La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fish and Chips, Tartare Sauce and Mushy Peas

I sometimes forget  that we once ran a Fish and Chips shop in Ireland (for about three months, ahum)
How did that come about ?
Well, there was this chippy in our village that only opened during the summer months as the owner was a teacher and lived in Dublin, so he would spend his holidays in Sneem, frying up bucket loads of fish.
We came to an agreement that we would keep it open during the winter on the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).  We were full of good intentions and I would make lovely fresh foods.  He warned me, did John, that most people would not appreciate good food when they stumbled out of the pub after closing time.  How right was he !
There would be a trickle of appreciative punters coming early on in the evenings, but between 11 pm and 1 am it was mahem.
Sorry to say this, good people of Sneem, but when you're drunk, you suck.  
I'll leave it at that, because we are hoping to return one day ;-) and it was an experience that I don't regret.
Anyway, we soon figured out that it wasn't the most fulfilling job in the world.  We washed the pots, drained the fryers, locked the door and returned the keys.


Fish in Beer Batter

  • 4 x 175 gr fish filet (haddock, cod, halibut... from a sustainable source)
  • 2 tbsp corn flour
  • 225 gr self raising flour
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 250 ml cold beer
  • 100 ml cold water
  • 2 liters vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil) It might seem like a waste of oil, but when cooled, I drain and store it for later use - just label it ie. 'fishy oil'
  • Prepare the batter by sieving the self raising flour and paprika into a bowl.
  • Pour in the water and beer.
  • Mix well and put in the fridge for half an hour.
  • Pour the oil in a deep cooking pot (or use deep-fat fryer) and heat to about 180° c (I have a special frying pot for the hob, that I keep for frying anything but chips) I check the heat of the oil by dropping in a small piece of bread, when it starts to colour golden brown, I know it is hot enough.
  • Dry the fish filets thoroughly with kitchen paper and cover with the corn flour.  Shake of the excess.
  • Then dip the fish into the batter (that you have stirred a little after its rest in the fridge).
  • Carefully sink the fish into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. You may have to turn it halfway through the cooking time, so that it colours nicely on both sides.
  • Scoop out the fish with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

We love a good quantity of chips, because we are greedy, so the amount of potatoes you use is entirely up to you.
I double fry them, we all do in Belgium.  The first fry you can do well in advance, so you can let the chips cool down completely, gives better results (apparently), but it is not a necessity.
Use floury potatoes, they brown nicely and don't go limp like their waxy relative.  Now, when I am in the mood for chips, any old potato will do.

  • 2 large potatoes per  person
  • vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil - about 3 liters in my deep fat fryer)
  • sea salt
  • Heat the oil in the fryer to 120° c
  • Peel the potatoes and wash them in  cold water.
  • Dry them well in a clean kitchen towel.
  • First cut them in 1 cm thick sliced and then cut them into chips - work lengthways for longer ones. I cut them in the towel and dry them very well
  • Put a good handfull of chips into  the frying basket. Fry them for about 5 minutes. Don't overload  or they will be soggy from the word go.
  • When they become more transluscent, lift them out and drain on kitchen paper in a tray. Spread them out to speed up the cooling process.
  • Do the rest of the potaoes the same way.
  • For the second frying, heat the oil to 195° c.
  • Cook the chips in somewhat larger batches than the frist time.  They will only need a minute till they are golden.
  • Drain them again on kitchen paper and add salt straight away. Serve.

Mushy Peas
No, this isn't a recipe for a sluggish grey - green mush, neither is it going to turn out electric green.  Just a fresh tasting, slightly sweet and minty dollop of peas.
This was originally made with dried peas, which are always a good pantry item to have as they are full of goodness.... but I used frozen - it is quicker.

  • 400 gr frozen garden peas
  • 1 knob of butter
  • a good few mint leaves ( you can cheat and use a tsp of mint sauce, but hey ho,  only if you don't have fresh mint at hand)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • On the hob, melt the butter in a pan.
  • Pour in the frozen peas
  • Leave to simmer on a low heat, with lid on until tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Take a spoonful of peas out and set aside.
  • Use a handheld blender to puree the peas, add seasoning and the chopped mint.  Stirr in the whole peas.
  • They can be reheated just before serving.
Tartare Sauce
Lots of recipes around, and even I have many variations.  This is the recipe of a very basic tartare sauce.

  • 2 large gherkins
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • finely chop the gherkins and onions  (or grate them - don't be a wuss) and chop the capers
  • mix into the mayonnaise together with the parsley. 
How easy was that !

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