(31 Mar 2010)
It''s a great British institution.
This traditional dish consists of a hunk of fish, usually cod or haddock, battered and deep fried to a golden brown, served with thickly cut strips of potatoes, also deep fried, topped off with salt and vinegar.
However, the famed staple of British cuisine has slipped in popularity in recent years, though it''s still one of the country''s top five takeaway foods.
Now the National Federation of Fish Friers, keen to fight off competition from rival fast foods such as pizza and burgers, has declared 2010 to be the 150th birthday of fish and chips.
The Federation represents about 8,500 fish and chip shop owners in Britain.
It claims that in 1995, the British consumed 300 million servings of fish and chips - that equates to six servings for every man woman and child in the country.
Aspiring owners of fish and chip shops can take a course to help prepare them to run a "chippie" at the federation''s headquarters in Leeds, in northern England.
Students on the �670 pound ($1,000 US Dollars) three-day course learn the best way to prepare and cook the fish and how to use specialized machines to quickly peel and slice potatoes.
Food hygiene and health and safety are also covered, as are the ins and outs of running a restaurant, such as keeping accounts.
Mark Drummond, a training course instructor who is also the owner of a fish and chip shop, starts by teaching students how to debone cod fillets before slicing them into 5-ounce pieces.
For the batter, all that is needed are good quality flour and a raising agent, usually bicarbonate of soda, and very cold water.
As for the chips, Drummond recommends always making your own rather than using frozen chips.
"If you chip your own potatoes, and then dry them before you fry them, they fry much much better than if they''re frozen or if they''re wet," he says.
The students then try their hand at cooking, taking turns to practice on two traditional frying ranges, one British-made, the other Dutch.
Drummond shows them how to dump a bucket of chips on the side of the vat, rather than in the middle, in order to avoid being splashed by sizzling oil.
He uses a basic trick to tell when the chips are done - he simply picks one up and squeezes it in the middle.
If it''s cooked properly, it will be soft in the middle and hot but won''t hurt.
If it''s not, it will burn your fingers because there is still moisture in the potato that will scald.
Then Drummond demonstrates how to batter a piece of fish, dipping it quickly into the mixture before bringing it back out and touching it on the side of the container to let the excess run off.
He lowers it gently into the sizzling oil with an outward motion so that it floats away from the middle, freeing up space for more fish.
"We get them to prepare chips from raw potatoes and show them how to do them in large quantities and so that you can fry them dry. We teach them how to prepare fish ready for frying so it''s skinless and boneless if that''s what the customers in their areas like. And how it''s the right portion size. The biggest, most important thing we teach them is how to keep their oil or fat in good condition because that''s the biggest thing that determines the quality of the fish and chips," says Drummond.
Now it''s time for the taste test.
Drummond and the students tuck into the fish and chips they''ve cooked.
Barrie Richards, who is buying a fish and chips shop, agrees that the chips are good.
"There''s so much more than just chucking a piece into fat and hoping for the best. There''s an art to it," he says.
But what about the health implications of eating deep fried food?
For most in Britain, fish and chips are an occasional treat rather than a daily staple.
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