Despite growing up on opposite sides of the world, we both come from countries in which fish and chips is something of a cultural icon. In coastal Australia, fish straight out of the ocean is transported into seaside fish and chip shops, lightly crumbed and fried or grilled, and the chips are enhanced by one of the culinary world’s greatest inventions: chicken salt. And that’s not even mentioning such delicacies as calamari and prawn cutlets, as well as and the ubiquitous Chiko Rolls, potato scallops and dim sims. If you’re a tomato-sauce-with-chips kind of person, you get the unique Australian experience of the squeezy sauce sachet.
In cold, gloomy England, on the other hand, wet Friday evenings are traditionally brightened by queuing at the ‘chippy’ to be presented with greasy, thickly-battered fish, chips with salt and odd-tasting malt vinegar and a side of mushy peas (more commonly served with a meat pie in Australia). Curry sauce is a more popular condiment than ketchup. After polishing it all off and feeling slightly sick as a result, grease-filled Englishmen have left the worries of the week behind them and are ready to face the weekend, once they have discarded the old bits of newspaper – now coated in a film of oil – that their dinners came wrapped in.
Can you tell which one of us is writing this blog yet?
Anyway, despite the prominence of fish and chips in our respective upbringings, fish and chips is a meal we don’t often eat in the Mash House. This probably has quite a bit to do with Miranda’s dismissive attitude towards battered English fish, but we don’t often cook it ourselves either. However, this all changed last week when we tried out Nauru’s version: coconut fish. The Nauruan method of cooking fish is more like the Australian way, in that it’s crumbed rather than battered, and the fact that it is mostly baked rather than deep-fried won it some points in the health stakes. We found recipes for two versions of the crumb, one with just coconut and breadcrumbs and one that was also enhanced by herbs and macadamia nuts. We plumped for the latter (from National-food.info) in an attempt to hide some of the coconut flavour from Ash. Our slightly adapted version of the original recipe is below.
2 skinless white fish fillets, each about 3/4 inch thick (we cut ours in half to cook)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry roasted macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Lime wedges, to serve
1. Heat oven to 230C.
2. Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Mix chopped nuts, breadcrumbs, coconut, herbs, ginger and some more salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Put egg in another shallow dish.
4. Dip the fish into the egg, let the excess drip off and coat on all sides with the breadcrumb mixture.
5. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Add the fish in a single, uncrowded layer and cook until golden (about 2 minutes). Gently flip the fish and put into the oven for 5-7 minutes, until fish is nearly firm and coating is crisp.
Crunchy pineapple relish
1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
1/4 cucumber, finely diced
2 tbsp finely diced red onion
1 1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
Drizzle of sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Let stand, stirring once or twice, for about 20 minutes.
The Nauruan recipe was just for the fish and relish, but chips seemed a logical accompaniment. Nauru is the most overweight country in the world, and the Nauruans are no strangers to deep-fried food, but we opted for our tried and true recipe for oven chips, courtesy of Annabel Langbein but with a few alterations.
Crunchy home made fries
4 medium-large potatoes
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper (or a chip cooking mat like the one we have).
2. Peel the potatoes and cut into chips or wedges. Toss in a big bowl (or big pot with a lid) with the flour. Add the oil and toss again.
3. Spread the chips out in a single layer on the baking tray and season. Roast for about 45 minutes (but could be anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on the size and age of your potatoes) until golden and crisp.
We’re on quite a macadamia kick lately, it seems. Having enjoyed an incredible macadamia-crusted beef a few weeks back and declaring it one of the best meals we’d had in a long time, we had no complaints about adding it to a piece of fish as well –even if there was also coconut involved! It’s therefore probably unsurprising that we both loved this meal. The fish was delicious, the relish was fresh, and the chips using Annabel’s method were a lovely accompaniment. Fish and chips may be found more commonly on the Mash table from now on!