Goldfish Mission: The History and Recipe of Traditional British Cod in Batter

Deep-fried fish and chips helped the British survive two world wars and became a national food icon

C Recently, on the first Friday of June, the UK celebrates National Fish and Chips Day. This year the holiday falls on June 2.

Friday was not chosen by chance. Older Britons remember very well how, as children, their parents sent them at the end of the working week to the nearest shop selling deep-fried fish and potatoes. Vendors wrapped simple food in bags of old newspapers until the mid-1980s (until sanitary control was banned). In addition, the children were given another bag with pieces of dough that got deep-fried from fish batter.

Goldfish mission: the history and recipe of the traditional British cod in batter

The custom of eating fish on Fridays has been preserved since the days when the British were Catholics and in This day was fasted. Even after the Anglican Church took over, the tradition of eating “cold” food on Fridays, including fish, was firmly preserved.

Until the 17th century, seafood was mainly included in the diet of the inhabitants of the coast, but when they learned how to properly store and transport fish, it gradually conquered the British capital and the central regions of the country. At the beginning of the 19th century, peddlers in London's Soho and East End sold fried fish from a stall, and you could also buy it in poor shops.

This is exactly what Charles Dickens mentioned in Oliver Twist: “No matter how narrow the boundaries of Filllane, however, there is a barber, a coffee shop, a pub and a fried fish shop. It is a sort of commercial colony, a market for petty thieves frequented early in the morning and at dusk by silent merchants who do their business in dark back rooms and leave as mysteriously as they come.”

A portion of fish in such places could be bought for only two pennies. Baked potatoes were added to it (vegetable oil was expensive, so the potatoes were not fried) or a piece of bread. Only since 1860, establishments began to appear where they cooked potatoes with fish in beer batter, deep-fried with cottonseed oil. Actually, since the second half of the 19th century, the real history of the dish has been conducted, on which millions of Britons grew up.

Sabby Kenyon

Native of Cairns, Queensland, Australia, brand chef of Steak it Easy restaurant (in 2019 — Note by Vokrugsveta. en) tells how to choose the right products for fish and chips

Goldfish Mission: The History and Recipe of Traditional British Cod in Batter

What kind of fish is used for this dish?

Always white. In England, cod, saithe, halibut are popular, in Australia – mackerel, mackerel, barracuda, even stingray is cooked. When buying fish, you need to pay attention to the eyes and gills: the eyes should be transparent, and the gills should be pink. Potatoes for chips need to be taken mealy so that a crispy crust appears when fried.

Is fish and chips as popular in Australia as in England?

Yes, this dish is eaten all the time. 85% of the Australian population lives on the coast, getting fresh fish is not a problem. I've been eating fish and chips since I was a kid. My mother is English, from Blackpool, in the North West of England. And one of my earliest childhood memories is sitting with my grandmother on Kewarra Beach, near Cairns, eating fish and chips from a newspaper bag and admiring the sea.

Where to go in your country to try delicious fish and chips?

In the northern suburbs of Sydney, on one of the best beaches, there is a famous establishment Manly fish cafe. The prices here are not the most democratic, but they cook a lot of different fish caught off the coast of New Zealand and Australia. And the sea view is amazing. In any case, there are better fish and chips in places along the coast.

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Best of all, fried fish and chips solved the problem of nutrition in the era of industrialization. The workers who worked in the textile factories of Manchester or the coal mines of Wales had neither the energy nor the time to cook. Hearty fatty food, which also cost mere pennies, has become a real salvation.

Over the years, the consumption of fish and potatoes in Britain has steadily increased. Fish and chips were included in the diet of the British army. According to statistics, on the eve of the First World War, the British annually ate 100-150 thousand tons of fried fish. In 1917, in Bradford alone, the “wool capital of the world” at the time, the locals ate 800,000 servings of fish and chips a week, that is, 2.5 servings for every city dweller.

George Orwell, who described the life of the working class in 1937 in The Road to Wigan Pierce, mentioned in his essay that only fish and potatoes, which the working people have in abundance, extinguish their revolutionary moods. During the Second World War, to maintain the morale of the British, vans selling fried fish and chips drove around the country.

Now, for fish and chips, the British go to the resorts of Dover or Brighton. Following their example, take a look at one of the family-run establishments that in England are called a chip shop, or chippy in slang. For only five pounds you will be offered an excellent dish of fresh fish and mealy potatoes. Don't forget to add mashed green peas to them. This is a classic British combination, without which the pleasure will be incomplete.

fish & Chips5,0

Traditional English Battered Fish with Potatoes and Mashed Peas

Goldfish Mission: The History and Recipe of Traditional British Cod in Batter

Cooking time30 min. Recipe for 2 persons Cuisine English Type of dish Main dishes Ingredients any

1/2 tsp

ground black pepper

1/4 tsp


1/8 tsp.

ground paprika

1/8 tsp.For batter

light beer

0.5 l

sparkling mineral water

50 ml

wheat flour

2 cups

baking powder

1 tsp

corn starch

1/2 cupFor chips


1 kg

any salt

to taste

ground black pepper

to taste

refined vegetable oil

to tasteFor mashed peas

frozen green peas

400 g

olive oil

100 ml

any salt

5 g

lemon juice

to taste


1 clove

mint leaves

100gCooking method1

Goldfish Mission: The History and Recipe of Traditional British Cod in Batter

Mix frozen peas with olive oil, garlic, salt, mint leaves and beat in a blender. Peel potatoes and cut into large slices. Deep fry at 180°C for 4-5 minutes. Place on paper towel to drain excess fat.


Goldfish Mission: The History and Recipe of Traditional British Cod in the Batter

For the batter, in a wide bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Salt. Then, stirring with a spatula, slowly pour in cold beer, then gradually add ice-cold sparkling water. Mix everything until smooth.


Goldfish mission: the history and recipe of traditional British cod in batter

Cod fillet (without bones and skin) cut into long strips 4–5 cm wide Roll each piece of fish in flour, sprinkle with spices, then dip in batter.


Goldfish Mission: The History and Recipe of Traditional British Cod in Batter

Fry until golden in deep fat at 160 ° C for 5 minutes. Put the finished fish on a paper towel to drain the fat. Serve hot with potatoes and mashed green peas.

Check out the recipe:

Photo: ISTOCK, Grigory Polyakovsky, Wirestock/Legion Media

Published in the magazine “Around the World” No. 6, June 2019, partially updated in June 2023

Elena Knyazeva

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