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Stories and Stovies
Fish & Seafood

This is a Scottish "diddling" rhyme (the kind you sing while bouncing a child on your knee – and I’m so glad I have grandchildren I can still do this with, right down to pretending to drop them as I remember my Granny playing with me.

Dance to your Daddy,
My bonny laddie.
Dance to your Daddy,
My we bit lamb.

Ye shall get a fishy
In a wee bit dishy;
You shall have a fishy
When the boat comes in.

And then, of course, like all good songs and rhymes, there has to be a chorus. The one I bounce the kids with, and they’re most familiar with, once more learned on my Granny’s knee, is:

Oh, a diddelum, a diddelum, a diddelum a do;
A diddelum, a diddelum, a diddelum, a do;
Oh, a diddelum, a diddelum, a diddelum, a do;
High, bonnie bairnie, I love you.

We must have had plenty diddelums and dos at our house, because that little song often comes into my head when I have a toddler on my knee.

Fish Bairns

But, to the fish - I will not annoy you, gentle reader, with the old joke about dieting -- Did you know I'm on a seafood diet? Yep, I see food and I eat it! – instead, let’s take a trip if not down memory lane at least down to "the chipper" in Caldrum Street or over to Louie’s on Kinghorn Road for a wee bittie to eat.

You know, when I was little those fish and chip counters seemed so high. I remember to this day going for white pudding (really an oatmeal sausage) or fish suppers and having to stretch over the counter to be able to watch the, then to me, dangerous task of the chipper dropping and retrieving baskets of fish and potatoes into the hot fat. Then, as I got older, those counters just seemed to become a little lower – but the sizzle of the fryer and the smell of the fish remained appetizing and welcoming.

Charlotte's Dundee Style Fish and Chips

  • 3 cups baking potatoes, cut nice and thick.
  • Oil for pan 1/2" deep in an electric skillet or enough to cover if using deep fryer.
  • 1:1/2 lb haddock or cod, split and prepared for cooking (it's best to buy the frozen kind,and cook them still a little on the frozen side) - perch is also good, although we never ate perch in Dundee
  • 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Heat fat to 380.

As soon as proper temperature is reached (7-9 minutes) finish frying potatoes. Drain between paper towels and place in hot oven to keep warm.

While potatoes are frying, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in egg, milk, and butter to make smooth batter.

Dip fillets into batter, smack against the side of the bowl to get off excess batter – I don’t know why, but the smacking is really important; maybe it’s because that's what Louie our Italian fish and chip man did - and Italians always had the best chippers and ice creamers in Scotland, remember.

(This reminds me of the joke about the newly wed who was baking her first ham. Her husband watched her slice the ends off the ham and toss it in the pig swill. He asked her why, and she put him off by saying this was how her mother taught her – always blaming the mother, are we? So, when this sweet young thing and her husband had Mum and Dad over for their first supper at the newlywed's place, the husband asked his mother in law why she did this, thinking there was some big secret family recipe. "Och, lad," she answered, "It’s because I never had a pan big enough for the ham.)

Anyhow, back to your fish supper –

Drop your fish into the hot fat and fry until brown and crisp.

Drain on absorbent paper.

Serve wrapped in wax paper to keep from sticking to the newspaper and brown paper wrappings you’re going to serve this in and to keep hot.

Open one end of this great bag of fish and chips, sprinkle on some salt and malt vinegar and eat to your heart's content – preferably walking up and down the street to simulate Dundonians either going home, out, or just generally about their business.

And if you want to be in cholesterol heaven, a great big pickled onion - bought from a British import shop, of course - and a big pickled red beetroot on the side just tops this off.

Oh, and you have to eat this all with your fingers for it to be truly "Dundee Fish and Chips."

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