Yeast and Beer Battered Brill with Panko Onion Rings and Garlic Aïoli
Nothing brings back memories of a visit to the seaside more than a bite into light but crispy battered fish, fresh out of the fryer. The combination of the first crunch when you sink your teeth into the batter, accompanied by the steaming hot firm flesh of fish, together make the epitome of comfort food. Everybody has their own preference on how the perfect battered fish is made. Some people prefer a thick beer batter while some people prefer it coated with breadcrumbs. Then comes the debate on what is the best fish to use. Is it questionably now sustainable cod? Or is it the now commonplace hake? Maybe you prefer a more premium fish to be used in your chippy, like halibut or turbot.
When it comes to battered fish, I prefer to use any sort of flatfish, with my personal favourite being brill. Flatfish encompass a wide range of fish such as turbot, halibut, brill, plaice and soles. They are characterised by having a flat underbelly, with both eyes having evolved to be on the same side. All flatfish live on the seafloor, feeding off crabs and small fish while blending in with the sand and sediment to avoid predators. From a culinary perspective, flatfish are excellent as their flesh is firm and flakes of in large pieces when cooked. Furthermore, unlike other fish, flatfish do not have scales and thus are much easier to prepare. Flatfish come in all sorts of varying shapes and sizes, from the fairly small lemon sole to the sometimes humongous halibut which can reach sizes of up to 200kg a fish. For this recipe, a large flatfish fillet would be the most optimal, as it would be fairly thick, ensuring that the fish will not overcook before the batter is cooked to a delicious golden brown. A thick fillet also means that there will be a greater texture contrast between the crispy batter and the soft firm flesh inside it. In addition, a thicker fillet also translates to a smaller surface area to volume ratio, preventing too much loss of moisture when cooking, allowing the fish to retain some of its flavourful juices.
Among the different types of flatfish, the most prized flatfish favoured by chefs is the turbot, which as well as having the characteristic firm flesh found in flatfish, also has dense meat and a subtly sweet taste. As mentioned above, my preferred fish of choice for this dish is the closely related brill, also known as Scophthalmus rhombus. In comparison to turbot, brill can be said to be its undervalued brother, selling for much cheaper and affordable prices. It has an identical firm texture while only tasted slightly less sweet. And in all honesty, after being deep fried in batter, this difference would no longer be noticeable. I still believe that a turbot’s taste is more superior than brill’s taste. But unless you are cooking a dish that emphasised the quality of ingredients as well as the delicate different in taste, it is not worth it paying the price premium for a turbot in comparison to brill.
Brill is a brown coloured fish with light and dark patches that can be found up to 2kg in weight, thus making its fillet the perfect thickness for deep frying. When buying brill from the fishmonger, I prefer to buy whole brill as the bones of any flatfish are the best bones for making fumet (fish stock), as they are packed full of gelatin. When choosing fish, the best indicators of fresh fish are clear and not bloodshot eyes, as well as bright red gills. Further tell tail signs of the freshness of a fish is the firmness of its flesh, which should be able to bounce back to shape after being pressed lightly. A fresh fish should also smell of the sea without any musky aromas. When holding up the fish, it should also be able to hold itself without going limp. Unique to flatfish, one trick to when choosing which fish to buy is to flip the fish over to it’s white underbelly and look for blemishes caused by bruising to the fish.
Yeast and Beer Battered Brill with Panko Onion Rings and Garlic Aioli
Ingredients for Beer Battered Brill:
- 2x 200g Fish Fillets (I personally prefer using Brill), do not use any oily fish such as tuna or salmon
- 7g of Fresh or 5g of Powdered Yeast
- 100ml of Vodka
- 200ml of Beer (freshly opened)
- 400g of Plain Flour
- Rice Flour for dusting
- Vegetable Oil/Rapeseed Oil/Canola Oil
- 10g of Beef Dripping or 5g of reused oil
- To start off the batter, add in the plain flour, salt and yeast. Mix well together.
- Add in the beer and vodka and whisk together for a minute and not any longer. It’s okay to have lumps. The batter should be think enough to coat the back of a spoon. Adjust the amount of flour or beer if necessary. (Do not add more Vodka)
- Let the batter chill in the fridge for around 30 minutes or place the bowl in an ice bath to quickly cool it down.
- Season the fish fillets with salt and let rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- To prepare the deep frying oil, fill a pot with vegetable oil and add in the beef dripping. Alternatively add in the reused oil.
- Heat up up the oil to 180℃ (356℉).
- Remove the fish fillets from the fridge and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Coat the fish fillets with rice flour.
- Dip the fish fillets in the batter and coat well, wiping off excess batter.
- Transfer to the hot oil and fry until it is a crispy golden colour.
- Remove and pat dry the excess oil using a paper towel.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- The batter should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, somewhat like the consistency of a hollandaise sauce. Too thin and it won’t be crispy and too thick and the fish will not cook properly and the taste will be doughy.
- A light an crispy batter is made with an aerated batter, which can be done using yeast, baking powder or a carbonated liquid (beer)
- Using a carbonated liquid like beer losses their fizz the longer you leave them. To compensate for that, I add a little yeast to the batter to keep the fizz up while the batter is resting
- Whisking the batter together for more than a minute causes gluten strands to form as two of the wheat proteins in flour, glutenin and gliadin start to bind together. While this is useful when making bread, it cause the batter to become heavy.
- Resting the batter causes the the small amount of gluten strands that form to relax. Counteracting this problem.
