I always think I know best (well, I do know best) but you can’t blame me for that attitude – I get it from my mum. So you can imagine when we’re in the same room and disagree about something – arguments and then stroppiness generally ensue (from us both).
Growing up on (what seemed like) a diet of exploded mini chicken kievs which had been cremated in the deep fat fryer and black oven chips, bland (sorry mum) casseroles, and spag bol into which she had sneaked the evil mushroom, I feel justified in saying that I know best in the kitchen.
However, now I can see that what mum actually cooked was usually homemade, healthy, nutritious and good value for money. When she destroyed a meal in the oven, it was usually some kind of fast food crap that my brother and I had begged her for, rather than something she herself had made. That’s not to say she didn’t occasionally burn our favourite roast potatoes, and the Christmas turkey legs usually had the texture of a dog’s chewy toy, but generally she does know her way around the kitchen.
That means that mum can teach me a lot about cooking (in fact, it’s from her that I first learned to cook, and learned to feel confident in the kitchen), and she has shared some brilliant recipes with me, which I have shared on It’s not easy being greedy, such as steak steamed pudding.
When I told her that I had never fried my own fish, she told me buy some cod and she’d come over and teach me how to cook it. Honestly, I was dubious about how successfully the fish would turn out, but it was amazing. The fish was succulent and the batter was crispy and light – the envy of any gastropub. There was only one thing for it – I told her she’d have to come around and make it again (I’d make the chips and mushy peas) so that I could share her expertise with you.
Mum bought the cod fillets from the supermarket fishmonger – I didn’t weigh them but I think each fillet was around 200g. Then mum’s batter: plain flour, water, milk (I used skimmed) and a pinch of salt, whisked together. No sparkling water, no beer, no resting of the batter before use: just all of the ingredients whisked together until you have a batter which is like thick pancake batter.
Then dunk the fish in it: no flouring or seasoning the fish first – just dunked in and put into hot oil, and fried for around 5-8 minutes, depending on size (you will probably need to turn the fish over once as it floats to the top of the oil and you want it to turn golden on both sides).
And that is it! Done! And the fish tastes AMAZING! Well done mum.
We served the fish with my homemade healthy chips (parboiled potato wedges, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and baked in a hot oven for 30 minutes), and tinned mushy peas. Adding some salt and Sarsons vinegar, bread and butter, ketchup and tartare sauce (and some curry sauce for Andrew), we had a homemade chippy feast.
If you want to try and make it at home, this is what you need to do.
200g cod fillets per person, 6tbs flour, 15tbs water, 150ml milk, pinch salt, approx 500ml vegetable oil, 1 large potato per person, olive oil, salt and pepper
Get the chips on first: slice the potatoes into wedges (I leave the skin on – lazy me!) and parboil them in salted water for a couple of minutes until starting to soften. Then put them on a flat baking tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and vinegar, then bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown, turning over halfway).
Whisk together the flour, salt and water to create a thick batter, and then slowly add the milk until you have the consistency of thick pancake batter (thick enough to coat the fish). Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan until it is hot (the best way to test is to put a cube of bread into the hot oil – it should gently colour in the oil … if it doesn’t colour then it is too cold, if it browns to quickly then the oil is too hot).
Dip the fish fillets into the batter a couple of times to ensure they are fully coated, and then gently lay them into the hot oil. After a few seconds the batter will start to set around the fish – at that point you need to move the fish to be sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan
The fish should take around 8 minutes to achieve a beautiful golden batter and the fish cooked to perfection inside. You need to serve the fish immediately, with a sprinkle of sea salt and your chips and peas.
I am not sure what I want mum to teach me how to cook next … a jam roly poly could be a good one. Do you have recipes handed down from your parents or other members of the family which you have asked them to teach you to make?