I’m longing to be able to go out and get a decent serving of fish and chips. In fact, I’m longing to be able to go out and get a decent meal of anything.
Before lockdown, I would visit Olde Yorke Fish and Chips in Toronto with a dear friend from schooldays in England. Now he has moved to Ottawa and I shall not have the pleasure of his company while travel and socialising are restricted. Olde Yorke is run by the Feathers, whose family had run fish and chip shops in York, England. It has been a local institution for more than two decades, so they know a thing or two about the traditional way to serve the dish. Haddock, chips and mushy peas are a personal favourite.
Getting the batter right for fish and chips is difficult for the home cook without a deep fryer, so I search around for other ways to present this delicious fish.
Haddock is a saltwater fish from the cod family, found in the North Atlantic Ocean where it is an important species for fisheries. Many haddock fisheries have been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. All stocks in the eastern Atlantic are currently considered to be harvested sustainably. The haddock populations in the western Atlantic (offshore grounds of Georges Bank off New England and Nova Scotia) are also considered to be sustainable. It is mostly sold fresh or smoked.
Grimsby in Lincolnshire, about 60 miles due east of our Yorkshire cottage, on the south bank of the Humber Estuary, and once home to the world’s largest fishing fleet, is famous for smoked haddock. I shall visit one of the traditional family-run smokehouses the next time I am able to travel. The last time I was in Grimsby was as a teenager when I went on a trawler as part of a work experience. In spite of very rough seas, I enjoyed the trip, though I have no desire to repeat it. Sitting on the bridge with the captain, while the deck crew hauled their nets in appalling conditions, our windows lashed by sea spray, it seemed the cabin was being dunked both port and starboard with each wave. Yet he calmly drank heavily sweetened tea, helming the vessel with one hand, while I clung grimly to a stanchion. I was supposed to help with the nets but it was deemed too dangerous for a landlubber. I don’t expect my recreational dinghy experience counted for much.
Grimsby fish market gets its haddock from the waters around Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands, which are sustainably managed and have not seen the large-scale depreciation in fish stocks seen in EU waters. One popular form of haddock is Finnan haddie which is named after the fishing village of Finnan in Scotland, where the fish was originally cold-smoked over smouldering peat. It can be poached in milk and served for breakfast. It’s also the essential ingredient in the Anglo-Indian dish kedgeree, which I wrote about in Downton Abbey Breakfast.
In New England, baking is a tradition going back to the original Puritan settlers from eastern England, where baking was preferred to frying. I asked a friend who lives in Maine if she’d tried New England Baked Haddock and she replied she hadn’t, but did remember her mum crumbling a bag of chips over a tuna casserole. Not much help, but actually she’s not far off the mark. Several of the recipes I found claimed that crumbled up Ritz crackers were the preferred topping. Personally, I think standard breadcrumbs work better. Here’s my tried and tested recipe.
New England Baked Haddock
- 4 – 7 oz / 200 g haddock filets (or other mild-tasting white fish, such as tilapia or cod)
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 6 TBSP melted butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ lemon, zested
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- Lemon, cut into wedges
- Fresh parsley, chopped
Preparation and cooking
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
- Melt the butter and pour 1 TBSP into a casserole dish, spreading to cover bottom.
- Zest half a lemon, grate Parmesan and add to breadcrumbs in a bowl. Mix in the rest of the melted butter to a sand-like consistency.
- Season the fillets all over with salt and pepper and place them in the buttered dish. Spread the buttered breadcrumbs all over the fish.
- Bake for 15-20 mins, or until fish flakes easily.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with chopped parsley.
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Categories: Simply food