Like the vast majority of the rest of the country, I generally look forward to the weekend, and I get a little Friday feeling even if I have absolutely nothing interesting planned. This Friday, however, I somehow found myself in a horrendous big grouch. There was no taking me out of it. When I got home I stropped out on the sofa and felt sorry for myself - for no particular reason, it has to be said. I was so narky that (brace yourselves) I wasn't even particularly interested in what I was going to have for dinner. I know, crazy business. Since I was heading off on a cycle up to Howth summit early the next morning, a glass of wine was out of the question. Huffing and puffing away to myself, I hauled out the bright and cheerful Jamie Does book that my sister in law got me for my birthday; out of all the Jamie books, I think that this one conveys his personality the best. It's one big ray of sunshine, full of simple, inviting recipes from his travels. You know the ones - when he hops on his motorbike and leaves poor old Jools behind to mind their bajillion ludicrously-named children in drizzly old England. Anyhow, his chirpy jaunting makes for some excellent cookbooks, so I appreciate his wife's patience on that front. And his spicy Moroccan take on fish and chips cheered me up no end on a grumpy Friday evening.
Since I wasn't sufficiently organised, I didn't get a chance to go to the butcher, so I had to grab packagey fish from the shop. Not something that I ordinarily go for, but the quality was actually decent, and to be honest I don't really know what I was being so sniffy about. although my general preference is to support my local butcher.
This recipe is from the Moroccan street food section of the book, with lots of lovely spicy kebab-type bits, the kind of things that you wish you could grab somewhere on your lunch break, full of taste and really satisfying to the palette.
The fish is marinated for about an hour in 1/2 tablespoon paprika, 1/2 tablespoon turmeric, 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger, 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander and a small bunch of chopped parsley.
While that's spicing up in the fridge, it's time to crack into the chips. I have become rather fond of chips lately. They make for a very handy between-meals snack for that baaaaaaaaad potential-laden moment in the late afternoon when you are in danger of spoiling your dinner with something guilt-inducingly awful. And then you remember that glorious sack of spuds in the kitchen, run in and peel a few, do some chopping, use the half hour of cooking as a time period in which to get a specific piece of work done...and then something tasty comes out of the oven to take away the hangries! PHEW! My chip-making has been perfecting itself over the weeks, but I think I may have well and truly cracked it this time, this was my most successful batch ever. I will generously share the secrets of my success with you. Firstly, in honour of this being a Jamie recipe, I glugged out the olive oil to beat the band - this, I believe, aided the crispiness no end. Secondly, I turned them after the first ten minutes, and then very frequently for the next thirty-odd minutes. The next time I think that I shall do away with any kind of parchment or foil on the baking sheet, as I don't think that this really aids the process in any way whatsoever.
Plenty of jobs to do while the chips were cooking. There was a salad to be made, something to ease my conscience and add at least two of my five a day to the proceedings. It was a very simple one - chopped carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, capers and coriander, splashed with a little white wine vinegar and olive oil. This stuck around for a few days, and it really saved my bacon when I got the munchies. I've decided that my new kitchen essentials are a salad and some pittas, so that I can throw healthy supplies into my bag to eat on the go. No more sneaking off for bold food in the middle of the day to fill the growling gap in my stomach.
The fish had sufficiently absorbed all of those lovely spices, and all it needed was about ten minutes on the pan. Probably completely takes away from the lovely healthy omega-ness of it all, but this was a cheer-me-up meal, there was no room for beating myself up about such issues.
And all of a sudden everything was ready. The fish was supposed to go into Moroccan flatbreads, but I opted for wholemeal pittas instead. The chunks stuffed themselves in there nicely with some salad and a dollop of natural yogurt, and the chips...well, they weren't strictly necessary, but they were delicious, dammit, and they turned out to be the crispiest yet, made just a little bit Moroccan with a sprinkling of paprika. A fine achievement, I felt.
Without even realising it, I had dispelled my bad mood. I guess I have Jamie to thank. And his patient wife, who lets him disappear off on jaunts around Europe for the greater good.