If you’re allergic milk and wheat some more creative ingredients are required to make safe allergen free batter. It’s certainly left me feeling left out and like I’m missing the old treat of battered fish and chips.
What is batter made from?
I always assumed that the batter fish and chip shops used contained milk, mainly because when I’ve asked that very question I’ve been told, “Yes, it does!”
It’s usually a flour mixture made with some kind of liquid such as milk, beer, sparkling water etc. and sometimes other ingredients too.
I have found loads of recipes using water, sparkling water and beer, but none containing milk. Did I completely make this up? Do fish and chip shops use milk in their batter or not? Here is a recipe for Scottish batter found on Scotland’s Enchanting Kingdom.
Scottish fish and chip batter
- Self-raising flour
- Sparkling mineral water (some people add beer)
- Malt vinegar
- Pinch of Salt
Delia Smith’s fish batter recipe contains no dairy either
Ingredients – Makes enough for four 6-7 oz (175-200 g) pieces of fish:
- 4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 fl oz (150 ml) water, plus 1 scant tablespoon
Just sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, then gradually add the water, whisking continuously until the batter is smooth and free from lumps.
Jamie Oliver’s recipe for crispy fish batter from Jamie’s Italy is also dairy free…
- Sea Salt
- Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup of flour + extra for dusting
- Olive Oil
- 1 small bottle (250ml) of Ice cold fizzy mineral water
- 3/12 pints sunflower or vegetable oil
Season the fish with salt and pepper generously and marinade it in the lemon juice for at least half an hour. Pour out the lemon juice and pat the fillets dry. Heat your oil in a pan. While this heats make your batter by mixing the egg yolks, flour, lemon zest and some olive oil in a bowl and stirring in the the bubbly water.
I also found a traditional fish and chip batter recipe from cooking for chumps website, which is, yep, you guessed it, ALSO dairy free…
For the batter:
- 570ml / 1pint water
- 225g / 8oz plain flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 Tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 Tsp tumeric
On Wikipedia it says that normally water and flour are used, but in some cases, beer and milk substituted.
“UK chippies traditionally use a simple water and flour batter, adding a little sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and a little vinegar to create lightness, as they create bubbles in the batter. Other recipes may use beer or milk batter, where these liquids are often substitutes for water. The carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter. Beer also results in an orange-brown colour. A simple beer batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different: some prefer lager whereas others use stout and bitter. In all cases, the alcohol itself is cooked off, so little or none remains in the finished product.”
I find it fascinating reading all these recipes and marvelling at how many ways you can make batter. Perhaps if I’m really brave I’ll try to make my own at home, but I’m not sure how well it works unless you deep fry and I’m not about to do that at home.
Does fish and chip shop batter really contain dairy?
Have I been avoiding fish batter all these years for no reason? Is the confusion here that I’m asking if the batter contains dairy and that some people think eggs are dairy? Most fish and chip shops that I’ve spoken to however say that their batter contains milk. Even in restaurants when I occasionally ask they say it does contain dairy. Now I’m really confused… I suppose it’s one of those situations where you have to ask each time.
You CAN enjoy fish and chips safely
If you too have a wheat and dairy allergy or are coeliac, the following may be helpful:
- Ask for rice cones instead of batter – I used to go to a local chippy that would do me fish in rice cones. This is the thin coating they use before dipping the fish into the actual batter and makes a lovely thin crispy batter.
- Beware of cross contamination – There is a chance of cross contamination from the milk or wheat in the batter if anything is cooked in the same oil.
- Research Gluten free fish and chip shops – There are quite a few out there if you look. Often they will do GF fish and chips on the days they change the oil so it’s fresh and free from allergens. Check Laura Strange’s Gluten Free guide for places near you.
- Ask about the chip oil – Often the chips are cooked in oil only for chips so would be free from cross contamination, but always check.
- Beware of nut oils – If you’re allergic to nuts you must also check what oil is used to fry the food. Some places use nut oils such as groundnut or peanut oil, which should be safe if refined as this removes the protein but you can never be sure.
- Supermarket free from ranges – Now do lots of gluten free option of breaded fish that is also dairy free. Oven chips are also pretty good these days but look for the ingredients and check to make sure you get healthy ones without loads of fillers and dextrose. If you hunt around you can find some that are just potato and salt.
- Make your own – use the recipes above, substitute with save gluten and wheat free flour and enjoy your own fresh made battered fish. You will need a deep fat fryer or dry fryer though so not the easiest dish to cook.
Always check, ask to see the ingredients are safe for you. Check and check again, it’s always my motto to check too many times rather than rush and miss an allergen.
My favourite gluten and dairy free fish and chip shops
There are a my favourite fish and chip shops that provide safe batter, including:
- The Cod Father in Aylesbury
- The Lakeside Fish and Chip shop on the Ambleside tip of Lake Windermere
- Vinegar Jones, Bowness on Windermere
- Sea Master in Moor Park near Rickmansworth
- The English Indian mobile fish and chip shop van – is dairy and wheat free pakora flavoured batter
Do you have to avoid fish and chip batter? Are you coeliac? or just have allergies? I’d love to hear your recipes and recommendations of good fish and chippers who cater for wheat and dairy free customers. Please share below!
You may also be interested in the following:
- Milk in cooked chicken – dairy allergy alert
- A list of wheat free and gluten free real ale
- My coffee shop allergy – reacting to milk vapour