Recipe 1/150. Fish Finger Bhorta, p60.
I plumped for this dish as the starting point for my odyssey as I cook my way through the full 150 recipes. Why FFB? Well, it’the popular choice when Cook, Eat, Repeat comes up in conversation. “I’ve been cooking the fish finger recipe on repeat,” says my Cardigan pal, Clare. Daniel, a friend from my food writing circle, also gave the dish a heads up. And it looks such a pretty dish.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, there is a golden rule in cooking and this dish serves as a timely reminder. Your plate will only ever be as good as your ingredients. And truth is, I don’t actually like fish fingers. They’re way too processed for my taste. Unless I’ve crumbed the thing myself - and I’m not averse to Panko - breaded ingredients have no place in my kitchen. A sentiment echoed by my pal, Zoe, “I’m currently building up to buying frozen fish fingers, “ she says, “Nigella even specifies it must be the bright orange coated, thin ones, not Tesco’s Finest.”
Regardless, I got stuck in. Such a pretty dish.
Let's look to the positives. It’s a quick dish to table – my kids were fed in less than half an hour. I learnt about Bhorta and I’m always encouraged by a recipe that embraces chilli, garlic and ginger.
I prepared the red onions first thing in the morning. As I steeped them in red vinegar, I felt wholly proud of myself to have a supper in hand before even my morning coffee. I was cheered to see the inclusion of green veg. Always a good sign, I thought.
When we sat down to eat - my first forkful – surprised me. It tasted good. It was a new set of flavours on me and not something I was expecting. Tentatively, I moved on to the fish fingers. Okay, I thought, not so bad. But once the fish fingers lost their heat, it was like the clock striking midnight and the coach & horses reverting to pumpkin and mice. Because in truth, you simply can't disguise junk food. Whilst it can behold a momentary glamour, all too soon the illusion passes. And one is filled with only regret and a heavy tum.
So – all in – I loved the bhorta side of things and would happily sub those darn fish fingers for prawns or maybe chickpeas. I’ve had the pleasure of Nigella’s writing, of imagining her concocting this dish and tucking in – with possibly more gusto than I - a companionable thought nonetheless.
I had a brief moment, as my daughter pushed those cold breaded cuboids sadly around her plate, when I felt despair – what have I signed up for? But that soon passed as I flipped reassuringly through the recipes. This is a journey to push me out of my comfort zone and to eat at Nigella’s table. Who could turn down such an offer? And did I mention how pretty it is?