Tag Archives: Fish and chips

Do You Want Curry Chips With That? (with your Baked Curried Cod that is!) Serves 4-6

The other day a very old friend tracked me down via this blog, and since then we have exchanged a couple of emails. The kind of “old friend” I am talking about is the one you are forever bound to because you were in the same place at the same time during those precious formative years; the years where you were beginning to become the person you ultimately became (for lack of a more evolved explanation).

Curried Chips: the reason for this post!

Curried Chips: the reason for this post!

I met Maria when we were thirteen and we were thrown together, for better or for worse, until we were grown women of eighteen (supposedly anyway!), and, except for a few occasions when we happen to bump into each other, and keeping up a little through mutual friends, we had never really kept in touch. I didn’t see this as a  failure on either of our parts. It was just life, and our school friendship was complete in and of itself, unchanged by the years in between and the cheery hello I received from her last week.

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

Of course the way in which friendships like this one are rekindled  is to connect over the events that our lives revolved around at that time; the place we lived, the people we knew, the food we ate etc. And so when we emailed, we both started off with “remember when?” comments.

Maria’s “remember when” was about running over to get batter burgers at lunchtime! What’s a batter burger you may well ask? Basically, the Fish & Chip shop was the only place to have something quick to eat in the 1970’s through the 80’s, and was (and still is) synonymous with the last stop on the way home from a drunken night on the town. It was thought to be a good hangover cure, or at least make it more bearable.

Crispy battered cod

Crispy battered cod from The Saltee Chipper in County Wexford

  ‘The Chipper”, as any one of these places was generally referred to, was by and large run by first generation Italians in Ireland, and they had accomplished the art of frying fish, meat and potatoes (the staples in Ireland back then), in a small vat of bubbling oil to crisp perfection. There is nothing quite like a meal of battered cod and chips (french fries) with a good soaking of vinegar. It can be such a deeply satisfying dish when eaten at exactly the right moment. The batter burger sounds awful, a beef patty dipped in dough batter and deep-fried to a golden puffiness – yep, that does sound awful, but I assure you I must have liked it at one point in my life. Battered sausages were also a popular item but I never had the nerve to try one. They looked like long blistered…well they looked pretty disgusting to me!

Approacing Christ's Church Cathedral

Dublin is a great place for Fish and Chips

Being reminded of foods like batter burgers made me think about the food from the Chipper that I really enjoyed. I still make Fish and Chips today (plenty of examples of this on my blog) but the memory of Curried Chips was what I became fixated on. In Ireland chips came with everything. It was simply unacceptable to serve a meal without a potato on the plate in one form or another. The Chinese restaurants that opened up were soon to learn that serving chips on the same plate as the chicken curry and rice gleaned more hungry Bar-goers and so it became common to eat chips accidentally soaked in curry sauce.

a peak at the view

County Laois

I am really just coming to my own logical conclusion that the flavor of  the curry sauce on the chips was so popular it became a frequent request at the Chip Shop, and slowly but surely Curried Chips became a popular item on the menu. So much so, that along with the obligatory question, “salt and vinegar?” after your chips were hot out of the oil and in a neat little rectangular bag, you were asked if you wanted curry sauce too. It was either poured into the bag or given on the side. As messy as it was to eat, I preferred it spilling out of the bag!

Curried Chips with Cod Fish

My Version of Curried Chips with Cod Fish

The logic continued to follow that I would have to make Curried Chips myself to capture some of that nostalgia. When my son took his first bite he declared, “hey, these are like the curried chips in Ireland”

Enough said!

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For the Curry Sauce:

4 tbs unsalted butter

3 to 4 cups chicken or veggie broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube and water (which is what I usually do for this. I use Rapunzel brand cubes: really great)

1 1/2 to 2 tbs mild or medium heat madras curry powder

1 tsp sea-salt

freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1 – Put sauce pan on medium/low heat and add the butter. When it has melted, add the curry powder and sir until incorporated. Add the flour and repeat process. If using a bouillon cube, crumble it in, and stir well.

melt butter, add curry powder

melt butter, add curry powder

2 – Next add the liquids 1 cup at a time while mixing with a whisk. Cook sauce (stirring all the while) until thickened and flour and spices have cooked into the liquid, (about 10 minutes or so). Taste and adjust for salt and pepper according to your likeness. Cover and set aside.

