The reel deal

[Recipe 1] PROPER FISH and CHIPS with HOME-MADE TARTARE SAUCE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LOLITA’S TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA (SPANISH POTATO TORTILLA)
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Last week I visited one of my favourite Melbourne food suppliers. If you’re ever choofing down to the Mornington Peninsula, I highly recommend, in fact I insist, you visit the Hutchins Brothers fish merchants. Neville and Dalton Hutchins are 5th generation fishermen, who sell their fresh fish daily, right on Fisherman’s beach in Mornington. You’ll know they’re open for business if their red and yellow sign is out by the side of the road. Descend the steps to the beach, and you’ll spot their blue timber hut, erected in 1910 after the original hut was destroyed in a storm.
The brothers head out onto Port Phillip Bay every morning in their little boat, then sell the day’s catch. I can’t imagine you’d get fresher fish than that anywhere else in Melbourne! The day I visited they had garfish, flathead and Australian salmon on offer. Nothing is wasted as they also sell the fish heads for stock.
I picked up a load of flathead fillets and we cooked up some 
proper fish and chips with home-made tartare sauce. These chips rock. They’re crispy and golden and relatively healthy as they’re baked not fried. The polenta meal adds a nice crunch and gives the chips a faux deep-fried flavour. The home-made tartare sauce honestly takes minutes to make, and it’s a bit of a cheat’s recipe as I use store-bought mayo.
By par-boiling double the potatoes (see tips below), you can make a rather excellent Tortilla Española (Spanish potato tortilla) for dinner the next night. A tortilla is a fab way to use up leftover boiled potatoes. It’s super quick and easy to make and my boys hoover it up. The recipe is adapted from one by my Spanish neighbour, Lolita. Lolita and her family served up this tortilla at our annual neighbour’s Christmas party and it practically teleported me to Barcelona. The husband and I were in Spain years ago, and nothing brings back the memory clearer than a genuine tortilla. Enjoy.

Mornington fish merchantsHutchins Brothers fish merchantsFish with polenta crusted chips. One Equals Two

[Recipe 1] Proper fish and chips with home-made tartare sauce

Ingredients for fish (serves 4):
4 x 120g (4 oz) flathead (or other firm white fish) fillets
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
Cheat’s tartare sauce, or store-bought tartare sauce, to serve
Fresh dill, for scattering
Ingredients for polenta crusted chips (note: you’ll be reserving ½ the cooked potatoes for the potato tortilla in Recipe 2):
2¼ kilos (5 lb) potatoes (about 12 large), peeled, cut into 2cm (¾”) thick wedges
½ cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil, mixed with 2 teaspoons lemon juice, for coating reserved potatoes
2 tablespoons fine polenta (cornmeal)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).
Place flathead fillets in a plastic bag with the flour. Seal the bag and shake gently to coat. Remove flathead fillets, shaking off excess flour. Refrigerate, covered, until required.
Place cut potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer uncovered for 5–7 minutes, until just tender (be careful not to overcook them). Drain and return potatoes to the dry pan. Shake the pan over a medium heat to roughen and dry the potatoes. Place potatoes on a large plate lined with kitchen paper and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
♦ Reserve half the par-boiled potatoes, about 4 cups, for Lolita’s Spanish tortilla (recipe 2).
To prevent reserved potatoes from turning grey: add the olive oil and lemon juice mixture, and toss to coat well. Store cooked potatoes in the fridge for up to 2 days. Dry well with kitchen paper before using.

Place remaining par-boiled potatoes (for tonight’s chips) into a large bowl. Mix polenta, thyme and salt together and scatter over the potatoes. Toss to coat.
Place peanut oil into a large roasting pan, and heat in the hot oven for about 10 minutes – this is the trick for crispy oven-baked chips!
Very carefully remove the baking pan from the oven. Place potatoes into the hot oil with tongs, gently toss to coat, and return to the hot oven. Bake for 45–55 minutes, turning every 10–15 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the flathead fillets for about 2 to 3 minutes each side, until light golden.
Serve the fish and chips with tartare sauce on the side, and a nice green salad.

  • Planned-overs (par-boiled potatoes), coated in olive oil and lemon juice (see above), can be refrigerated for up to 2 days in a tightly-sealed container.
  • The best potatoes for chips are russet burbank, spunta, sebago and bintke; as they’re floury varieties and have a low moisture content.
  • Peanut oil is best for chips due to its high smoke point (it can sustain high heat without smoking). Vegetable oil is a close second.

Potato tortilla. One Equals TwoSpanish potato tortilla. One Equals Two

[Recipe 2] Lolita’s Tortilla Española (Spanish potato tortilla)

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 cup olive oil (+ extra ½ cup if required)

1 large brown onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
4 cups reserved par-boiled potato pieces, cut into 1½–2cm (½-¾”) cubes
8 large eggs*
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper

Heat 1 cup oil in a large heavy-based non-stick frying pan over a low heat.
Dry reserved par-boiled potato cubes with kitchen paper. Add to the frying pan with the onion, spreading out the pieces to cover the base of the pan. The potato cubes should be almost covered with oil – add the extra ½ cup oil if required.
Fry gently over a low heat confit-style, until softened, but not brown, about 20 minutes. Don’t prod the potatoes too much, just allow them to gently soften in the oil.
Drain potatoes with a large sieve. The oil can be reserved in a large glass jar for re-using next time (see these tips).
Add 1 tablespoon extra olive oil to the pan. Whisk the eggs, salt and pepper, and pour into the pan. Carefully add the potato and onion mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon and spread out the potatoes evenly.
Cook over a low heat for 8–10 minutes. Lift tortilla after 8 minutes – the bottom should be light golden brown, and the middle of the tortilla should be a little runny.
Place your largest dinner plate upside down over the frying pan, and invert the pan to catch the tortilla. This is a messy process, but it works well!
Heat a little more olive oil in the pan and slide the tortilla and any uncooked egg back into the pan, to cook the other side. Fry gently over a low heat for 4 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown and the tortilla is just cooked through.
Remove from the heat and allow tortilla to rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a board, slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

  • *I use a 28cm (11″) frying pan. For a smaller pan, 6 eggs will suffice, and less potato pieces.
  • Leftover tortilla is excellent for breakfast. Lightly re-heat the tortilla in a frying pan and serve thinly sliced with buttered toast, and bacon or grilled tomatoes.