Random Recipe #9: Fear of frying

Oy vey, this months’ Random Recipes challenge really pushed me out of my comfort zone. Not only did I have to let some strange man rifle through my cookbooks, but then I had to confront a life-long fear of deep-frying.

Let me explain. The strange man was Gary from Exploits of a Food Nut. I met him on the internet – you know how it is these days. Anyway, as per Dom’s instructions, I had to choose a recipe at random from Gary’s cookbook collection, and he got to do the same with mine, even though we live some 12,000 miles apart. Thanks to Twitter, that part was easy – Gary got James Martin’s My Kitchen and I got New Pleasures of the Jewish Table by Denise Phillips.
The hard part was realising I was going to have to heat a litre of oil to 200C on my stove top. I’m not sure why I’ve got such a deep-seated fear of frying. I think it might have something to do with being at primary school, when one of my classmates, who was pretty and clever and fantastic at athletics, came back from a long absence with a protective bandage covering her lower leg. She never talked about it and we weren’t supposed to either, but it had something to do with boiling oil and a fire. She later went well off the rails and last I heard she was in jail for GBH after beating up an old lady for her handbag, but that’s another story. This one has a much happier ending, even though I was so overcome with the process that I forgot to photograph the end result.

Egyptian Fish Balls with Tomato Sauce
I can’t recall how I came to have a copy of New Pleasures of the Jewish Table, nor do I remember ever making anything out of it. It’s a great little book though, full of socio-cultural food history (and good recipes). It’s a bit short on deep-frying advice, but I rolled my sleeves down, banished the Small Girl to watch rugby with her father and got on with proceedings. Fear factor (and a few dishes) aside, this is a great, family-friendly dinner. Make the tomato sauce first so you’ve got one less thing to worry about.

The fish balls:
700g white fish (I used alfonsino, Denise suggests bream, haddock or cod)
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic
zest of one lemon
handful of fresh parsley
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp salt
3Tbsp matzo meal (I whizzed up a few crackers in the processor instead)
1 egg, lightly beaten
plain flour, for dusting

The tomato sauce:
2Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2Tbsp tomato puree
120ml red wine
450ml vegetable stock (or water)

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pot and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes over medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 30 minutes. Set aside while you get on with the fish balls.

For the fish balls: Put the onions, garlic, lemon zest and parsley in the processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add the salt, cumin and fish and whizz again to form a smooth mixture. Tip into a bowl and mix through the matzoh crumbs and beaten egg. Dust a couple of plates with flour. With wet hands, take tablespoon-sized amounts of the fish and roll into balls, then place on the floured plates.

To deep-fry, heat one litre of vegetable oil in a deepfryer or in a deep, heavy bottomed pot. Heat to about 200C and fry the balls in batches (about five at a time should do it) until golden brown. When they’re cooked, add to the tomato sauce and heat through gently for about 10 minutes.
Serves 4-6 with rice, couscous or bread and salad.

Now, can anyone tell me what to do with the used oil? Can I pour it down the sink?



  1. October 10, 2011 / 6:59 pm

    No, don't pour it down the sink just throw it away. When ever I deep fry, and its not very often . I always make sure I have my box of baking soda out , just in case of a fire. Oh, I also have an over sized pot cover to smother any little flare up. Luckily I have never had to use either. Good for you for going outside your comfort zone.

  2. October 10, 2011 / 8:12 pm

    I share your fear.
    And after reading that previous comment I am even more scared! My grandma burnt down her kitchen cooking homemade chips …
    BUT, here in Belgium – land of the fry – I am surrounded by people with these compact little deep fryer machines, and I got a hand-me-down one, so I should just conquer my fear too… I'll let you know!

  3. October 10, 2011 / 8:18 pm

    oy vey indeed!… my mother used to cook these fish balls and always leave the oil in the pan, outside the back door, until it cooled and then threw it away… seems like a waste but you really don't want to keep it to use again eh?… and i'm just so bloody impressed, honoured and humbled that you've al gone to so much trouble to take part… it's a genius one!… thanks honey x (oh and the fishballs are amazing, I know already!)

