A good fish finger is a beautiful thing. There is, of course, something lovely in the classic simplicity of the original fish fingers you find in the freezer aisle of the supermarket, perfectly regimented and filled with flaky white cod, served up with ketchup for dipping. But I also love making my own, chunky and rustic, perfect for slapping between two thick slices of bread for the ultimate fish finger butty.
A proper fish finger butty makes the perfect winter comfort food – especially with chips for a double-carb hit – but now the weather’s warming up I thought I’d give my homemade fish fingers a bit of a makeover. Delicate, tender salmon is wrapped up in crispy golden breadcrumbs, and served on a bed of crushed peas dressed with fresh mint, basil and lemon, a fabulous bouquet of summer flavours. It’s all finished off with a big dollop of basil mayonnaise.
Before we dig into the recipe itself, let me tell you all about how to get perfect crispy breadcrumbs – absolutely essential for this recipe but also v handy for lots of others. It involves a little bit of effort but it’s so worth it. Strip the crusts off the bread and discard, and then blend the bread in a food processor to make nice fluffy breadcrumbs. Next, lay the breadcrumbs out in a thin layer on a baking tray, and put under the grill. Keep a watchful eye on them to make sure they don’t burn – you might need to move them around a bit halfway through to make sure all the breadcrumbs are nicely golden. Finally, use a rolling pin to grind them into very fine, very dry breadcrumbs – this is what you’ll use to coat the fish fingers, and it makes a much better coating than the fluffy breadcrumbs straight out of the blender. Whenever we’ve got a loaf that’s gone stale, I blend it up into breadcrumbs to put in the freezer, and then when I need them, I put the frozen breadcrumbs straight under the grill, which is a good shortcut.
One last thing – you could, of course, make your own mayonnaise, and if you do I salute you. Alternatively, you can do what I do and simply add different flavours to your jar of Hellman’s – it’s a really quick shortcut but can make a lovely change to lots of dishes.
|A perfect crispy coating and succulent, juicy centre|
Homemade Salmon Fish Fingers with Basil MayoPrint Recipe
- 2 good-sized salmon fillets
- A little plain flour for dusting
- 1 egg
- 4 slices of white bread
- Several big spoonfuls of mayonnaise
- A big handful of fresh basil
- A big handful of fresh mint
- A lemon
- Coarse sea salt
- 200g frozen peas
Start by preparing the breadcrumbs as above. Grind them down and set them aside until you need them.
Next, get the peas on – pop in a small pan and cover with boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook for ten minutes, at which point you should drain them and set to one side until everything else is finished. Never add salt to the water when you’re boiling peas, as it can make them tough.
Now make the mayonnaise, so it’s got time to infuse with flavour – simply chop up a small handful of your fresh basil and mix with the mayonnaise, along with a good sprinkle of freshly-ground black pepper. Cover and set aside.
To make your fish fingers, first prepare a plate with your lovely dry breadcrumbs (made as above), and another plate with a few spoonfuls of plain flour. Crack the egg into a bowl and beat briefly with a fork. Place a large deep saucepan on the hob on a high heat, and fill with vegetable oil to a depth of about 2cm.
Use a very sharp knife to cut each salmon fillet into four fingers (the way I did it was to cut each fillet in half widthways, and then half each piece again lengthways). Take each finger, and dip in turn into the flour, then the egg (letting any excess drip off) and finally the breadcrumbs, making sure to get a good coating all over.
By now, the oil should be nice and hot – to check, drop a breadcrumb into it, and if the crumb floats on the surface and fizzes, the temperature is correct. Very carefully lower your prepared fish fingers into the oil with a slotted spoon, and cook until dark golden all over, turning over halfway. Finally, lay the cooked fish fingers on a piece of kitchen roll to drain any excess oil.
To serve, dress the peas with chopped mint, basil, lemon zest and a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Lay a bed of them on each plate, and top with the fish fingers. Finish with a generous dollop of your prepared basil mayo.