Posted 19th Jan 2015
It is unknown exactly where or when fish and chips came together, but many a Brit would argue that the culinary combination belongs to them, and on 20th January The 2015 National Fish and Chips Awards will take place, recognising some of our finest establishments and crowning one the Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year – co-judged by our very own Editor-in-Chief, Anna-Lisa De'Ath
Whether it is in fact a British creation or something inherited and adapted from our European counterparts, one thing is for sure – fish and chips is recognised the world over as a synonymously British dish that is entrenched in British culture. But how did this link come about? The answer lays in the hundreds of traditional fish and chip shops across the UK, who have worked tirelessly to perfect the dish for more than a century and a half.
Nigel Barden, the voice of food and drink reason on the hit BBC Radio 2 show, Drive Time with Simon Mayo, and the host of the 2015 National Fish and Chip Awards, says: 'Chips arrived in Britain from France in the early 18th Century and were known as pomme frites. They were first mentioned by Chef Alexis Soyer as ‘thin cut potatoes cooked in oil’ in his 1854 recipe book, Shilling Cookery.
'At about the same time fish warehouses sold fried fish accompanied by bread. Charles Dickens made mention of these warehouses in his novel Oliver Twist which was published in 1838. “Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil” also appear in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, published in 1859.
'There are claims to the first ‘chippie’ being from Lancashire and London. The trade grew rapidly in Britain and reached a staggering 35,000 shops in the 1930s. Fish and chips helped feed the masses during WWI and were one of only a few foods not to be rationed in WWII.
'I’m a huge fan of seafood and one of my earliest memories is eating fish and chips out of a newspaper on the pier with my grandparents. I now love enjoying them with my three young sons. I really can’t think of anything I enjoy doing quite so much.'
Nigel, a pedigree foodie, is bringing his passion and knowledge of the dish to the 2015 National Fish and Chip Awards where he will host a packed ceremony in The Lancaster London Hotel on 20th January 2015.
Organised by Seafish, The National Fish and Chip Awards celebrate the great British tradition of fish and chips, and reward outstanding businesses across a variety of award categories. Now in their 27th year, the awards are recognised as one of the most prominent and respected seafood industry events in the UK. To reach the finals, fish and chip businesses up and down the country have undergone several judging stages, including being appraised by mystery shopper judges and the ceremony in January marks the end of a seven month-long judging process. Visit www.fishandchipawards.com to find out more and to see who the lucky winners are on 20th January.
We spoke with host of The National Fish and Chip Awards, Nigel Barden, to find out more on his love for fish and chips:
What made you decide to get involved with the National Fish and Chip Awards?
Having attended the awards a couple of times when Aldo Zilli and Jean Christophe Novelli hosted them, I thought 'I’d like to be doing that'. Fish and chips are such an iconic dish and a memory from my childhood, so I’m genuinely delighted to be hosting the awards and can’t wait for 20th January.
Are you a big fan of fish and chips yourself?
I love fish and chips; not only do they taste marvellous, they also trigger wonderful memories. Always regarded as a treat, there was instant gratification as you tore open the newspaper (as it was in the early days). Invariably they were eaten with mates, or family, so there’s a happy nostalgia element which makes them taste even better.
Any fond fish and chip memories growing up?
One of my earliest memories is eating fish and chips on the pier with my grandparents. The Bardens were in Lancashire and the Grimshaws in Yorkshire, and I always loved comparing the two types of fish and chips not realising at the time that the Yorkshire offerings were cooked in beef dripping, whereas in Lancashire it was invariably vegetable oil. I now enjoy feasting on them with my three young sons and insist they follow the tradition of eating them with mushy peas, sliced bread (brown and white) and a big pot of tea! Also being a Northern lad, haddock is still king for me.
Are you a keen cook at home?
I’m lucky enough to cook for a living as part of the BBC Radio 2 Simon Mayo Show. Every week I serve up a dish using artisan British ingredients, including sustainably caught lesser known fish species. Over the years, I’ve cooked up a storm using megrim sole, gurnard, albacore tuna, pollack, ling, huss, whiting and dab.
What's your favourite piece of fish?
One of my favourite cuts of meat is the cheek – it is especially good when from cod, haddock and monkfish. A fish cheek curry is a marvellous dish.
What are you looking forward to most about the Awards?
It’ll be great to see so many talented fryers at the awards but it’s also about their journey. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to spend time with some of Britain’s finest, particularly those shortlisted in the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year Award. All the finalists are so enthused about their business and its future, a tradition that’s centuries old, along with the general wellbeing of the fish frying industry as a whole. Some of them are safeguarding family business’s that go back for generations!