I don’t think a recipe exists that is more absolutely British than Fish and Chips. For anyone in England it’s sure to evoke memories of seaside holidays; the pang of vinegar, the little batter scraps in the bottom of the paper, the chip shops (or chippys as colloquialism says) on every seafront corner.
My own childhood was spent in a city by the sea where there was no lack of chip shops – there was even one just down the road, less than a minute away – so as you can guess, it was a bit of a guilty pleasure.
I used to love the taste of salty chips, picking at the bits of batter, even cheekily requesting to the owners to give me their scraps and leftovers.
The meal is so good it can be throughly enjoyed even by someone who regularly eats fish, but for all the vegetarians and vegans out there, this is literally a heaven-sent recipe. It would be great to share as a family dinner as tofu is high in protein and vegan. You could even make it gluten free by changing plain flour in the batter to cornflour.
I’m not usually that ‘big’ on substitutes. But this is an exception. How could I resist? Lets be honest – tofu is quite a tasteless ingredient unless treated properly. In this recipe the tofu sings. It’s marinated to a tangy vinegar perfection – this is why you should use cider vinegar for the marinade as opposed to the malt vinegar you would use for seasoning. This vital taste of the sea and the dominating flavour that we all relish brings the whole thing together.
Although the star of the show is certainly the tofu inside, everybody knows that batter is critical to the success of a good fish and chips. In this recipe I opted not to use beer as I don’t drink it – but since it only serves to make the batter lighter with bubbles, here a soda (or sparkling water) does the job just as well.
Tuck in and enjoy …
Tofu and Nori 'Beer' battered 'Fish' and Chips with mushy peas
The epitome of British seaside classic taken with a vegetarian/vegan twist.
For the batter:
- 160g Plain flour, and a little extra for covering the tofu
- Enough fizzy/sparkling water to make a paste
- 3 tbsp salt
For the marinade:
- Cider Vinegar
- 1 tbsp salt & pepper
- Sesame Oil
For the ‘fish’:
- One pack of firm silken tofu (Different to hard tofu – this is the silken type but firm, not soft and crumbly)
- 1 sheet of nori (Seaweed strips often used for Sushi)
For the mushy peas (optional):
- 1 handful of preferably fresh peas, frozen will do
- A knob of butter
- Salt and pepper
- A splash of cream if you have it (optional)
- One tiny (tiny!) pinch of baking soda.
Side serving suggestions: Lemon slices, mint, tartar sauce, gherkins, or capers.
Preparing and marinating tofu-fish:
- Cut the tofu into thirds, and then cut each piece again into 3. The size of your tofu bites are up to you – but I found I liked them smaller so the flavour was more concentrated and each piece was delicately balanced with the right amount of batter. Please do not press the tofu. Although an effective technique of drying the tofu, since the texture is so soft it will be counterproductive. We want the tofu to hold it’s shape as much as possible, and this means as little handling as possible.
- Prepare the marinade. In a small, shallow bowl mix your sesame oil, vinegar, and seasoning. Then place the tofu bites into the marinade and cover with another bowl. Leave for about 40 mins, carefully turning occasionally and ‘basking’ the pieces.
- While the tofu is marinating, prepare your chips. I used pre-cut chips, but this would be even nicer with homestyle fries. Simply prep and julienne* or jardiniere** your fries depending on your preference. We do this in advance because when frying or baking, it is best that the potatoes are as dry as possible. You can fry your chips either before or after the tofu – I choose after.
- Once the time is up, remove your tofu from the marinade (which you can keep to lightly season your chips later, if you like) and carefully, using your hands, coat all the sides in flour. Set aside and switch on your fat fryer or heat the oil or deep frying.
- Now prepare the batter mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, a tbsp of the marinade. Add dashes of sparkling water until a thick batter forms. When you add the sparkling water, it should fizz and bubble slightly. This is what will give the airiness and lightness to your batter.
- If you wish, cut a slice of nori into pieces equal to the size of the tofu. Alternatively, you can eat it as a side. If combining with tofu, just layer it on top. Quickly coat the tofu in the batter using a spoon until completely covered and fry in batches of 3-4.
- Remove when golden.
Cooking mushy peas:
- While the tofu (or should we call it battered fish now?) is frying, you can cook your mushy peas. In a small pan, heat water with an absolutely minuscule amount of baking soda and salt. This is to increase the tenderness of the peas. Now add the peas and simmer for about 4 minutes.
- Drain the peas and place into a bowl. While still hot, add the butter, splash of cream and seasoning – and then mash. You can puree the peas, but I prefer to mash as I then have more control over the resulting texture.
* Well, there I go with culinary jargon. Julienne is a french culinary term referring to a vegetable cutting technique. Imagine MacDonald’s french fries: long, thin, and matchstick shaped.
** Jardiniere, again, is a french term. This style is a chunky rectangle shaped chip.