The fish finger sandwich, beloved by British people of a certain age (or possibly any age, I haven’t performed an extensive survey) and the perfect handheld comfort food. Whenever I see a proper fish finger sandwich on a restaurant or pub menu, I find it incredibly hard to resist and will inevitably suffer severe food envy if someone else orders it and I don’t.
But what is a fish finger sandwich without a good dollop of tartare sauce? For some reason I’ve never made my own tartare sauce, this is a total travesty considering how much I love it and how particular I can be about it.
A lot of recipes include finely chopped raw onions, but I’ve never been a fan of their strength, as I don’t want to taste them for hours after eating. Some recipes include tarragon, but again its not for me. That’s the great thing about tartare sauce, you can really make it your own. The only indispensable elements are capers, gherkins and a squeeze of lemon juice, the perfect ingredients to add a little piquancy where needed, in this case with a potentially bland fish dish.
On the days when a fish finger sandwich cannot be resisted, the ideal side dish is a bowl of mushy peas. Whilst I am a ridiculously big fan of classic, chip-shop style, mushy peas, made by soaking and stewing marrowfat peas, I wanted something a little fresher and lighter here. So, I consulted Mr Jamie Oliver and his 15 Minute Meals, and made some super fast minted mushy peas. They’re so simple to whip up, just frozen peas, some mint and a little bit of potato to add some creaminess. The colour is vibrant, perfectly matching the taste and they are the perfect foil to the crispy fish fingers.
Once my accompaniments were successfully created, it was time to make the fish fingers themselves. I’m sure that there are certain times when a frozen fish finger is perfectly acceptable, but I have serious problems with their strange mushy texture. For me, if fish doesn’t flake, it ain’t fish!
However, for some reason I’ve always been a little nervous of the whole flour, egg and breadcrumb process. This weekend I decided that the time had come to cure this highly irrational fear and make my own fish fingers.
I prepared my seasoned flour, beaten egg and, in this case, panko breadcrumbs (for extra crunch), cut my cod into cute little knobbly sticks and started the messy dipping process.
After frying in a little rapeseed oil, I was left with amazingly crispy, perfectly flakey fish fingers. A little sandwich assembly, (with compulsory, crusty white bread) and I had a fabulously satisfying lunch. I can honestly say (with no modesty whatsoever!) it was the best fish finger sandwich I’ve ever eaten!
Now if you will excuse me, I must prepare for the start of Downton series 4!
Fish Finger Sandwich with Tartare Sauce and Minted Mushy Peas
For the tartare sauce:
100ml good quality mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp capers
1 1/2 tbsp chopped gherkins
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
A squeeze of lemon juice
Freshly ground salt and pepper
For the minted mushy peas:
1 small potato
250g frozen peas
A small handful of mint leaves
For the fish fingers:
1- 2 large, chunky cod fillets (or other chunky white fish, preferably something a little more sustainable than I managed to find in my local supermarket)
1 tbsp flour
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 beaten egg
2 – 3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs (or any other type of breadcrumbs if you can’t find panko)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 slices of crusty white bread
Start by whipping up the tartare sauce. Mix together all of the ingredients, adding the lemon juice last of all and tasting to check whether more is needed. Keep the sauce in the fridge until you’re ready for it.
Now it’s mushy pea time. Chop the potato into 0.5cm slices, pop it into a small saucepan, cover it in boiling water, put the pan over a high heat and put the lid on. Bring it to the boil, turn down the heat a little and leave it to simmer for a couple of minutes. Next add the peas and mint and bring the water to the boil again.
Once it’s boiling, poke the potatoes with a knife to see if they are soft. Once they’re soft, drain the peas, potato and mint through a sieve and return them to the pan. Use a hand blender to puree the mixture. If you don’t have a blender, you can mash the peas by hand but you’ll need to remove the mint, finely chop it and then return it to the pan.
On to the fish fingers. You’ll need 3 small plates. Put the flour on the first plate and mix in a little salt and pepper. Pour the beaten egg onto the second plate and the breadcrumbs onto the third plate.
Slice your cod fillets into even sized fingers. Start by dipping the fingers into the flour, tap off any excess, then coat them in egg, allow the excess to drain off and then cover them thoroughly in breadcrumbs.
In a frying pan heat the rapeseed oil over a medium heat. Add the fish fingers and cook until golden on all sides, turning regularly and adding a little more oil if necessary. For me this took around 8-10 minutes. If you’re a paranoid person like me, you might want to cut one open to check it’s cooked. If the fish is cooked it will flake easily and will no longer be translucent.
Once they are cooked, move them to a plate covered in kitchen paper, to drain the excess fat. Then assemble your marvellous sandwich, and serve with the peas.