This is the story of a mid-life crisis. When idealism was confronted by pragmatism. When one is forced, suddenly, to think about the way life really works.
There can be few greater shocks in a food writer’s life than to come home and find the missus has been feeding the kids fish fingers from the freezer. Not just from the freezer, but from a packet in the freezer.
What next? Pre-crumbed schnitzel? Marinara mix? Crab sticks? A daily dose of Home and Away? A secret stash of Coronation Street DVDs? A red sports car in the drive?
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS?” I screamed, holding the chilled packet aloft and getting the conversation off to a start not unlike the first bounce of the Grand Final. The umpire bounces the ball, the crowd roars, and it’s every man for himself. The tone and level of my opening remarks set up the potential for mayhem.
The missus, a sensible soul, and well used to such unexpected provocation, decided not to play by the rules. She all but ignored me. “Because,” she said, “they like them. And they’re easy.”
“Oh,” I whispered, taking the subtle punch in the guts, remaining still while mentally curling into the foetal position. And we sat down in silence and I looked at the kids’ plates and there wasn’t a crumb left behind. My brain (or conscience) started working overtime.
How to get down to making your own fish fingers? Well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Yours might not be vivid yellow, and they’re unlikely to form perfect rectangular shapes, and the insides won’t be pure white, and they won’t all taste the same, but they’re all yours.
A version of this recipe was published in Simple Flavours (1991, Text Media). I’m pleased to say packet fish fingers have not been seen on our table for nigh on 25 years.
Words & recipe Geoff Slattery
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- 250 g firm-fleshed, inexpensive fish (trevally, blue eye, flake, blue grenadier)
- 100 g smoked trout, or salmon, bones removed
- 50 g unsalted butter, softened
- 100 g cooked potato
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 chilli, sliced finely (optional)
- 1 Bunch dill, chopped roughly—other soft herbs will do, but dill and fish are magic
- 2 tsp curry powder
- Pinch Pink Salt Flakes BUY
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- A little milk
- Plain flour
- Bread crumbs from stale bread
- A little oil for frying
Make sure all the bones are removed from the fish and the smoked trout. Cut the fish into small, but not tiny, chunks and toss into the Thermomix with the butter, potato, lemon juice and zest, chilli, dill, curry powder, salt and black pepper. Process 5 seconds/speed 8 until chopped up, but still retaining some chunkiness. You may need to scrape down the bowl, and process for a few seconds more. You don’t want a puree.
Roll into 6-8 cigar shapes (roughly 10 centimetres x 3 centimetres) and block off, with your hands and a spatula, into rectangles if you want them to look like fish fingers. (If you’re not into the “culture” of the fish finger, just form into patties.)
Chill in the fridge until you’re ready to coat and cook; this helps the “fingers” hold their shape. Just before you start the coating process, place them in the freezer for 10 minutes—this will make them easier to handle.
For the coating, beat the egg with a little milk. Then dip the fish fingers into the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Once formed, you may need to reform into rectangular shapes once more, depending on how keen you are to replicate the packets in the freezer.
Fry in a little oil (in a pan which can go into the oven) until the coating is firm on one side. Repeat on each side, or put into an oven previously heated to 200C, and bake until firm (about 10 minutes). If you’re making a lot, you can allow a batch to cool and at this stage, package and freeze: just like the “real” thing.
Serve with a lemon on the side, a handful of peas, tossed in butter, and White Crow tomato sauce. (Just joking!)
AND … for breadcrumbs, whenever you have leftover good quality bread that is going dry and stale, whizz 10 seconds/speed 10 in the Thermomix. If the crumbs are not completely dry, spread on a tray in a low oven for 20 minutes before cooling. Store in a very dry airtight jar for future use.