The secret to the lightest batter? Beer, and a pinch of yeast
JP McMahon: Turn free greens into oil or mayo and eat with fried fish
Beer-battered fish: the perfect dinner for a cold night in April. Photograph: iStock
April was the cruellest month, according to the American poet TS Eliot. Yet, I somehow doubt he was writing about the weather, or the fact that it is such a difficult month for vegetable growers. With winter gone and summer not yet here, it is hard to find a great array of vegetables on the ground.
Of course, we’re not too far (we may be there already) from all the beautiful baby vegetables that will soon be available from different growers around the country. Baby carrots and baby leeks are two of my favourite to use, cooking them simply in a little butter and water with some fresh thyme and finishing them with some beautiful grains of Achill Island sea salt.
As well as all the wonderful baby vegetables, spring wild herbs abound. I wrote recently on watercress and wild garlic, but there are so many more greens to choose from, such as nettles, three-cornered leek and wild pea.
While many make a nice purée or pesto, several can be used to make a nice flavoured green oil. In the case of wild garlic, take 100g and blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds. Refresh it in ice water and dry it. Blend with 300ml of light Irish rapeseed oil (Collar of Gold is the good one). Let it steep or macerate over night and strain through a coffee filter in the morning. After straining, place it in a small bottle and keep it in the fridge. If you like, you can make mayonnaise with the oil by adding it (carefully) to two egg yolks seasoned with salt and vinegar. Make sure to whisk constantly and add the oil gradually until the emulsion forms.
On a cold April night, I could imagine a mayonnaise such as this pairing well with some beer-battered fish. To make the batter, whisk your favourite beer into flour until it you get a “batter” consistency. Flour your fish fillet (hake, monkfish, ling or cod) and then dip in the batter. Fry at 180 degrees until crisp and floating to the top of the oil. A pinch of yeast in your batter will make it extra light.