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Fried Plaice Tempura and Chips with Mushy Peas

Ainsley HarriottThis is an Ainsley Harriott recipe which has been published as part of the National Fish & Chip Shop of the Year Competition. The competition recognises and awards fish and chip shops for producing the best fish & chips in the UK in an excellent environment. Fish and chip lovers help choose finalists by voting each summer from the hundreds of entries and the competition reaches its nail biting climax at a prestigious awards ceremony in London.

The competition, which is now in its nineteenth year is run by industry body Seafish and sponsored by Heinz SqueezMe!, Frozen at Sea Fillets Association (FASFA) and Seafood Scotland.

The ten winners are:

Scotland : The Anstruther Fish Bar, Fife
Northern Ireland : Millars Fish & Chips, Newtownards
Wales : Finnegans Fish Bar, Bridgend
North East : Pride of Bridlington, Bridlington
North West : Thornton Fisheries, Thornton Cleveleys
Midlands : Andy’s Fish Bar, Swadlincote
Eastern England : Petros Bros, Chatteris
London & South East : Henleys of Wivenhoe, Colchester
Central & South : Seafare, Aldershot
South West : Port & Starboard, St Columb

All winning shops undergo another strict round of judging in front of a panel of industry experts in January (2007). The shops will be scored on their quality of product, customer service, cleanliness and innovation. The UK champion will then be announced at an awards ceremony in London, hosted by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott.

Andy Gray, project manager for the competition commented: “Every year the judging process gets harder as the standard of shops gets better. The judges have been extremely impressed with customer service, quality of product and staff development in all finalist shops. It’s going to be a really tough decision to decide on the top title.“

Fish and chips are a British icon and the nation’s number one take-away with more than 261 million meals sold every year. According to research from co-sponsor Heinz SqueezeMe!, 88% of people think good quality condiments add to the enjoyment of fish and chips (Heinz ‘Out of Home Condiments Survey’ 2002). Tomato ketchup is the most popular condiment served in fish and chip shops, accompanying almost 10% of meals sold. (TNS 2006)

Toby Barty, senior brand manager for Heinz Foodservice, said: “It’s important fish and chip shops offer their customers a wide choice of condiments. They enhance the meal and can be a good way to increase profit. Heinz SqueezeMe! is an ideal accompaniment for fish and chips and having just sold our 10 millionth pod, customers are clearly enjoying it.”

Fried Plaice TempuraFish and chips are as English as Blackpool or Scarborough. Not just a take-away, this dish can be made at home without too much effort. Fierce battles rage over how best to make the perfect fried fish, but I have to say this particular batter is lovely and crisp - soggy fish is horrid. Served Japanese-style and with the perfect chips, this is perfect for any day of the week.

Ingredients

4 x 250 g (9 oz) plaice fillets

For the mushy peas:
55 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
6 spring onions, finely sliced
170 g (6 oz) fresh podded or frozen peas
1 x 5ml spoon (1 teaspoon) golden caster sugar
300 ml (1/2 pint) vegetable stock
2 x 15ml spoon (2 tablespoons) chopped fresh mint leaves
150 ml (¼ pint) double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 litres (3½ pints) sunflower or vegetable oil
900 g (2 lb) floury potatoes, such as Desiree or King Edward

For the tempura batter:
115 g (4 oz) plain flour
115 g (4 oz) cornflour
350 ml (12 fl oz) iced sparkling water

malt vinegar, for seasoning

Method

Preheat the oven to 150ºC / 300ºF / Gas Mark 2

To make the mushy peas:

  • Heat a deep-sided frying pan. Add half of the butter and leave to melt until hot and foaming. Tip in the spring onions and cook for a few minutes until softened but not coloured.

  • Add the peas to the frying pan with the caster sugar, stock and remaining butter, stirring together until combined. Place a circle of parchment paper on top of the mixture and allow to sweat for 4-5 minutes until the peas are completely tender.

  • Remove the paper from the pea mixture, drain any remaining stock and stir in the mint leaves and cream into the peas. Cook for another minute or so until all of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a food processor or liquidizer and blend until almost smooth, leaving some texture in the puree. Transfer to a pan, season to taste and keep warm.

  • Pour all the sunflower or vegetable oil into a deep-sided pan, making sure it is only half full, and heat to 160ºC/325ºF. Cut the potatoes into chunky chips and then place in a bowl of water - this helps to remove the starch. Drain and then dry them as much as possible in a clean tea towel before placing them in a wire basket and lowering them into the heated oil. Cook for 4 minutes until cooked through but not coloured. Drain well on kitchen paper and set aside.

To make the tempura batter:

  • Mix together the flour and cornflour in a bowl and then whisk in the iced sparkling water. Do not worry about lumps, as these will improve the texture of the batter, which needs to be used straight away.

To cook fish:

  • Dip the plaice fillets into the batter and then quickly lower into the heated oil and cook for 6 - 8 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven - this should only be for a minute or two so the batter doesn’t lose any of its crispness.

  • Increase the temperature of the oil to 190ºC / 375ºF. Tip the blanched chips back into the wire basket and then carefully lower into the heated oil. Cook for a minute or two until crisp and golden brown. Drain well on kitchen paper and serve immediately with the fish on greaseproof paper and wrap, if you like in traditional newspaper.
  • Season with salt and vinegar and serve with the mushy peas on the side.

Serves 4

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