Cook for a little

Cook for a little

*If you feel your sauce could be thinner, add more stock or water until the desired consistency is reached.*

add liquid, salt adn pepper

Add liquid, salt and pepper

Serve with whatever you like; in this case, chips or french fries (depending on which continent you grew up on!)

serve with fries

serve with fries (either on the side like this, or smothering the chips completely in sauce!)

Recipe for Chips (Fries):

4 large potatoes (not huge, just large!)

3 tbs olive oil,

1 tsp sea-salt

generous grinding of black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven 475*

1 – Wash and dry the potatoes and cut lengthways into thick slices (3/5″, 1cm) and put in large bowl. 2 – Add the salt & pepper and the olive oil to bowl and mix well with hands until potatoes are well coated. When oven is hot take your big baking sheet and add 2 tbs oil to pan and place in lower 3rd of oven.

from potato, to slices, to fries!

From potato, to slices, to fries!

2 – Add the salt & pepper and the olive oil to bowl and mix well with hands until potatoes are well coated. When oven is hot take your big baking sheet and add 2 tbs oil to pan and place in lower 3rd of oven. Let pan warm for about 4 or so minutes. Take pan out (it will give off a bluish smoke, don’t be alarmed) and immediately pour potatoes onto pan (should sizzle).

Mix in a bowl with rest of ingredients

Mix in a bowl with rest of ingredients (I added a few sprigs of rosemary that I discovered lurking in the back of the veggie drawer)

3 –  Arrange evenly in a single layer and place in oven for 20 minutes. Take out, let pan cool for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and then turn fries with a spatula (or egg flip/turner?). They should release easily….if not, put back in oven for another 2 minutes and try again. Turn and place back in oven for a further 8 to 10 minutes (peak after 8). Take out, give them a minute to release themselves and get ready to serve or keep warm as the case may be.

great fries

Great fries

Recipe for Baked Curried Cod:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs fresh cod fillets (use 2 lbs if cooking for six), cut into 4 to 6 oz pieces

1 tsp mild curry powder

sprigs of fresh thyme (about 2 dozen)

1 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter

sea-salt and black pepper for seasoning fish

Method:

Preheat oven to 400*

1 – Wash and dry fish. Season fish with sea-salt and pepper and curry powder. Rub a baking sheet with the olive oil and toss the thyme sprigs in the bottom in the even layer. Place the fish on top of the thyme.

*If some of your fish is thick and some thin (the tail end), all you have to do is fold the thin pieces in two to thicken them out and to assure they cook around the same time as your thicker pieces*

Arrange fish on baking tray with other ingredients

Arrange fish on baking tray with other ingredients

2 – Place a pat of butter on each fish piece and bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Take it our of the oven and cover with foil until ready to serve.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve this with whatever you like: if serving alone, add some lemon wedges. This is also great with egg noodles, rice and a sautéed green.

As you can see, I served the fish with curry sauce adn chips - delish!

As you can see, I served the fish with curry sauce and chips – quite delish!

Tintern Abbey And Dunbrody House For Lunch (Yes, A very Good Day)

Tintern Abbey, Hook Head, Wexford, Ireland

I am sitting at my dining room table and my daughter has just burst into song, “I’m a sentimental sap that’s all” These words ring in my ears, as I was remembering that just yesterday, I left my sisters and home in Ireland for where I am living now; the United States. I have been away since January (read previous blogs about Ireland and Italy) and my return is something I am trying to be happy about. Being sentimental is a burden right at this moment, but writing about one of my last days before I left will hopefully heal my pathetic heart.

View of Tintern Abbey

This day was not especially planned, and, isn’t that usually the case when a day works out perfectly? I suppose when you start out with no expectations, there is little to be disappointed about.

Grounds at Tintern Abbey

This past Sunday (my last Sunday) I was awake earlier than everyone in the house, which was actually not that unusual since I rise way earlier than most normal people. I was quietly drinking a strong cup of coffee and relishing the fact that I could read in peace, when the thought crossed my mind that it was nearly my last day at home in Ireland, with my two lovely sisters, and we had no special plan for the day?

