Finding My Roots and British Fish and Chips

I’ve always wanted to take a trip across the pond and visit the countries in the United Kingdom. Maybe one day I’ll have that opportunity, but until then I’ll try and bring a bit of those places home through food.

While growing up I was told my family heritage is Italian, Irish and German. In these days of Ancestry DNA and trying to learn a bit more about my ancestors I learned a few things. Yes, I’m still Southern Italian/Sicilian on my father’s side but the slight difference is in my mother’s side. She thought her ancestors were Irish and German. The German side still definitely sticks from her mother’s side but the Irish side from her father now has a twist. There is the strong possibility we are also 31% Scottish, 12% English, 2% Welsh and nothing turned up in Ireland. Now that was a bit of a surprise. So in the months ahead I hope to learn more about the UK ancestry of my family. This has been the most difficult side of my family to research thus far as I don’t have any living relatives from my maternal grandfather’s side.

So to celebrate my UK ancestry I made a version of British Fish and Chips that was so delicious. Growing up I remember Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips was the place to go. Crispy fish and you added a few dashes of malt vinegar. It was something totally new and delicious back then. The fish was the crispiest batter dipped fish I ever ate. Any fried fish made at home was made with a coating of flour then egg and bread crumb then fried. This was also delicious but Arthur Treacher’s was something special. The restaurant has come and gone over the years and on a rare occasion I’ve had fish and chips while eating out, but I never quite made it the British way at home until now.

This recipe is from a terrific website called the Spruce Eats. I enjoyed many of their recipes and this one did not disappoint. It takes a bit of planning and work but the end result was amazing, my family loved it and I hope you enjoy it too.

Classic British Fish and Chips

  • Total:40 mins
  • Prep:20 mins
  • Cook:20 mins
  • Rest time for batter:30 mins
  • Servings:4 servings

Classic fish and chips are a British institution and a national dish that everyone can’t help but love. You can buy them from one of the thousands of fish and chip shops all over the country, including the world-famous Harry Ramsden’s—or you can make them at home.

Use a thick white fish for this recipe; sustainable cod, haddock, or pollock are preferable. The fillets are dipped in a flour batter that includes both dark beer and sparkling water, and the carbonation ensures a light, crispy fried fish. The “chips” are simply freshly cut fried potatoes. Use one pot to fry the chips, then the fish, then the chips again (for that crisp exterior and fluffy interior) to ensure both fish and chips are ready to eat at the same time. Serve with a pint and bring the pub home.


  • For the Fish:
  • 7 tablespoons (55 grams) all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 7 tablespoons (55 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 pinch black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/3 cup dark beer (cold)
  • 1/3 cup sparkling water (cold)
  • 4 (7-ounce) fish fillets (thick, white fish)
  • For the Chips:
  • 2 pounds potatoes (peeled)
  • 1 quart (1 liter) vegetable oil (or lard; for frying)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Set aside 2 tablespoons of flour. In a large, roomy bowl, mix the remaining flour with the cornstarch and baking powder. Season lightly with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Using a fork to whisk continuously, add the beer and the sparkling water to the flour mixture and continue mixing until you have a thick, smooth batter. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for between 30 minutes and 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into a little less than 1/2-inch-thick slices, then slice these into 1/2-inch-wide chips. Place the chips into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
  5. Place the washed chips into a pan of cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Drain carefully through a colander, then dry with paper towels. Keep in the fridge covered with paper towels until needed.
  7. Meanwhile, lay the fish fillets on a paper towel and pat dry. Season lightly with a little sea salt.
  8. Heat the oil to 350 F in a deep-fat fryer or large, deep saucepan. Cook the chips a few handfuls at a time in the fat for about 2 minutes. Do not brown them. Once the chips are slightly cooked, remove them from the fat and drain. Keep to one side.
  9. Place the 2 tablespoons of flour reserved from the batter mix into a shallow bowl. Toss each fish fillet in the flour and shake off any excess.
  10. Dip into the batter, coating the entire fillet.
  11. Check that the oil temperature is still 350 F. Carefully lower each fillet into the hot oil. Fry for approximately 8 minutes, or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning the fillets from time to time with a large slotted spoon.
  12. Once cooked, remove the fillets from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with greaseproof paper (parchment paper) and keep hot.
  13. Heat the oil to 400 F, then cook the chips until golden and crisp, or about 5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain. Season with salt.
  14. Serve immediately with the hot fish accompanied by your favorite condiment.


  • When making this classic version, be sure to use the freshest cod, pollock, or haddock that you can find for the best results. Frozen fish is also fine, but make sure it is thoroughly defrosted and dried with paper towels first.
  • Prepare the batter and only dip the fish at the last moment before plunging into hot oil to fry. This way you will always have a light and crisp snap to the batter.
  • Use a floury potato for the chips. The best varieties are King Edward, Maris Piper, Sante, and Yukon Gold.

Why Is Simmering the Potatoes Important?

British “chips” are the same as french fries, and restaurants use a few tricks to make really good and crispy fries. The most important of those are blanching and double frying; the same method used in this recipe. Simmering and the cold water rinse leaves you with blanched potatoes that contain less moisture and will result in crispier fried chips.

Why Do Fish and Chips Get Soggy?

A few factors may result in soggy fish and chips. The first is that the fish and potatoes need to be dry. Removing moisture produces crispier fried food and reduces oil splatter. Oil temperature is also key: If it’s too cool, the food needs to cook longer, will soak up more oil, and become soggy. You also don’t want it too hot because that can lead to a burnt batter or undercooked fish and potatoes. When deep-frying in a pan, use a thermometer to monitor and maintain the oil temperature. Avoid overcrowding the pan, which will lower the temperature as well.

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