- Adding vodka to my batter also helps makes the batter light and crispy as the alcohol in the vodka interacts with the glutenin and gliadin in the flour and prevents them from binding together. Preventing gluten strands from forming.
- This of cause means that the batter now has a very high alcohol content, which may prevent yeast from growing. As such, I dilute the vodka with beer to lower the alcohol below 13% (which kills yeasts).
- Keeping the batter ice cold also gives an extremely crispy batter due to the huge differences in temperature between the oil and batter, a technique from making tempura.
- When deep frying, I prefer to use a neutral oil such as rapeseed oil or canola oil so that it does not impart any flavour into the fish. However as these oils may be harder to find, it would be easier and cheaper to just use vegetable oil.
- In terms of improving the flavour of the fried product. It helps to add a tablespoon of beef dripping which helps give a final product a richer taste. Food cooked in oil that has been previously used in frying taste better in fresh oil. This is because as you fry oil, compounds in the oil start to oxidise and make the food taste better. So adding a bit of used oil into the fresh oil adds a lot of flavour.
- When deep frying, the most optimal temperature is around 180℃ (356℉). Any lower than that and the batter takes too long to cook, causing the fish to overcook before the batter becomes golden and crispy. The batter will also be slightly chewy and soggy. Any higher and you risk the oil starting to smoke and the batter browning too fast.
- Salting the fish and letting the fish rest in the fridge causes the water to be extracted from the fish, allowing the fish to have a firmer texture when frying.
- Coating the fish with rice flour before dipping in batter into them gives a more even batter coating.
- If the fillet stops bubbling, the fillet is already over cooked as there is no longer any steam leaving the fish fillet and the oil will start to enter the crust, making it extremely oily.
- Do not add too many fillets into the pot at once as it causes the temperature of the oil to drop.
- The most premium fish used for battered fish here in the UK is Halibut and Turbot which are both flatfishes. Brill is also a flatfish and in my opinion is an underrated fish which is much cheaper compared to Halibut and Turbot. Flatfishes have a firm texture which makes them perfect for deep frying.
- Other common fish used for Fish and Chips here are cod, haddock and pollock. Cod is the most traditional fish used but due to unsustainable farming is not so common anymore. The more famous alternatives nowadays are haddock and pollock which are relatively cheap but have a rising price due to their increased popularity.
- Onion Rings
- White Onions/Yellow Onions
- Pako Breadcrumbs
- Rice Flour
- Remaining Batter
- Garlic Aïoli
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Egg Yoke
- Lemon Juice
When deep frying, I prefer to use a neutral oil such as rapeseed oil or canola oil so that it does not impart any flavour into the fish. However as these oils may be harder to find, it would be easier and cheaper to just use vegetable oil. In terms of improving the flavour of the fried product. It helps to add a tablespoon of beef dripping which helps give a final product a richer taste. Food cooked in oil that has been previously used in frying taste better in fresh oil. This is because as you fry oil, compounds in the oil start to oxidise and make the food taste better. To enchance the flavour of your battered fish. It is also possible to mix a tablespoon of older oil into your fresh oil when deep frying. When deep frying, the most optimal temperature is around 180℃ (356℉). Any lower than that and the batter takes too long to cook, causing the fish to overcook before the batter becomes golden and crispy. The batter will also be slightly chewy and soggy. Any higher and you risk the oil starting to smoke and the batter browning too fast.
The best fish batter to me is one that light and crispy. In order to do so, we need to aerate to batter. This can be done using a raising agent such as yeast or baking powder, or simply using sparkling water or beer. My preference is to use both a mixture of yeast and beer. The explanation is as follows. When flour is mixed with water, it forms gluten strands as two of the wheat proteins in flour, glutenin and gliadin bind together. While this is useful when making bread, it cause the batter to become heavy. Resting the batter causes the gluten strands to relax. This is because it allows the batter to remain light and crispy. However, if using a carbonated liquid like beer or sparkling water, they lose their fizz the longer you leave them. To compensate for that, I add a little yeast to the batter to keep the fizz up.
In addition to this, I also like to add vodka to my batter, as the alcohol in the vodka interacts with the proteins in the flour and prevents them from binding together. Preventing gluten strands from forming. This of cause means that the batter now has a very high alcohol content, which may prevent yeast from growing. As such, I dilute the vodka with beer to lower the alcohol below 13% (which kills yeasts).
Keeping the batter ice cold also gives an extremely crispy batter due to the huge differences in temperature between the oil and batter, a technique from making tempura.
When cooking the onion rings, I prefer to use Panko breadcrumbs compared to normal breadcrumbs as they have a larger surface area thus give a more crispy finish but if you can’t find them then normal breadcrumbs work as well.
An Aïoli is a sauce that originates from the Mediterranean countries. It’s name literally means garlic and oil in Provençal and the original recipe for it does not contain egg yolks. With the rise in popularity in mayonaise, modern day recipes now contain egg yolks and added lemon juice to help cut the richness of the sauce. When making sauces such as aïoli, hollandaise or mayonaise, we need an emulsifier, which prevents a mixture of oil and water from seperating after being mixed together. This is because non-polar oil molecules have a greater affinity for each other. The same goes for polar water molecules. An emulsier works by having both a hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water hating) chemical group. The hydrophilic group sticks into the suspended water particles while the hydrophobic group sticks to oil and prevents the two from joining.
Examples of emulsifiers are lecithins which are found in egg yolks, and compounds found in garlic, which is why it is possible to make an Aioli without egg yolks.