“Healthy fish and chips” slips effortlessly into the litany of the world’s greatest lies, or so I had imagined until dinner last night. The flat parsley above, photographed in the grey light that was nature’s tired effort at illumination this January morning, is the sole surviving element of that feast. The fact that every tiny morsel and crumb was greedily devoured would be the only counter to my claim of healthy eating.
It all started with Christmas presents. We had bought “30 minute cooking” for our daughter, innocent of the fact that it would have the power to reduce her, or any of the 1,000,000 other owners, to tears of desperation at her/their own inadequacy each time she/they attempted to knock up a three course banquet during the commercials. On the pro side, it has some very good recipes, amongst which is cod in bread crumbs with tartare sauce. The key is the amazing breadcrumbs. I have already heaped praise on Jamie’s breadcrumbs in a earlier post ( 17 dec’10 ) but I have to reheap that praise. I find excuses to use breadcrumbs where no breadcrumbs are needed – I love them. These particular ones are made from a warm, “just brought home from the boulangerie” crusty baguette, anchovies, parmesan and a slug of olive oil. This mix is processed to rough crumbly golden breadcrumbs. The fish is seasoned with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil and covered in a layer of breadcrumbs. As I had more breadcrumbs than I needed for the two pieces of fish that I was cooking, I put the rest on top as well. This is not a time for waste, nor, it appears for “waist”. Prior to the fish preparation, I had peeled two large potatoes and cut them lengthwise into the classic wedge chip shape. These were thrown into a pan of salted, boiling water where they remained for 5 or 6 minutes – enough time for a glass of wine and to set fire to the plastic handle of the metal substitute for the now forbidden asbestos mat. This, I have to admit, changed the mood in the kitchen, and is a good example of how small events can so easily add to 30 minute targets. In some instances, this would happen off screen. Senses regathered, the chips were drained, allowed to cook in their steam for a moment, and then returned to the pan for a good shaking to roughen their edges. What makes them so good is the next step. Tipped into a large bowl they are seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, sprinkled with paprika, dusted with polenta and drizzled with olive oil. Luckily there is not another ingredient as I had run the gamut of seasoning adjectives. All that is left to do is to tip the chips into a roasting pan in a single layer, and cook in a hot oven until golden and crisp with sticky edges. The fish takes a lot less time to cook, and goes into the oven just before the chips are ready.The tartare sauce is a mix of capers, cornichons, flat parsley, anchovies, olive oil and, the one sinful ingredient, mayonnaise. This was a fish and chip meal without dyspepsia, quite unlike nostalgia fuelled visits to “chippies”on rare visits to London which are invariably followed by regret – on every body’s part and sometimes even on their shoes. This is a paean of praise to Jamie Oliver which is well deserved…..well, …deserved.