Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Beer battered cod bites with tartare sauce

I do believe that almost anything can be served as a canapé or a starter, so long as it's small enough and packaged correctly. Canapés, starters, nibbles - they are all wonderful excuses for us to eat more and to occasionally shun the (welcome) burden of choice.

They are for those of us who get food envy, who can never choose between all the fabulous choices that we are lucky enough to be faced with, or who just need to break away, in a small way, from their standard, much loved cuisine. The idea that we are able to have a bite or two of everything is wonderful in itself.

This recipe came from a craving for battered fish. It's one of those things where I'd often love a bite, but a whole fillet can be too much. Too much batter perhaps, or just too many other delicious options! My solution - mini bites (with lashings of tartare sauce of course).

I don't have a deep fryer, and I don't do much deep frying at all for that matter, but this was surprisingly easy to make and turned out better than I could have hoped for. You control the ingredients, how much batter on your fish and when you eat it! What a brilliant way to have a (healthier) bite or two of this British classic.

Beer battered cod bites with tartare sauce

Quantities: Enough nibbles for 4

Timings: 20 minutes

Kitchen Stuff: Deep sided frying pan or wok, kitchen paper, tongs


Tartare sauce:
2 tbsp cornichons, chopped
2 tbsp capers, chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp cornichon pickling juice
1 tsp horseradish sauce
1/4 lemon, juice 
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Battered cod:
Vegetable oil - around 250-500ml (for frying)
2 cod fillets, cut into bite size cubes 
275ml cold beer (I used Meantime Pilsner)
200g plain flour, put in the freezer for 15 minutes before using
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges - to serve


1. QUEEN OF TARTARE: Combine all your tartare sauce ingredients and taste, add more or less of anything to adjust but I find this combo delicious, producing a very chunky and flavoursome tartare sauce. Cover & pop in the fridge until needed.

2. DEEP FAT FRYING: Heat your oil in a large, deep pan (I used a wok) to 185C. I don't have a kitchen thermometer either, so use one of these handy tips:

* Have some popcorn kernels at the ready. When the oil is getting hot, put a kernel in the oil. When the kernel pops, you know your oil is between 175C - 185C.

* Put the handle of your wooden spoon in the oil, if it bubbles steadily then it's ready, if it's too vigorous then your oil is too hot.

You will need to adjust your oil temperature as you go so do be aware of this.

3. MAKE YOUR BATTER: Make the batter just before you cook your fish, not in advance. In a large bowl, mix the chilled flour with the baking powder, salt and a few twists of black pepper. Gently pour in your beer and whisk until you have a smooth paste.

Line a large plate with kitchen paper (or a tea towel if you don't have any) to put your fish on. Have your other tools ready: a pair of tongs, some kitchen paper for spillages and a small ramekin or glass for depositing the extra little bits that might burn in the oil.

4. FRY: When your oil is hot and ready for frying: Using your hands, dip your fish pieces into the batter, give them a small shake to remove any excess batter, and gently drop them into your hot oil. Be careful of splashing, don't get oil on yourself! Fry 2-4 pieces at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. 

Fry for 2-3 minutes, turning half-way, until the batter is deep golden and crisp. Carefully lift out with your tongs and transfer to the kitchen paper to drain. You can keep your fish bites warm in the oven whilst making the remainder if you wish. 

Keep an eye on your oil temperature, adjusting as you go to keep it at the right temperature, and fish out any floating bits of batter so they don't burn.

5. SERVE: When all your cod bites are golden and crispy, serve in a pile of newspaper with lots of lemon wedges and your tartare sauce. Make sure everyone has a nice cold Pilsner in hand too! Serve immediately.