How to make Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Fish and Chips recipe. We get it right this time after our disastrous first attempt.
The first time we made Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Fish and Chips recipe from In Search of Perfection was a lesson in how a few simple mistakes can ruin a meal.
Outwardly it looked fine, but one bite revealed limp-skinned chips, oily batter and greasy, stone-cold peas. Behold:
And here’s how the recipe ought to have looked, as seen in Heston’s In Search of Perfection recipe book:
Out of sheer stubbornness we (mainly me) decided this recipe needed a second attempt. It’s one of Heston’s shortest In Search of Perfection recipes – aside from the first two stages for the chips you can make the entire dish in under an hour.
Recipes: Heston’s Perfect Fish & Chips Recipe, with Mushy Peas
Special Equipment: Digital probe thermometer, chip basket, siphon & CO2 charges
Special Ingredients: Rice flour, vodka
Time: 7 – 8 hours
Step 1: Chips
We’ve covered these in much more detail seperately, with what we think is a definitive step-by-step guide on how to make Heston Blumenthal’s triple cooked chips recipe. At the risk of repeating ourselves here’s a quick recap on the crucial first stages.
Cut the chips nice and chunky. The crusts on these can go really deep into the chips, so to avoid having chips that are all-crust you’ll want to cut them quite thick.
To preserve the potatoes appearance it’s best to keep them submerged in water as much as possible while you work.
Get the biggest pan you can lay your hands on and bring it to the boil. Add the chips (don’t overcrowd the pan) and then leave the chips to simmer for between 15 and 30 minutes. DO NOT bring the pan to a rolling boil, as the vigorous bubbling will jostle the tender potatoes about and break them into tiny pieces before you can rescue them.
For true perfection we recommend you tie the skins in a muslin bag (or a cheap and cheerful hairnet, like we’re using) and add them to your pan of water. Most of the flavour in potatoes is in the skin, this way you can infuse that flavour into your chips.
Start checking your chips at the 15 minute mark. Be very gentle with them. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and leave them to dry on a cake rack (if you don’t have a cake rack use the rack from your grill).
Once the chips have cooled put them in the fridge, where the cold air will remove excess moisture, giving you the crispy chips you’re looking for.
After at least 2 hours fry them, in batches, for approximately 4 minutes at 130°C. You don’t want them to stay the same colour, or go very pale blonde at most (though this advice contradicts the guys at ChefSteps, who developed not only Heston’s Triple Cooked Chips but also the Modernist Cuisine starch-infused fries recipe!).
Then they go back on the rack, then back in the fridge, then they wait to be fried a final time.
Step 2: Preparing the Fish
When we first made this recipe we used Heston’s preferred choice of turbot. It’s a gorgeous, meaty, sustainable fish, but difficult for us to source to the right weight (and bloody expensive, too).
This time round we’re opting for line caught cod. Not quite as virtuous, but it’s vastly easier for us to get hold of. And we’re hoping the thicker fillets might help avoid some of the overcooking we suffered last time. Plus, it’s a chip shop classic.
Another chef we like, Tom Kerridge, warns that cod can become watery when fried, which sounds like a recipe for disaster / pan full of broken fish. We’re salting the cod for ten minutes before cooking to firm up the flesh.
Step 3: Preparing the Batter
The batter comprises just six ingredients, half wet half dry.
Combine the rice and plain flour with baking powder…
… then in a separate jug the beer, vodka and honey. (Vodka evaporates faster than water, meaning faster cooking. The honey adds colour).
Combine these together, to form a batter (a few lumps are fine, don’t overwork it).
Now pour the batter into a whipping or soda siphon. Both do exactly the same thing, and are interchangeable. A fact I wish I’d known £70 ago before buying both in service of Heston’s Perfection recipes.
To give the batter the bubbles it needs to become extra crispy you need to charge the siphon with CO2. ChefSteps say you can use Nitrous Oxide – but I’m wary after seeing that explosion in The Fast and the Furious.
Rest the batter siphon in the fridge for 30 minutes. Plenty of time to warm the chip oil and make…
Step 4: Mushy Peas
What an absolute liar Heston Blumenthal is! These aren’t mushy peas at all, but a pea puree with whole peas added. As far as we’re concerned true mushy peas are something that you should be able to sculpt with, these definitely don’t fit that description.
