Like many people my age I probably came close to eating my own weight in Fish Fingers, Oven Chips and Baked Beans as a child.
Whilst they certainly aren’t to everyone’s taste I think that pretty much all of my schoolfriends’ parents relied on Captain Birdseye when it came to feeding a hoard of hungry kids and who can blame them? Dealing with the after school chaos is hard enough without having to slave over a stove on top of everything else. A decent dinner could be cooked from frozen in less than half an hour, so why not make the most of the time you have?
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (or delve back into the archives) you’ll know by now that I’ve also come a long way from the food I was brought up on. Not that I have any bad memories you understand, rather the world has moved on and the food we have access to now is just so much more exciting, varied and affordable.
Fast forward 30 years and my main exposure to those crisp, golden oblongs is on the menus of many pubs and bars. Only this time they come in an arguably more upscale format – the Fish Finger Sandwich. Yes, some outlets offer a very simple white bread and ketchup affair, but most seem to have aimed a little higher with ciabatta, tartare sauce and watercress.
I think I sit somewhere in the middle of the two worlds – part of me wants to eat the fish fingers and chips of the 1980s, but a bigger part of me wants them to look appetising and taste as good. Hence I thought the time was right to make my own at home and the good news is that it couldn’t be easier.
All you need is some good quality fish – I used Hake Fillets from the fishmonger – and something to coat it with. In this respect I’m very ‘vanilla’ – I simply panéed the cut fish in seasoned flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs before shallow frying them until crisp. I’ve seen a lot of people suggesting various coatings but I wanted the fish to be the star here not the crumb.
They came out just as I had hoped. Tender and flaky in the middle, crispy and crunchy on the outside. A perfect partner for my homemade, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries. In many respects we’ve come a long way over the past few decades, but there’s something oddly comforting about the orange and yellow colours of many of my childhood dinners!
Homemade Fish Fingers
No "radioactive orange" breadcrumbs in sight here - just good quality fish, simply prepared and cooked to perfection.
- 320 g Good Quality White Fish I used 2 Hake Fillets from the fishmonger
- 1 Free-Range Egg
- 50 g Plain Flour
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika (Pimentón Dulce)
- ½ tsp Sea Salt
- ¼ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 100 g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 4 tbsp Vegetable or Sunflower Oil
Pat the fish fillets dry with a piece of kitchen towel. Cut into fingers of your preferred size - around 2cm width should be plenty - making sure to go against the grain.
Mix together the flour, paprika, salt and pepper and put into a shallow dish. Beat the egg in a second shallow dish and put the breadcrumbs into a third dish.
Coat each fish finger in the seasoned flour mixture and gently shake of any excess. Then dip each into the egg mixture, again removing any excess, and finally roll in the breadcrumbs until they're well coated. Place onto a plate or baking sheet to rest for a couple of minutes.
Pour the oil into a large frying pan and put over a medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Gently place the fish fingers into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Turn them over and do the same on the other side.
Remove from the pan and drain briefly on kitchen towel before serving.
If you've never breaded food before there's one simple trick that will help you avoid making a horribly sticky mess - the dry hand/wet hand method. It works exactly as you'd expect in that you want to keep one hand dry and allow the other to get wet.
By way of an example... If you use your left hand to coat the fish fingers in flour then it will become your dry hand. You use this hand to coat the fish fingers with the flour and for transferring them across to the egg mixture, making sure to keep it dry and away from the egg. You then use your other hand (right hand in this example) to turn the fish fingers in the egg mixture and make sure they're well coated. It's also used to transfer them to the breadcrumbs, again making sure to not get pick up any breadcrumbs along the way. You then swap back to your dry hand to coat the fish fingers in the breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to help them stick.
Your hands may not stay totally clean using this method but it certainly reduces the risk of getting lumps of eggy-floury-breadcrumbs between your fingers, which is a huge upside.
Note: The nutrition information below is based on the full ingredients list shown above. When you coat the fish fingers you won't use all of the flour, egg and breadcrumbs, and when you cook them you're unlikely to use up all of the oil. Therefore these are very much top end figures.