It's a long running debate that's always guaranteed to cause a stir at the dinner table... what's your favourite accompaniment to fish and chips?

Plain and simple with salt and vinegar, or covered with lashings of curry sauce, mushy peas, ketchup or gravy?

But the nation's favourite fast food is creating another flap among hungry consumers at chippy counters across the country - the price of fish and chips is soaring.

At more than £5 a portion, fish and chips are in danger of becoming a pricey indulgence, rather than a regular family staple.

And the reason? Consistent heavy rainfall coincided with harvest time and large amounts of produce is starting to rot.

A sack of potatoes that would have cost £4 last year has risen to £10.

It's bad news for mushy peas fans too. Britain reportedly faces a 50,000 shortage of peas because crops have been badly damaged.

The vegetable shortage comes on top of the rising costs of fish, cooking oil and fuel - spelling bad news for chippies and your pocket.

Along with Coronation Street and cups of tea, fish and chips are considered a national treasure among us Brits.

With more than 250 million fish and chip shop meals sold a year, the traditional dish of fish and chips is still top of the league of Britain's favourite fast foods.

Fortunately, there are over 11,000 fish and chip shops in the UK to satisfy our hunger cravings, according to the Seafish organisation.

The very first fish and chip shop is thought to have opened in London in the 1860s, but things have changed a lot since then.

"Sadly, most of the old fish and chip shops have lost their way and surrendered old tradition to serve fast food items that have nothing to do with what they were originally all about," says Mark Hix, chef and author of Regional British Food.

"There is, though, a resurgence of modern fish and chip shops, which have the qualities of the old style with a few modern twists, for example, frying only in groundnut oil for a healthier product."

With rising prices giving fish fans a battering, those who are a dab hand in the kitchen can always concoct their own portions - authentic newspaper wrapping optional!

Jane Lawson, author of Grub: Favourite Food Memories Murdoch Books, £16.99, said: "Sharing a paper parcel full of piping hot, golden fish and chips is the very best way to watch the sun go down - but how often do we get to do such things these days?

"Never mind, whip up your own batch of crispy beer-battered fish and spiced chips."


(serves four)

4 large pontiac or other all-purpose potatoes
185g (6 1/2oz / 1 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
330ml (11 1/4fl oz / 1 1/3 cups) beer
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2tsps sea salt flakes
olive oil, for deep frying
800g (1lb, 12oz) flathead fillets, cut in half lengthways
lemon wedges, to serve

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Peel the potatoes, cut them into thick chips, then add to the saucepan.

Bring to the boil and allow to cook for five minutes. Drain well, then spread the chips out on a clean tea towel to dry completely.

Combine the flour and beer with two teaspoons of salt in a wide shallow bowl and set aside.

Put the cayenne pepper, paprika and sea salt flakes in a small bowl and crush together using the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan one-third full of olive oil and heat to 180C (350F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds.

Cook the potato chips in two batches for 10-12 minutes per batch, or until lightly golden, then drain well on paper towels and set aside.

Dip the fish in the beer batter and deep-fry in several batches for five minutes at a time, or until the batter is golden and the fish is just cooked through.

Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven.

Meanwhile, deep-fry the chips for a second time for two minutes, or until lovely and crisp. Drain on paper towels, then toss with the salt and spice mixture.

Serve the fish and chips with the lemon wedges on the side.


However you choose to serve them, fish and chips are officially the nation's favourite fast food - almost four times more popular than the Indian takeaway.

The Seafood organisation has these fascinating facts on fish and chips to digest:

  • Almost 70% of us take our fish and chips home to eat.
  • Cod is the most popular fish sold in fish and chip shops, accounting for 61.5% of fish sold, followed by haddock at 25%.
  • More than one in six of us can't resist going to the fish and chip shop at least once a week. Those from Yorkshire have the biggest cravings.
  • On a Friday, 20% of meals purchased out of home are purchased from a fish and chip shop.
  • Fish and chip shops sell 435 million meals a year - that's seven meals each year for every man, woman and child in the UK. Traditional fish and chips meals account for 58% of these.
  • Approximately £1.2 billion a year is spent in fish and chip shops.
  • Fish and chips have approximately a third less calories than other popular takeaways.
  • The record for the most portions sold by an independent fish and chip shop in one day is more than 4,000.
  • Fish and chips was the only takeaway food not to be rationed during the Second World War.
  • As far back as 1838, Charles Dickens wrote about fried fish warehouses in the classic novel Oliver Twist.