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The nation’s favourite: Fish and Chips

The times may be changing in the out-of-home food arena, however fish and chips remains the UK’s number one takeaway. Each year we spend a phenomenal £1.2 billion on fish and chips – consuming about 276 million meals provided by the 10,500 fish and chip shops and restaurants located throughout the UK

It’s not known exactly where or when fish and chips came together. Chips (pommes frites) arrived in Britain from France in the 18th Century. Their first mention was when Chef Alexis Soyer included ‘thin cut potatoes cooked in oil’ in his 1854 recipe book, Shilling Cookery. At about this time, fish warehouses sold fried fish accompanied by bread; Charles Dickens made mention of such warehouses in his novel Oliver Twist published in 1838. ‘Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil’ also appear in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, published in 1859.

There are claims to the first ‘chippie’ being from both Lancashire and London. The trade grew rapidly regardless of ownership, reaching a staggering 35,000 shops in the 1930s. Fish and chips helped feed the masses during WWI and were one of only a few foods not to be rationed in World War II.

Fish, chips and parsley Fish and chips – sustainable, healthy, fattening?

With much of the country divided on whether fish and chips are good for you, fattening or even sustainable, EC caught up with Andy Gray, Trade Marketing Manager at Seafish for some definitive answers.

EC: Fish and chips are the nation’s favourite takeaway, but could this popularity be threatening the sustainability of our oceans?

AG: Some people are worried about eating cod, or wild-caught fish of any species, when in fact it’s perfectly possible to eat these fish with a clear conscience provided that they come from a sustainably managed source. Almost all cod eaten in the UK – including that from fish and chip shops – is imported from sustainable stocks from Icelandic, Russian and Norwegian waters, many of which are Marine Stewardship Council accredited.

EC: With reports in the media about the sustainability of global fish stocks, what is a sustainable fishery?

AG: Essentially, a well-managed and sustainable fishery protects the fish and the environment in which they live, while allowing responsible use of the species that come from it. A sustainable fishery is one where the fish populations are judged to be at healthy levels ensuring there is a future for the industry and all those who depend on the fisheries for their livelihoods.

FishermanEC: Cod is the most popular fish sold in fish and chip shops in the UK. What is the situation regarding cod from the North Sea?

AG: Most of the cod we eat is actually from outside UK waters – only about 5% of the cod we eat is caught in the UK, and this is caught under strict management regimes. The vast majority (around 95%) of cod used by fish and chip shops is caught in the icy clear Arctic waters of the Barents Sea and Iceland where stringent measures have ensured good management of cod stocks in these waters.

EC: Haddock is the next most popular fish and chip shop choice. How and where is it sourced?

AG: In England, the majority of the haddock consumed comes from the Barents Sea and Iceland. In Scotland, haddock is much more likely to come from the North Sea where stocks are extremely plentiful and managed accordingly.

EC: What is the fishing industry doing to guarantee a healthy, sustainable future for the fisheries around our coast?

AG: The UK fishing industry has undergone huge change in recent years to protect our fisheries. Measures include voluntary closure by the fishing fleet of areas around our coast to protect stocks; growth of certificated sustainable fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council; more robust seafood sourcing policies; and massive strides within the industry towards managing our fisheries for a healthy future.

EC: Are fish and chips bad for your health?

AG: It’s a natural, nutritional meal that is good value for money and an excellent source of protein – better than most other takeaway foods. It provides the body with carbohydrate, vitamins B6 and B12, vitamin C, iron, calcium, phosphorous, as well as the trace elements iodine, fluorine, zinc and some dietary fibre.

 EC: Are fish and chips fattening?

AG: Fish and chips are a wholesome, nutritious meal that contains fewer additives than other takeaways such as burgers and curries, and also contains a number of essential vitamins. British Nutrition Foundation statistics show that an average portion of fish and chips contains almost three times less fat (20.6%) than an equivalent portion of chicken tikka masala and pilau rice.

Cooled FishEC: How much saturated fat is in an average portion?

AG: The total fat content of an average portion of fish and chips is 48.2g. This compares favourably against a Donner Kebab in pitta bread with salad and chips, which has a total fat content of 57.74g.

EC: How many calories are in the average portion of fish and chips?

AH: About 861.95 calories. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, estimated average requirements
for men and women are: Men (aged between 19-50 years) 2,550 Kcal; Women (aged between 19-50 years) 1,940 Kcal.

Fish and Chip Awards

Frankies Fish and Chips

Organised by Seafish, The National Fish & Chip Awards celebrate the great British tradition of fish and chips, and reward outstanding businesses across a variety of award categories. Now in their 27th year, the awards are recognised as one of the most prominent and respected seafood industry events in the UK.

Chippy fish and chipsThe National Fish & Chip Awards 2016 will be open for entries from 1 May. Categories include: Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award, Independent Fish and Chip Restaurant of the Year Award, Best Seasonal Fish and Chip Operator Award, Best Newcomer Award, Staff Training and Development Award, Community Contribution Award, and Good Catch – The Sustainable Seafood Award.

Simpsons FishWinners will be announced in January 2016. Until then, the official best fish and chip shop in the UK is Frankie’s Fish & Chips in Brae, Shetland, Scotland – winner of Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year 2015. Further information can be found at the fishandchipawards website.

Did you know?

  • About 75,000 people are employed in the takeaway fish and chip shop sector.
  • Vinegar has been popular since 1845 when it was first recommended to be splashed over fish and chips by Victorian cook, Eliza Acton, as a means of sweetening the fish.
  • A recent survey revealed that around two thirds of UK fish and chip eaters add salt (65%) and vinegar (68%), over a third (37%) have mushy peas with their meal and more than half the respondents (52%) prefer eating fish and chips straight from the paper or box.
  • The seaside emerged as the nation’s favourite location for enjoying fish and chips (31%), followed by at home on the sofa.
  • Men eat fish and chips more often than women, with 41% consuming the meal at least once a month, compared with 30% of women.

About Seafish

Seafish was founded in 1981 by an Act of Parliament and aims to support all sectors of the seafood industry to improve environmental sustainability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the industry, as well as promoting sustainably and ethically sourced seafood. It is the only pan-industry body offering services to all parts of the seafood industry, including catching and aquaculture, processors, importers, exporters and distributors of seafood as well as the foodservice sector and retailers. www.seafish.org

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