I have never read a Kate Morton novel, but I have heard amazing things -- and a lot of buzz about her latest novel, The Clockmaker’s Daughter. So, I was naturally quite excited when I was granted my NetGalley request to read it early. It’s the story of an English love affair and a mysterious murder that begins in the 1860s and ripples into the present.
It all starts when Elodie, a modern archivist, stumbles upon a satchel with a notebook and old photograph inside. Elodie diligently researches their past, whisking us across time as the story develops. Chapters are told from multiple points-of-view, and it’s not always immediately clear at the outset whose we’re seeing or where we are in time and place. It’s a method that works well, getting us to the end without giving all the twists and turns away beforehand.
It’s not an action-filled, or plot-heavy novel. It’s much more about the moments in time we visit and the character development, which are beautifully described in Morton’s transporting prose. And while the story was engaging, I wish it’d been a little more to the point. Though it’s not, it felt quite long.
I also wished to see more of Elodie, who drew me in at the beginning but only just popped in here-and-there throughout the rest of the novel. She lived above a fish-and-chip shop, and so I decided to try my hand at English-style fish and chips. I found a recipe on Genius Kitchen with an abundance of rave reviews, and I headed to the store from some cod and potatoes.
First, I prepped my potatoes, cutting them into “chunky” chips (or fries). I rinsed them and then dried them with a paper towel.
When the oil was hot enough, I lowered half the chips in at a time, frying them for just about 3 minutes, until they became shiny but not coloured (also known as blanching). I removed them from the oil, making sure to drain them well, and set them aside on a paper towel.
I lowered the temperature of the oil while I readied the fish for frying. I dredged the fillets through flour, making sure to coat well, and then made the batter. I combined flour, baking soda, salt and pepper with about 8 ounces of beer. (I used what I had on hand, which is not a British beer, but it was still quite delicious.) Once it formed a batter perfect for coating the fish, I added just a bit of lemon juice and mixed it thoroughly.
I fried two pieces of fish at time, dropping them carefully into the fryer immediately after they were battered.
When all four pieces of fish were finished, I put them on a tray in the oven (set at 200 degrees, or the “warm” setting) to keep warm while I fried the chips.
I turned the heat back up to make the oil hotter, and then fried them in two batches again. Once they were golden-colored and cooked well in the center, I drained them, placed them on paper towels and salted them while still warm.
I didn’t have any newspapers handy (in true English style), so I used the classic American-style baskets instead.
The fish was a little more colored than I would’ve hoped, but the flavor was definitely there and the coating was delightfully crispy. All that was missing were some mushy peas!
English Fish & Chips
- 4 cod or haddock fish fillets
- 6 ounces or ¾ cup plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 ounces beer
- ½ lemon juice of
- salt & pepper
- extra flour
- 3 lbs potatoes peeled & chipped
- good quality cooking fat or oil
- Heat oil up in a deep pan or automatic deep fat fryer to approximately 375 degrees F (or a fry setting, if your fryer has one).
- Peel the potatoes and cut into chunky sized chips. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Fry chips for about 3 minutes until soft but NOT coloured. Drain and shake well and set to one side.
- Put some flour onto a plate. Dredge the fish fillets in the flour thoroughly - this is VERY important, it stops the batter sliding off when fried! Leave the fish fillets in the flour whilst you make the batter.
- Put flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pepper into a large roomy bowl. Add the beer gradually, stop when you have a thick coating type of batter. Drink any beer that is left! Whisk thoroughly until it is smooth and there are no lumps. Add the lemon juice OR a splash of malt vinegar, if desired. Mix thoroughly again.
- Have your plates, newspaper or whatever ready for eating!
- Adjust deep fat fryer to fish frying temperature of approximately 325 degrees F (or a fish setting, if your fryer has one).
- Take one fillet of fish at a time and holding it by the tail or thin end (!) swirl it around the batter until well coated - plunge into hot fat immediately. As soon as it has crisped up and set, add your other fillets one at a time, taking out the first ones as they cook - about 6 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness. Place onto a wire rack in a baking sheet with sides and keep warm in the oven.
- Turn up the heat setting again to 375 degrees F and cook your chips until golden and crisp.
- Serve on plates or newspaper with salt & vinegar!