What makes a good batter? For Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher, the authors of The River Cottage Fish Book, the answer is beer. Their versatile recipe below can be used when deep-frying almost any fish or shellfish. Some ketchup or tartar sauce is all you’ll need to enjoy the crisp yet moist fried fish.
Fish in Beer Batter
Recipe from The River Cottage Fish Book (Ten Speed Press, March 2012)
serves 4 to 6
1 1⁄2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
Peanut oil, including plenty for deep-frying
About 1 cup (250ml) good beer – anything really, including stout, but preferably not cheap lager
Mixed fish of your choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the batter, sift the flour into a bowl, or put it in a bowl and whisk it (which is almost as effective a way to aerate the flour and remove lumps). Add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil, then gradually whisk in the beer, stopping when you have a batter with the consistency of thick emulsion paint. Beat it well to get rid of any lumps, season generously, then leave to rest for 30 minutes or so.
Heat the oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pan until it reaches 320°F (160°C), or until a cube of bread dropped into it turns golden brown in 1 1⁄2 to 2 minutes.
Dip your chosen piece of fish into the batter so it is thoroughly immersed, then lift it out and hold it over the bowl for a few seconds so any excess batter drops back in. Now lower the battered fish into the hot oil. Do this one piece at a time, if using large portions, or in small batches for smaller pieces, so as not to crowd the pan. Fry large pieces of fish for 4 to 5 minutes, and smaller items, such as squid rings, for 2 minutes or so, until golden brown and crisp. Scoop them out with a wire skimmer, and transfer to a warm dish lined with paper towels. Keep them warm while you fry the remaining fish, then serve right away, with ketchup or perhaps some tartar sauce.
For more recipes from The River Cottage Fish Book, see the Scribd excerpt below: