Homemade fish fingers for children
While it would be lovely to be the kind of mum who knocks up pastry, bubbling stews and veggie-packed risottos after the school run, it’s just not going to happen. So – as I think I’ve said before – there will always be room in my freezer for a box of fish fingers.
They’re easy, quick, convenient and perfect for last-minute meal fixes when you’re standing there with your head in your hands. And yes, okay, okay, fish fingers are processed, but they’re also a source of healthy protein and an easy way to get fish into often reluctant kids. And of course, because most children like them, they’re fail-safe emergency playdate food.
But… Every so often, usually after a calm day when there’s some extra time and the children are contented, I think I should make homemade fishfingers. So when I spotted a recipe in the new cookbook Something for Everyone, I thought it was about time I had another go. (The first time was about a year ago when I tried Annabel Karmel’s recipe involving cornflakes, to much acclaim.)
This cookery book, by popular Australian food and nutrition writer Louise Fulton Keats, is full of meal ideas for the whole family (hence the title, I suppose) with tips on how to adapt each dish for a baby or toddler’s palate.
There are lots of great recipes in the book, from breakfasts to dinners. But on flicking through, I got stuck on the idea of the fish fingers because of their crunchy sesame seed, parsley and lemon bite – in particular because I’m always looking to introduce new tastes and textures to my kids. The recipe suggests serving them with a broad bean yoghurt sauce, and as only one of my children likes broad beans, I also thought this could be a fun way to sneak this vegetable into their diets.
Some prep work is involved but it doesn’t take long – you just have to get organised with your mini-chopper or food processor, whizzing up breadcrumbs for the fish fingers coating. But dipping the fish into the different bowls of wholemeal flour, egg and the sesame seeds and breadcrumbs is quite fun, and I think something my kids would help with next time.
When cooking them, the recipe asks to fry them but I was worried they weren’t cooking quickly enough (okay, okay, burning too fast) so I finished them off under the grill to make sure they were perfectly cooked.
As for the broad bean dip, I skipped the step of skinning the beans – sorry, the kids’ period of contentment had finished by then – so the puree wasn’t quite as smooth as it was supposed to be, but I liked the texture.
These fish fingers had a great crunch and flavour, but I would probably go a bit heavier on the lemon zest and parsley next time.
My eldest daughter, aged 8, loved them.
Of course, my youngest – the fussy three-year-old – refused to eat them on first sight but… drum roll for big result coming up… he eventually tried a fish finger and then declared he was a fan. Cue fireworks.
My middle daughter, aged six, liked them at first. But then she said she didn’t. She said it was because of ‘the outside and the inside’, which I’m afraid tells you pretty much nothing. She did qualify this by saying that she liked the inside more. Hope that helps.
However, no matter – two out of three kids is a good result, so these fish fingers will be back on the menu again soon.
As for the broad bean dip, only my eldest child tried it – but she turned her nose up, despite normally loving broad beans. However, on this occasion, forget the kids: my husband and I gave it a beany thumbs up. A great dip for picnics too.
Sesame crunch fish fingers with broad bean yoghurt sauce
100g (3½oz) day-old wholemeal bread (crusts on), roughly chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
50g (1¾ oz or a third of a cup) wholemeal plain flour
2 eggs, lightly whisked
300g (10½oz) firm white fish fillets, cut into 8cm (3¼ inch) strips
60ml (2 fl oz) light olive oil
For the broad bean yoghurt sauce:
200g (7oz) fresh or frozen broad (fava) beans
200g (7oz) plain yoghurt
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tsp lemon juice
½ garlic clove, peeled
To make the broad bean yoghurt sauce, steam or microwave the broad beans until just tender. Refresh under cold running water. Peel and discard the skins, then place the beans in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well combined.
To make the fish fingers, place the bread into a food processor and process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sesame seeds, parsley and lemon zest.
Place the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate shallow bowls. Dust the fish strips first with flour, then dip into the egg, then roll to coat each with the crumbs.
Heat half of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook half of the fish strips for 2 to 3 minutes, turning until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining oil and fish until they’re all cooked.
Serve the hot fish fingers with the broad bean yoghurt sauce on the side for dipping.
Suitable for babies aged eight months and older.
Something for Everyone by Louise Fulton Keats (Hardie Grant). Photography: Ben Dearnley
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the cookery book for review purposes.