The LightHouse Fish Bar on Tooting Bec Road, South West London was one of the few Fish and Chip places I visited in all of 6 years in London. It was at the end of the street where I lived for two years. I’m a sucker for deep fried soft flaky fish but I never ever tried the malt vinegar or got used to the mushy peas – a bizarre condiment that the Brits douse their fish and chips in. Here’s my Indian style twist on things.
Fish and chips, the Great British seaside classic, for me was always a late night indulgence, and not a very often one. Wrapped in paper (not the newspaper of old though) it would still be warm by the time I got home and the chips kept the feet moving through the often cold or wet London night. Unlike the kebab, which has unfortunately become the meal of choice associated with hungry drunken revellers, I think Fish and Chips has managed to remain fairly untainted. Kebab shop shwarmas are actually really good but has sadly been contaminated by inebriated taste buds and flavours dulled to suit the western palate, so it remains a very very distant cousin to it’s original.
The proprietors at the LightHouse FIsh Bar were always friendly, always chirpy and quick to dispatch hoards of the hungry. A cloudy cool Sunday gave me a yearning for something just like fish and chips but more spicy than the British version.
Our fish lady who comes twice a week with prawns and usually mackerel or king fish (vanjiram) had these fantastic little black pompfret, easily my favourite type of fish. We got 14 fish for Rs.250 which I thought was a good deal. They are small enough that each person can have two.
Lunch this Sunday was spinach soup (substitute for the mushy peas), black pompret fry (instead of the deep fried cod or haddock) and spicy baked potato wedges (instead of chips).
For the spinach soup, see my previous post for the recipe.
Black pomfret fry Recipe:
Bags of flavour, you actually don’t need to do much to black pomfret. Even a simple coriander pesto (we don’t get basil here, ergo the coriander) of salt, pepper, coriander, mint and garlic blitzed together, spread on to the scored fish and oven baked for 10 to 15 minutes or pan fried for 5 minutes is enough. But today we felt more like spicy. This is my regular Indian fish masala of 1/2 salt, 1/2 chilli powder, 1/4 tsp tumeric, 1/4 tsp cumin powder, 1.5 inch ginger grated and a few drop of water to make a thick paste. You could use oil too.
Score the fish on both sides, cutting down till just before you reach the bone and smear the masala in to the pockets. Allow to marinade for about 30 minutes.
Then shallow fry in vegetable oil for just 3 to 5 mins (depending on size of the fish) on each side. The fish should be flaky when cooked right but mushy and pasty when overcooked. You can sprinkle cornflour on the fish to get the outside crispy.
Spicy baked potato wedges:
Scrub but don’t peel, 3 medium sized potatoes and boil in salted water for 10 to 12 mins. A knife should pierce through the potato but it should not be mushy inside. Drain and cool potatoes.
Cut in to wedges. I cut each potato in to half and then each half in to 3 or 4 wedges.
The skins will be trying to get away from you so allow the potatoes to cool a bit or if you have asbestos hands like mine, just use a sharp knife and a decent grip on them. In a bowl make a spice mix of 1/4 tsp chilli powder, 3 pods minced garlic, 1/4 tsp sumac (if you have it or omit), 1/4 tsp garam masala. 1/2 tsp salt. Coat the potatoes well in the spice mix, add 2 tbsps oil and generously dust in cornflour which will make the wedges crispy. I didn’t have cornflour yesterday so I had to use regular flour instead.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminimum foil and arrange the potatoes so that they are not touching each other. Bake at 200 degrees Centigrade for 20 mins turning the potatoes after 10 mins so that they brown and cook on all sides.
Serve with a thick beaten yogurt or mayonnaise.
Feels like a lot of little things but the variety makes you feel like you are eating well, when actually you’re just eating simple and tasty. Despite, the Light House FIsh bar being located in such a heavily Indian/Pakistani/Srilankan area, I don’t think any of these ethnic groups eat here. Maybe they could expand their clientiele with my desi twist on a British Classic?