips into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
- Put the washed chips into a pan of cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Drain carefully through then dry with paper towels. Keep in the fridge covered with paper towels until needed.
- Next, lay the fish fillets on a paper towel and pat dry. Season lightly with a little sea salt.
- Heat the oil to 177 Celsius in a deep-fat fryer or large, deep saucepan. Cook the chips a few handfuls at a time in the fat for about 2 minutes. Do not brown them. Once the chips are slightly cooked, remove them from the fat and drain. Keep to one side.
- Place the 2 tablespoons of flour reserved from the batter mix into a shallow bowl. Toss each fish fillet in the flour and shake off any excess.
- Dip into the batter, coating the entire fillet.
- Keep the oil temperature at 177c and carefully lower each fillet into the hot oil. Fry for approximately 8 minutes, or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning the fillets from time to time with a large slotted spoon.
- Once cooked, remove the fillets from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with greaseproof paper and keep hot.
- Heat the oil then cook the chips until golden and crisp, or about 5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain. Season with salt.