Stone Bridge on grounds at Tintern Abbey

By the time everyone was up, bathed, had breakfast, and the three sisters finished their crossword puzzle (my sister June had been printing three of the Irish Times puzzles everyday, and we have literally raced to see who can finish first; you know, to find out who is the smartest!), it was well into late morning. Then that dreaded question was posed to me, “what do you want to do today?” It has been up to me to figure this out (as well as to make dinner in the evening) because it is my precious time I have chosen to spend here, and so I should be the one making the plans.

Graveyard on the grounds of Tintern Abbey

I hate this! I want someone else to plan something amazing and then tag along! I suggested some sort of castle or other and then perhaps a walk on a blustery beach. Miriam and June haggled over which castle, and when they couldn’t decide suggested two castles, well, a Cistercian Abbey and a castle to be precise. I said “great!” Miriam then groaned when she remembered she had to go to a 5 year old’s birthday party with her boyfriend, while we jumped into the car shouting “have fun, see you later!”

Bridge at Tintern Abbey from a distance

The first stop was Tintern Abbey; absolutely beautiful. The weather couldn’t have been better (by Irish standards, that is) and when we stepped into the abbey yard I was filled with breezy sun and the prospect of a perfect day. Tintern Abbey is located on Hook Head peninsula in county Wexford, Ireland. It was built at the very beginning of the 13th century. The Cistercian monks from the abbey known as Tintern in Wales colonized the abbey, and Tintern Abbey in Ireland became it’s sister abbey.

abbey from across the fields

The abbey is now in ruins with a partially restored section, but it was impressive, irregardless of it’s condition. We walked around it’s substantial grounds, including a beautiful dilapidated old cemetery, and marvelled at the stone bridge that crossed the river running through it all.

Curious daughter.

I caught myself trying to be mindful of taking it all in, and, what a hard thing to do? It was like trying to take in big gulps of air without feeling a heady rush. It is virtually impossible for me to completely appreciate what I am doing until just after the moment. I need time to comprehend and take it all in.

more adventuring

We wound our way through little paths in a wooded area where Spring was secretly rearing it’s beautiful head in the form of masses of bluebells covering the grassy floor. My kids got no end of pleasure disappearing down windy paths to see where they would end up; pure heaven.

The ruin at Dunbrody

Then it was back into the car and either take the ferry to Waterford, see a hillfort in Ballyhacket or the lighthouse at Hook Head!

Dunbrody House

We ended up doing none of the three, as on our way, June wanted me to have a look at a place called Dunbrody House. She said it was run by the famous Irish chef Kevin Dundon, who headed up a Cookery School, a fabulous restaurant and bar, a spa, and a farm that supplied the kitchens on the 200 acre estate. As we were all getting peckish for lunch, there were no objections to indulging my obsession with all things food-related.

Dunbrody House (back yard)

As June drove around the grounds trying to find the main entrance to the house and restaurant it was apparent that she was a little unsure (I’m being nice). On our third go-around she stopped at what looked like the front door. It had no big sign directing us in, so out jumped June with the car running and disappeared inside. Within a second she peeked out and beckoned me in, and then I left also, leaving everyone in the back with the still-running car!

Grounds at Dunbrody House

This 1830’s Manor House built in the Georgian style felt warm and pleasant the moment I entered the spacious hall.  The walls were painted in rich hues which complimented the equally vivid curtains. The furniture was Queen Anne style and ornate chandeliers hung from molded ceiling mounts. The big windows flooded the place with light, and on this particular day the sun was unmasked by clouds, allowing the whole house to be awash with comforting heat; all very affable.

Dunbrody House

There was a little more getting lost (I’m blaming June of course) until we found the dining room. It looked way too fancy for a bunch of people dressed in attire more suitable for a walk in the woods than a formal lunch, but before we could discreetly leave, we were greeted by Olive, the extremely charming restaurant manager.

The guy that keeps the chicken laying.

