Red battered fish and chips

The whole calendar has been hijacked by various causes, some worthier than others. You’ve missed “Farmhouse Breakfast Week” (22-28th January) and already in February there’s been “Safer Internet Day” (wear a condom whilst browsing?). Next week there’s the quite thrilling “Fair Trade Fortnight” which should sort lots of things out no doubt.

Do I care? Not normally – and I also wouldn’t care about National Chip Week, even though I like chips and I encourage them in my own special way, were it not for the fact that my favourite fish and chip venue – the Black Country Living Museum – tweeted rather enigmatically that they were frying “red-battered chips” this week in celebration.

What are red-battered chips and more importantly why haven’t I heard of them until now? Google is no help. But a bit of incidental conversation on Twitter about West Midlands specialties (balti, pork pies, pork scratchings, faggots & peas, groaty pudding, Fenky Jane’s caribbean patties since you ask) also threw up orange battered chips. Sounds very similar. Apparently these are a Black Country specialty, the origins of which are a source of great controversy.

But – what are they? Well they are simply battered chips. Etymologists amongst you will not be surprised to find out that they are orange. Those who have eaten food, or observed teenagers in the Black Country won’t be surprised to find out this is achieved by adding tartrazine to the batter.

So what of the red battered chips? Well, with today’s beautiful spring-like weather I decided to go and find out for myself. Turns out Black Country museum on a weekday in February isn’t very busy, and I was first in line at Hobbs & Son.

“Why are they called red-battered chips not orange?” I enquired, trying to sound like I didn’t really have a middle-class Southern accent. “Because they are red”. Mystery solved. In they went to the fryer with a hunk of cod and I waited outside in the glorious winter-into-spring sun for them to be ready …

They were blimming lovely. Bostin’. Black Country museum fish and chips are already the best ever, cooked to order in beef dripping with quite the best crispy flavourful batter and perfectly steamed fish within. So adding some extra batter to the chips as well as a generous helping of crispies tucked in the bottom of the cone just serves to make the whole experience more decadent.

National Chip week runs until 26th February – in case you give a shit.

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