Gently warm peas, butter, and a tiny bit of water…
…blitz them with a stick blender…
… and then stir in reserved whole peas. Season well and set aside until ready to serve.
Step 5: Frying the Chips
To finish the triple cooked chips just, y’know, fry them in oil. Like chips.
About 8 minutes should do it. You might need more or less time depending. We’re favouring slightly less time these days to avoid the chips being too much crust and too little centre.
We kept these on a baking tray in a very low oven while we used the same oil to fry the fish. It just seemed a lot more organised and less wasteful than having two whopping great big pans of oil on the go.
Step 6: Frying the Fish
Rinse the fish of excess salt and then dust it in rice flour.
That batter will have a very foamy appearance from the siphon treatment.
As you can see there’s more NASA-worthy innovation going on in our kitchen, as I use the Tupperware box for batter and the lid for the flour dredge.
The fish should only need frying for 3 minutes. With the first one I’d let the oil get to a slightly-too-high 230°C, which left the batter on this fish unappetisingly dark.
I dubbed it “Ser Brydon Tully”, lowered the heat on the hob, and hoped our second fish would look better.
Step 7: Serve
Drain the fish briefly on kitchen paper (essential to stop it being too oily, we find) and then plate up along with the warmed pea puree, triple cooked chips, lemon wedges and -if you have it- Heston’s Smell-of-the-chippy vinegar (i.e. an atomiser filled with the vinegar out of a jar of pickled onions).
Congratulations, you’ve just made Heston’s Perfect Fish & Chips recipe from In Search of Perfection.
Fish: Much better this time round. The batter was still darker than we’d have expected, but much crunchier than our first attempt. Our cod was slightly past Heston’s goal of 45 degrees (which find a little too rare for our tastes) but it didn’t overcook nearly as much as the turbot did. We got gorgeous, firm meaty flakes.
Also, for the love of all things sacred don’t salt your fish for too long! If we do use cod next time we’ll be briefly brining it rather than salting it. Ours was definitely over-seasoned.
We did still have a small patch of doughy, undercooked batter. We’d put this down to a clumsy drizzling technique (meaning my clumsy drizzling technique).
If you are going to drizzle on extra batter then use a fork, the small tines create finer streams of batter that will fry quickly. I used a massive slotted spoon, hence the clumping and the raw dough patch. We both agreed the fish has plenty batter as it is though, so you don’t actually need to perform this step.
Chips: We think we’ve got these down to a fine art now. But since we may have mentioned our new-found love for all things ChefSteps we’re likely to try their method next.
We do recommend you go heavy with spraying the pickled onion vinegar on them, if you decide to use it.
It’s a fun Heston-esque addition to the recipe, but for a more personally satisfying and nostalgic taste we’d prefer to use Sarsons in future.
Peas: Too smooth and too buttery for our palettes. It’s luxurious, and delicious, but the texture makes these “mushy” peas more of a vegetable-flavoured condiment than a side dish in their own right. Think of them as a kind of pea ketchup.
Next time we’d completely omit the water and reduce the butter content by at least half. This isn’t a meal that needs an extra saturated fat. I really ought to have remembered to buy the ingredients to make Heston’s Tartar Sauce recipe, that would have been ideal to help “cut through the richness™”
Heston’s Perfect Fish and Chips recipe still gives you a pretty heavy meal, but it was much more enjoyable this time round. Like many of Heston’s Perfection dishes the richness means a smaller portion is still incredibly satisfying.
We still can’t say this was better than a meal at our favourite Fish & Chip place Colmans, but for home cooks, bumbling their way through recipes from one of the most talented chefs on the planet, we’re more than happy with the results this time.
We do love this dish a lot more now that we’ve managed to correct some of the mistakes from our first attempt. The vodka and CO2 charges still make it quite a costly and hassle-filled recipe though.
In future we’ll be trying out Tom Kerridge’s exact recipe for battered fish, which uses lightly-whisked egg whites to provide the bubble-filled crunch. I’ve been served just about the crispiest squid you’ll ever eat using a combination of little more than egg whites and potato starch, so we’re pretty confident this recipe will give us the results we’re aiming for.
Have you made Heston’s Perfect Fish & Chips recipe at home? And do you have any tips on how we can improve our recipe? Any advice and comments are always welcome in the section below…