Fish and Chips With Vodka and Lager Batter

This recipe is based on a Heston Blumenthal recipe that was shown on TV. Since it included the essential vodka element I decided to give it a go with nitrous pump and all! The recipe with ingredients and full instructions are detailed at the end of the article for those interested in experimenting for themselves. You will be wise to learn from my slightly botched job.

The Batter

First of all you have to make up the batter mix. This consists of plain flour, rice flour, vodka and honey and then lager. I was making fish and chips for two so I used 100 g of both types of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder, 150 ml of vodka and half a tablespoon of honey, Manuka honey no less! Unfortunately I used vodka that I had stored in the freezer and it made the honey really difficult to combine with the other ingredients. Daft? Yes. I knew as I poured it in it was probably a mistake but went ahead and did it anyway. The recipe uses a whipped cream canister or soda dispenser to make the batter really frothy. You have to add the lager (150 ml for 2 fish batters worth) in to the batter immediately before you put it into the canister so that you lose minimal bubbles. I did this but overfilled my inadequately sized canister and ended up having to pour it all out and back in again frantically as the mixture rapidly lost its fizz! You then seal the canister, load in a charger and put it in the fridge to cool down for half an hour.

After a glass of wine and most of a large bag of Kettle Chips plus olives and feta (and already feeling full having stupidly ruined my appetite) it was time to get battering. Oh and you have to use a tonne of oil (the recipe says ground nut oil but I used sunflower). The oil needs to be heated to 440 degrees Fahrenheit according to the recipe. I obediently heated up the oil in a large saucepan and used a temperature probe to measure. In between probing the oil I prepped my fish. Again I deviated from the recipe and used cod instead of turbot. The fish has to be rinsed, paper towel dried and lightly dusted in flour to make the batter stick. This is the time to give them a good grind of pepper and shake of salt. Then comes the fun part; time to let rip with the dispenser. It is best to fire the dispenser into a bowl and then dip in the fish as the stuff literally explodes out. I tentatively squeezed down the lever and the batter shot out all over the place. I hurriedly coated the fish and then dropped it into the oil. Disaster! It cooked in about 2 seconds and then immediately started burning the outside. Perhaps the recipe was specifically intended for turbot and not cod or more likely is that the cod I bought wasn’t chunky enough. On reflection it wasn’t quite up to the 2-3 cm required of the recipe. I fished (ho ho) the cod out and set it aside turning the heat right down to give the second piece a go. This was mildly more successful but you are supposed to top up the batter in between cooking by taking it out temporarily and squirting on more batter mixture then dunking back in. However, in the uncontrolled environment outside of the bowl the batter was shooting out all over the place! Nightmare! Tiles, kettle, hob, microwave, me; all splattered. For the final piece of fish (it was two portions but one of them was split into two smaller pieces so three bits of fish in total) I turned the heat off completely and tried to execute more controlled batter addition whilst cooking. This was by far and away the most successful of the three. If I endeavoured to try this again I would hope not to repeat the hiccups of attempt one!

To accompany the vodka and lager battered fish I made wedges and peas. The recipe has a fancy potato accompaniment as well as a suggestion to add pickled onion water to an atomiser and spray over the finished product for fish and chip shop authenticity. This was beyond my capabilities today. I was barely able to hold the fish together and bog standard wedges and peas was about as much as I could stretch to!

The Verdict

It was enjoyable although I have made batters a lot tastier. That isn’t to say I would write this recipe off completely. I think using the whipped cream dispenser takes a bit of getting used to and perhaps it didn’t add anything to my dish as I wasn’t used to handling it but it definitely should add to the overall bubbliness and crunchiness of the fish batter if operated properly.

Hopefully if you decide to give the recipe a go you will heed my mistakes and make something beautiful!

The Recipe in All its Glory

Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 200 g white rice flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 300 ml vodka
  • 300 ml lager
  • 2-3 litres ground nut oil
  • 4 large turbot fillets, 2-3cm thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add the plain flour, rice flour and baking powder into a bowl. Pour the vodka into a jug and tip in the honey, combine and then add to the flour to create a batter mix. Just before transferring to the dispenser pour the lager into the batter until just combined. If the consistency is a bit on the lumpy side it isn’t the end of the world. The most important thing to remember here is to open the lager immediately before you add it to the mix and switch it to the dispenser to retain as many of the bubbles as possible.
  2. Once the mixture is ready add it to the nitrous syphon. A jug would come in useful at this point. Charge the dispenser with three chargers and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a large pan pour in enough oil to ensure that the fish is covered. Remember that the weight of the fish will increase the level of the oil.
  4. Heat the oil to 220°C and check the temperature with a digital probe. You can use a deep fat fryer if you have one but the temperatures fluctuate considerably so for best results use straightforward pan and oil.
  5. Rinse the turbot fillets under the tap and then pat them dry with some paper towel. Season generously and then dust with rice flour to encourage the batter to stick as much as possible to the fish.
  6. Shake the syphon vigorously and then squirt out the batter into a bowl. Be careful how much batter you squeeze out as it will start to lose its bubbliness as soon as it leaves the dispenser but don’t be too tentative as you want to get a good coating and you will be surprised at how much mixture just keeps on coming and coming. Dunk the fish, coating it thoroughly. Once completely coated, lower the fillet into the hot oil.
  7. After a few seconds take out the fish and add more batter to thicken up the crispy coat. Do this on both sides of the fillet.
  8. After a few minutes the fish should be a deep golden brown and ready to eat. Test that the middle has cooked through by poking in your temperature probe and checking that it measures about 40°C. Once it has reached this temperature it will continue to cook through to a temperature of 45°C.

The Chips

  • 1.2kg Arran Victory or Maris Piper potatoes
  • 2-3 litres groundnut (peanut) oil
  • Table salt and sea salt

Instructions

  1. Wash and peel the potatoes and then roughly cut them into chips about 1.5cm thick.
  2. Rinse them in a colander under cold running water for 2-3 minutes remove some of the starch. Drain.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (as a guide add about 10g of salt per litre of water), then add the chips and bring back to the boil.
  4. Simmer gently encouraging the potatoes to begin to show signs of breaking apart but stop before this actually occurs. It is a fine science. The fissures that form in the potato will trap the fat when they cook and create that delicious crunchy crust.
  5. Carefully remove the potatoes from the water and place on a rack to cool. Once at room temperature put in the fridge to chill.
  6. Pour in enough oil to cover the chips into a deep-fat fryer or a pan and heat to 130°C. Dunk the chips drowning them in the oil and allow them to cook until they are slightly coloured.
  7. Remove the chips and drain off the excess fat. Once again place them on a rack and allow to cool completely then return to the fridge to chill ready for round two.
  8. This time heat the oil to 190°C. Plunge in the chips and cook until golden brown and crisp.
  9. Drain the chips and remove some of the excess fat if desired.
  10. Season with both variations of salt and serve with the vodka, lager fish and a good chunk of lemon garnish.
  11. Push the boat out and go for the whole chippy experience by decanting some of the juice out of a pickled onion jar into an atomiser. Spray generously around your fish and chips.
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