I have called this 'Cape-style' because the fish comes from my local harbour, and because the batter contains some of the key spices and flavourings of Cape Malay cuisine.
Served with a cool avocado and coriander dip (but use yoghurt in place of the crème fraîche), this is a delectable snack for a festive occasion, and I promise your guests will fall on them like starving puppies. Do use very fresh, firm-fleshed fish, from which you have removed all the bones, and not frozen fish, which will turn to mush.
I find it easiest to deep-fry food (not that I'm the expert, but for what it's worth) in a small, deep saucepan over a gas flame. You can use a pan over an electric plate, or a domestic deep-fat fryer, but a naked flame is better because it allow you to regulate the heat with ease. For perfect results, I can recommend using a thermometer - I use a jam-making/candy thermometer - to keep the oil at a constant temperature of between 160°C and 170°C. If you don't have such a gadget, have a look at these tips for checking whether the oil is hot enough.
You can use ordinary cake flour, with a little cornflour added, for this recipe, but you will get a much crispier result using rice flour (available from health shops) and chickpea [gram/channa] flour (from Indian spice shops).
Cape-style Crispy Spiced Battered Fish Bites
For the fish:
1 kg fresh, firm-fleshed white fish fillets, deboned and skinned
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tsp (10 ml) lemon juice
salt and milled black pepper
a little rice flour
oil for deep-frying
For the batter:
¾ cup (180 ml) rice flour
¾ cup (180 ml) chickpea [channa] flour
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin
2 tsp (10 ml) powdered coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) red chilli powder (or more, to taste)
1 ½ tsp (7.5 ml) salt
milled black pepper
1 x 330 ml can of ice-cold lager
flaky sea salt
a dip of your choice (I can recommend my coriander and avocado dip)
First make the batter. Sift the rice flour and chickpea flour into a mixing bowl and add the spices, salt and pepper. Gently pour the beer over the dry ingredients and whisk lightly until you have a smooth, slightly puffy batter about the thickness of cream. Don’t over-mix the batter. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Cut the fish into 2-cm square cubes. Put the cubes in a bowl and add the garlic, ginger and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Set aside for five minutes.
Warm a platter in the oven. Heat the oil in a small, deep saucepan, until it reaches 160°C. Put a little rice flour on a plate. Roll each fish cube in rice flour, dust well to remove the excess and, using a fork or a pair of tongs, dip the fish into the batter so that it is well coated. Gently lower the nuggets into the oil (five at a time is about right) and cook for a minute and a half to two minutes, or until puffy, crisp and golden. Fish the nuggets out of the oil in the order in which you put them in, using a slotted spoon, and drain well on kitchen paper. Place them in the warm oven while you fry the rest.
Serve piping hot with lemon wedges and a dip.
Serves 6-8 as a snack.