This weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of my arrival in Hong Kong – meaning it’s been 365 days since I’ve been on British soil. Despite the fact that I’m not really interested in living in the UK, I do miss home and this is the longest I’ve been without a trip back to see my loved ones, stock up at Primark and visit my favourite places. So to honour the occasion, I brought a little bit of Blighty to HK and made our national dish: fish and chips. But without fish.
As I grew up living a 2 minute walk from the sea in Redcar, fish and chips were quite the staple of my childhood. The sea-front was always lined with little fishing boats which were out bobbing on the water every day, and I remember my grandma taking us along sometimes to buy fish straight from the fishermen, still in their boats, and my dad always treating us to fish and chips for Saturday lunch after a morning splashing around in Redcar baths.
I haven’t been back to Redcar for about 5 years. It has relatively little to recommend it to newcomers (besides the oldest lifeboat in the world, which is quite the claim to fame), especially as the recession seemed to hit it rather hard, but it will always have a special place in my heart. Growing up by the sea was wonderful, and there’s nothing like a stroll along the beach, paddling in the water, breathing in the salty sea air, looking out at the horizon and the great unknown. And while Redcar may have fallen on hard times, there are other old fishing towns nearby that are still more scenic and well worth a visit for a bit of sea air and fish and chips, like Saltburn and Whitby.
I refuse to let a little thing like vegetarianism stand between me and my cultural heritage, so here is the vegetarian version of fish and chips. I first had it a couple of years ago at Bistro 1847, a vegetarian restaurant in central Manchester. It was so good I scoured the internet for a recipe the next day and, happily, found one by my beloved Simon Rimmer on the BBC website. I’ve made it a few times since, and it has proven popular with meat-eaters too. Let’s face it, it’s actually just deep-fried halloumi- what’s not to love?
I serve mine with peas, homemade tartare sauce and oven-baked chips, and it’s an absolute classic British feast.
By Simon Rimmer, serves 4
225g plain flour
1 egg, separated
300ml cold beer
125ml ice cold water
extra flour, for coating
vegetable oil, for deep frying
1. Cut the halloumi into thick slices, and pour over the buttermilk. Leave to marinate overnight. (I buy 250g blocks of halloumi and slice each one into six, then serve three slices per person.)
2. Make the batter: sift the flour into a bowl and add the egg yolk.
3. Gradually whisk in the beer, followed by the water.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until it forms stiff peaks.
5. Fold the egg white into the batter. Chill in the fridge until required. (I usually make it an hour or so in advance, so I can get on with making chips in the meantime.)
6. Fill a large pan about two thirds full with vegetable oil. Heat it to 180C.
7. Remove the halloumi slices from the buttermilk, allowing the excess to drip off. Coat in flour.
8. Dip in the batter.
9. And carefully lower into the hot oil. Fry for about 5 minutes, until crispy – flip them occasionally to ensure an even colouring.
10. Drain on kitchen paper and season, then serve with chips, peas and sauce. Yum!