A long standing love affair…

Well that admission will raise a few eyebrows I am sure… No I am not about to admit to ex marital shenanigans but something far more innocent but nonetheless ground breaking!!!

It is something that has been a comfort throughout my life and has featured at some pretty pivotal moments as well.

What is it I hear you all say – well a few more clues first… On my research for this post I have discovered some interesting facts…

It first made it’s impact on our society around 1860’s and we have the Jewish community to thank for it’s introduction. It has been the cause of a related War and it has become something of a national treasure and somewhat synonymous to our national identity… any ideas yet?

OK I will put you out your misery. I am talking about “Fish & Chips” yep this simple dish is something I have to say,  when done well, a truly amazing meal… what can be better than a succulent fresh piece of fish encased in a crisp batter with a plate of equally crisp and fluffy chips.

When did this love affair begin, well I have fond memories of a visit to my local chippy back in my school days for a bag of chips and then a free bag of batter scraps laced with salt and vinegar on my way home from cub scouts!!!

Over the years it has continued and the simple process of coating a fresh piece of fish in a batter and then deep frying it continues to excite the old taste buds to this day.

I have been reminded of this in a number of ways recently due to a number of events. Earlier this year my aged Mum suddenly passed away and after we had held her wake as a family we all gathered for a family meal together in what was her favourite “Chippy” just down the road from her flat.

It has recently reached a milestone of 23 years of trading and continues to pack them in as much today as it has always done. The place I am talking about is Chez Fred in Westbourne Nr Bournemouth and there is a steady queue out the door for its takeaway and seating area most nights… It is now run by the son Fred Capel and along with longstanding manager Andy with a friendly team of staff. It is a perfect example of how a good chippy should be run! They recently have also updated their web site and joined the social media world of Facebook and Twitter – about time!!!

It also reminds me of a group of Fish & Chip shops that I inspected for the late Egon Ronay “Just a Bite Guide” back in the late 80’s. “Superfish” in the Surrey area that I believe was ground breaking in its day as they only allowed mangers to fry the fish. I have fond memories of taking some Swiss friends for dinner to one of their places after a 70 mile round trip just to prove we can cook decent food!

I along with an ex- fellow Egon Ronay colleague found myself eating Fish & Chips in Folkestone at the recently opened Smokehouse sister establishment to the uber trendy Rocksalt owned by ex Ramsay chef Mark Sargeant. It was fun and well worth a trip and a must for lovers of our national dish!

Then there was a BBC series called Brick to Brick currently being aired on BBC2 that in it’s second programme highlighted the building of chippy at the Beamish Museum Pit Village.

It was fascinating to watch and if you can catch it on I Player. The use of beef dripping to fry the chips and fish is something that is so very British. The restoration of a fish and chip cart and coal fired ranges was riveting to watch.

I also for a significant birthday not too many years ago surprised my invited guests with a black tie affair that resulted in them all standing in a orderly line to get their own portion of freshly cooked fish and chips out of a mobile van parked on our driveway – out of some 60-70 guests there was just one who was not so keen – but they were French so that perhaps that explains it!!!

So as you can see a trend developing and something I will continue to seek out and relish.. do check out Chez Fred if in the Bournemouth area as it is really a British institution and deserves at least another 23yrs of patronage! It will certainly have mine on my visits.

Where is your favourite hot and steamy love affair?