Monday, July 07, 2014

Fish Fingers

Press play for a quick demo

I have loved fish fingers ever since I was a kid, my mum always had a packet or five in the freezer for a quick and easy tea - fish fingers, mountain of mash and lots of peas (also from the freezer). Squish the lot onto a fork for a seriously great mouthful. Sometimes mum would add lemon juice to the mash - a great trick for accompaniments to fishy dishes - but that was pretty much the only fussing about that happened. Then about the time I was around ten or eleven there was a few weeks until we moved from the way out west town of Bourke back to the balmy seaside of Wollongong and so there was a mission to empty the freezer and pantry and eat the lot before leaving. I have no recollection of anything else we ate in those few weeks but I swear we ate fish fingers daily for a month. Sometimes for lunch, more often for dinner it was fish fingers, mash and peas. Fish fingers, lemon mash and peas once or twice then back to the original. The freezer had turned into the black hole of the kitchen and it was somehow filled with one hundred times its actual volume with fish fingers and peas - and we were not leaving till every single finger and every single pea had been consumed. Somehow we made it through, boarded our flights out and left that house behind along with Cliffy our lovely galah, over which many tears were shed. My dad followed us a week later, driving the car back across the 500 miles and, softy that he can be, brought Cliffy along for company. Jubilation!

It was a very long time till I ate another fish finger, about the time I left home and had to fend for myself while a student. I soon revisited the comforting charms of fish fingers, mash and peas - great food ready in no time. It soon became apparent that fish fingers alone was even quicker, or else stuffed into a sandwich the melted butter adding extra delight, and far less washing up overall.

The last packet I bought, a few years ago, weren't great. More crumb than fish, and fish that had an awful lot of reforming inflicted upon it. I gave them up for a while then recently wanted them again. Went to Borough Friday and told Paul, who runs Sussex Fish, that I was planning to make fish fingers for dinner. Good on you madam, he said, had some a couple of weeks ago myself and it was brilliant. He picked up a lovely piece of cod fillet I'll give you that thick section there, be easy to cut that into nice fat fingers. And so it was.

Fish Fingers

400g piece of cod fillet, check there's no bones at all
2 tablespoons plain flour, seasoned with a bit of salt
1 egg, beaten
About 50g breadcrumbs, Panko work well
Oil for shallow frying

Cut the fish into 4 even pieces -these are your fingers. Dip each one first into the flour, coat it well and shake off any excess. Next dip the finger into the beaten egg and coat well. Finally dredge the fish through the breadcrumbs so that it's covered on all sides. Put each completed fish finger onto a clean plate, and when they're all done cover with cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium flame, when it's hot add the fish fingers and fry for a few minutes till the underside is golden. Flip them over carefully and fry the other side till they are crisp all over.

You can serve with mash and peas but, making the most of it being summer I tossed a green salad  and added a spritz of fresh lemon. Big hunk of bread in case sandwiches were needed...

Even better than I remember!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Chard Bacon & Mushroom Salad

Click to  make full screen and see how easily this salad goes together

Have developed a real passion for chard but I must admit I don't actually know how to pronounce  the word. Is it chard like a splinter of glass or chard like a bit burnt round the edges? What's even weirder  is which ever way I say it it sounds wrong, so I try the other version and - same problem.

What I am certain of is that it is a great veg shredded and cooked down with lashings of butter for a side dish, stirred into lentils and stews for lots of added minerals and the fibre that gives it its wonderful texture, stirred into noodle soups and stir fries or eaten raw in salads like this one. The lovely Gwynnie and the clean eating brigade like it juiced - and I concur, it's a great addiction in small quantities.

Chard is also a town in Somerset with its own museum, but remains unrelated to the leafy vegetable.

I had a bag of it from my veg delivery last week - another thing in its favour is it lives happily in the fridge for a week without turning to slime - and knew salad was the way to go as joy oh joy the sun was shining. Proper balmy days. I had some mushrooms too, as well as radish I bought mostly to add a kick to my morning juice. No beetroot but this is a template, you really can use what you have so long as there's something that can be sliced and cooked and added hot to wilt the leaves a little. The hot stuff I went at with enthusiasm, because bacon is great with mushrooms and with eggs and a poached egg makes it a more substantial meal. Add crusty bread and that's dinner.

Chard Mushroom & Bacon Salad

This is such an easy recipe to adapt, use chorizo instead of bacon or leave out the  bacon altogether and cook the mushrooms in oil, use different nuts and salad vegetables, turn the bread into garlic croutons, it all works.

For 2

200g chard leaves
1 tablespoon basil oil or olive oil
100g smoked bacon, cut into small cubes
150g mushrooms, wiped  clean and sliced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Handful of radish, washed and quartered
Handful of walnuts, roughly broken into largish pieces
2 eggs
Bread and butter to serve

Tear the soft leaves from the thick stems of chard and wash thoroughly. Shred the leaves and put them into a large salad bowl then add the oil and a large pinch of salt and massage that into the leaves. Leave it for 20 minutes or so and the leaves will soften slightly.

In a dry pan fry the bacon over a gentle heat till the fat rends and turns crisply gold. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir to coat in the bacon fat then cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes or so until the mushrooms have softened and given up some of their juice. Tip the hot bacon and mushrooms into the chard, keeping back as much of the liquid as possible and put the pan back on the heat. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and tip the hot mixture over the salad. Toss well then add the raw radish and walnuts and toss again.

Heat a small pan of water and poach the eggs till the whites are set and the yolk still runny.

Divide the salad between two bowls, top each with a poached egg and have crusty bread on the side.