She chatted away about what was available by way of lunch, and took us into the elegant bar area which was also set up with bistro-style tables in front of large french glass doors into which the sun streamed. After glancing at the menu, I looked at my sister and said “why not!” We decided to throw caution to our wallets and splurge on a fabulous lunch, and raced off to find the rest of the gang. Dave had already decided that sitting around in a running car that blocked the entrance was a bad idea and had moved the car and he and the kids were already on their way in.

Fish, Chips & Wine

Places like this tend to be stuffy, but this was not the case at Dunbrody House. Olive talked and joked with my children as we settled in with menus, and a wine list. She told them about the gardens, chickens and their pot-bellied pig. She insisted that we take a tour of the grounds when we left. Well of course we would!

The kitchen

The majority of us choose lightly battered fish and chips and when I told one of the staff I wanted to take some pictures Olive was summoned. She told me that Mr. Dundon had an “open kitchen policy” and that not only could we roam the whole manor to snap some pictures, but we could also invade the kitchen and watch our food being prepared.

The scale in the kitchen.

All five of us jumped straight out of our seats and headed for the kitchen. At that moment the chef was cutting our flaky cod pieces in preparation for battering and frying. The place was open, cheery and spotlessly clean. There is something a little voyeuristic about being able to see the inner workings of a restaurant.

My daughter’s pork mini burgers

Sometimes when food just appears in a dining room that is devoid of the aroma of cooking onions and garlic, it is hard to imagine that it came from anywhere. This kitchen was full of starchly clad young men and women keeping busy at the various prep stations. I wanted to grab a knife and make my own lunch (they may even have let me if I had the nerve to ask!).

Fish with a splash of lemon juice

I was expecting the food to be good, considering our surroundings and the prices, and my expectations were met in abundance. The presentation was very fun, with the chips coming in a wire cone wrapped in newspaper, and the salad in little copper saucepans.

The ultimate Fish n’ Chips

  However, the very best thing was the fish, with the batter being my absolute favorite part. It was so light and had a delicate crispy-ness when I bit into it. Olive went to the kitchen to find out what was in the batter and came back with an exact recipe. The secret to the lightness was a combination of cornflour (corn starch in the States) and all-purpose flour. I will post a recipe when I test it out.

Pot-bellied pig

After lunch we headed out to explore the grounds and to work off the sticky toffee pudding we had devoured for dessert. The grounds next to the house had pathways shooting off in all directions. One of these tree-lined paths led to the vegetable garden and greenhouses, while another took us to the herb garden and chicken coop. We also managed to find the pot-bellied pig and a path that led to the bay, and what I assumed was Mr. Dundon’s residence tucked behind a myriad of trees and bluebells. Yes, it was idyllic, and yes, I was very jealous indeed.

Formal dining room at Dunbrody house

Not as jealous however as my sister Miriam will be when she reads this post. When we got home she had just arrived back from the birthday party. We said we had a nice time, and hoped she had too. Don’t worry Miriam, next time, we will go for dinner, and you can sit in the kitchen with your glass of wine and enjoy the clamour. Olive will arrange everything!

My sister June shamelessly promoting herself as a hand-model (cool ring by David Jones)


Blustery Lunch at the Saltee Chipper (and a Jane Austin Moment)

Kilmore Quay, County Wexford

When I told my sister the name of this post had the word “blustery” in the title, she immediately quipped, “that’s an understatement” She suggested a couple of different adjectives, and as much as I loved her word choice, I told her it wasn’t that kind of blog. Also, my kids don’t think I curse (not that much anyway!)

Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Ireland

We had a lazy morning at my sister’s house, an activity that I have been fond of since leaving a three-month stint in Italy about a week ago. The weather in Ireland has been anything but friendly since our arrival, but yesterday was the second day that the sun tried her very best to let us know she still existed. We were all in need of an outing of some sort and so planned to idly drive to Kilmore Quay on the coast (about 20 miles form my sister’s house) for Fish n’ Chips, and stopping at a couple of choice spots along the way.

A fine examples of a Victorian Revival castle: Johnstown Castle and Gardens

It is not hard to imagine how Jane Austin sprung to mind when I rounded a bend on a walk around the fifty acre grounds of this 19th century castle, minutes from where we had started out little trip. I am thinking about the scene where Elizabeth Bennett, while on a trip with her aunt and Uncle in Derbyshire, decided to visit the Darcy Estate, and having the same reaction I had yesterday when their carriage  rounded a similar bend to the one I was on, and she got a glimpse of his house. (If you don’t know the story, I suggest you have a movie night); splendid.

A taste of the 50 acres of formal gardens surrounding the castle.

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 and this castle was built just before and after this date. As we walked around I couldn’t help pretending that we were the ladies of the estate and I discussed how I was going to knock down the 15th century medieval tower on the estate’s grounds to make room for a Greek Temple I had in mind!

One of the many 150 year old trees on the estate

Our visit ended with large cups of hot coffee and rhubarb tart and fresh cream at the tea house on the grounds. Now we were ready to make our way to the harbor for some fresh fish and chips.

The castle is also home to about 20 peacocks who were not adverse to showing off!

As we drove the windy, thatched-cottage-lined road to the harbor the temperature outside became a little brisker. I knew my kids would immediately want to run over the rocks and onto the beach to scrounge around for shells and look for crabs, and I was dreading having to stand watching them while the wind whipped around me. The words beach and Ireland are not synonymous with sunny and warm. Most of the year, it means quite the opposite. When you go for a walk on the beach in Ireland (save for possibly July or August), it is a good idea to wear a coat and scarf. Luckily I had both.

The Saltee Chipper

To put off the beach walk for a little while we persuaded my son and daughter that they were more hungry than in need of exercise, and trotted them across the street to the real reason for our trip; fresh fish from the Saltee Chipper. My sister had been raving about this place since she moved to Wexford nearly three years ago.

The ceiling in the Saltee Chipper

This little fish shop is a take-out (take-away) establishment only and is famous for big lines out the door in hail, rain or shine. What is all the fuss about? Miriam said that it is the best fish around and apparently waiting an hour in a queue is not a problem for most people. We happened to arrive off-season, on a cold, and very blustery day, at neither lunch or dinner time, so there was no wait whatsoever.

A glimpse into the kitchen

We ordered the very basics; fish goujons, battered fried cod, and chips (potato fries) all loaded with salt and malt vinegar. As we waited for our order, we huddled together wondering where we were going to eat? I thought we could just stand at the counter, but Miriam said we either had to eat outside at their colourful blue picnic tables, or in the car, neither prospect very appealing to me. I held out hope that we could stand there, eat quickly and leave, until the lady who took our ordered ducked her head out from the kitchen and asked if we wanted a tray for outside or a bag for the car? I guessed we were eating outside after all.

Fish and Chips (with lemon, salt and vinegar)

We took our tray of deliciousness to a table by a wall hoping for a little shelter from the wind gusts. While everyone was unwrapping fish and dousing their chips with vinegar I stayed behind to have a word with the owner, Michelle Cullen. She said how it was ultra important that everything that came out of her kitchen was fresh and local. She got her fish from Steve who was at the dock when the boats came in (could be early morning or late at night). She gave him an idea of what she wanted and he would pick the best fish available. She was friendly and a pleasure to talk to. Thank you Michelle for taking the time to chat!

Crispy battered cod

When I arrived outside the table was covered in unwrapped newspaper covered with lovely warm fish (getting colder by the second), and greasy fingers. I found out there was incident with a greedy starling, which totally un-nerved my sister who has an aversion to anything that flies within 10 feet of her!

Fishing boat on quay located directly opposite The Saltee Chipper

The fish and chips did not disappoint. The batter on the fish was crispy and thinly veiled the big flaky moist fish meat. The chips were thick and so good with a zing of vinegar complimenting every bite. Despite the bird incident, the sting of the wind, and eventual spitting rain, it was worth it.

I had to do it!

It was then time to be a good parent and walk over the big rocks to the beach with the kids. The foul weather was no deterrent for the excitement of finding the perfect shell, running away from the waves, and crab sightings. Watching them having fun certainly made any resentment I felt for having to get wet and cold disappear. Oddly enough, it was the best part of my day.