  4. October 10, 2011 / 8:21 pm

    I'm so impressed- that too is so far out of my comfort zone, I'd be more uncomfortable than if I'd sat on an ants nest for a prolonged period of time.

    I think, along with 'Stranger Danger', the 'Home Fire' message was so strongly pressed on us as kids, its no wonder we've grown up with such fear!

  5. October 10, 2011 / 8:44 pm

    I have a frying fear too, and then when I decide try it out I end up putting about 2cm of oil in the pan, hardly deep frying!
    thanks for the tips

  6. October 10, 2011 / 9:11 pm

    The fish balls look delicious! I think frying fear is instilled in us from a young age. I remember when I was a kid watching those chip pan fire adverts, the one where they threw water on it and then the badly scarred man at the end… *shiver* Always have a damp tea towel by the hob and the sink full of icy water if I deep fry 🙂

  7. October 10, 2011 / 9:30 pm

    Yep, sharing the fear of frying here too, so well done you for trying something beyond comfort! I think if I ever did want to deep fry I'd feel safer with an automatic machine than an open pan…

    Fishballs sound great though!

  8. October 10, 2011 / 11:12 pm

    I used to be petrified of deep fat frying. I've got over it very slowly, no other burn will leave me cursing on quite the same level. I burnt the back of my hand quite badly last week at work, fortunately someone made me stand with my hand in a bowl of ice water for an hour & it near vanished with minimal scarring. Never put the oil down the sink, wait till it cools then pour it into an old jar or bottle & bin it. If you've already put it down the sink follow it with boiling water & washing up liquid. Well done for leaving your comfort zone.

  9. October 11, 2011 / 2:46 am

    Well you have embraced tho whole adventure having to fry all this.Hope the fear will be gone..in time;))

  10. October 11, 2011 / 2:10 pm

    I keep reading about people and their deep frying phobias. Now I wonder if there is something wrong with me??? I don't deep fry often but I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. I don't think I'm reckless either. I would never leave it unattended.
    Oh well.
    Anyway, back to the recipe – I think this recipe looks brilliant. Who wouldn't love balls of white fish in a tomato sauce? And although I have no fear of deep frying, I might be temped to stick the balls in the oven just to save the faff and waste of the who deep frying thing.
    Great recipe. Lovely, random book. Nice that you have tried something new again – love it!

  11. October 11, 2011 / 4:54 pm

    I love deep fried food, especially pakoras, so fortunately for me I have no phobia either. By the way, made some Sea Salt Chocolate Muffins with the choc I won from your Give Away.

  12. October 11, 2011 / 6:08 pm

    Love eating deep-fried food, but not so keen doing it. Well done you!
    Sometimes I drain the oil down the sink if it's just a little, but when it's a lot, I let it cool and then put it in a jar or heavy duty plastic bag, and throw away…

  13. October 12, 2011 / 9:40 pm

    These sound so good. Many years ago I had a deep-fat fryer that worked really well but I've never replaced it for fear of getting fat (well, fatter) rather than a fear of frying. Doesn't stop me craving these balls, though.

  14. October 12, 2011 / 10:59 pm

    I share your fear of deep frying – my mum occasionally did it but I know someone who burnt down a kitchen making chips – but not only does it feel dangerous – it also seems wasteful to throw out all that oil!

  15. October 31, 2011 / 3:57 pm

    I'm really impressed – deep frying is really scary!!!!

    Bet they were totally delicious.

  16. November 1, 2011 / 2:21 pm

    Well! So impressed that you did it … ulled up the big girl pants and conquered the frying fear! As for the fish balls, they do sound wonderful – this from a fried food freak. Love them swimmingin that tomato sauce!

    As for the oil … I let mine cool in the fryer, scopp any bits out with a slotted spoon, tuen the oil back on and fry a large thin slice of potato, ditch that, cool the oil again, and pour all but the small amount that has any 'sludge' in it back into the bottle I bought it in, and store it in a cool place until the next time I fry (but no longer than a couple months). Then the oil gets taken to the recycling center and some guy uses it for his car (yes! really!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *