I am bracing myself for the comeback on this one because everyone (or at least, everyone in the UK) has an opinion on what makes the perfect fish finger sandwich. Does it need ketchup, mayo or fancy pants tartare? Should the bread be toasted or soft? Surely you agree that it must be white. Should the fish fingers be home made or from the beardy man box? These are all important questions.
I had my own views and they were strong but you know what? Every time I made a fish finger sandwich it didn’t quite hit the spot. It didn’t blow my mind and that bothered me because as y’all know I pride myself on my sandwich-making abilities.
And then it happened. I experienced an education in saucing that led to other improvements and before I knew it there it was, right in my mouth – the perfect fish finger sandwich. What did I change? You won’t believe it, guys. You may want to get one hand ready to clamp your jaw shut because I’m about to tell you that the answer is to use both a mayonnaise-based sauce AND ketchup.
I know. You are reeling. The reason it works is because the ketchup offers something I was always missing in the fish finger sandwich: sweetness. People tend to go OTT on the acidity, I find, adding lemon juice, capers, vinegar et al but let me tell you once more – double-sauce is where it’s at. All credit for this discovery must go my pal and fellow sandwich fancier, Gavin.
This led to a complete re-thinking of all the elements, and no matter which way I tried it, those old orange friends from Bird’s Eye no longer made the grade. I will always love you strange, uniform cod sticks but once I upgraded to these (frankly excellent, say so myself) homemade versions I didn’t look back.
There are many reasons why these fish fingers are so good. Firstly, the fish is salted for half an hour before coating to firm up the texture, so what you get is really satisfying flakes of well-seasoned fish, not mushiness. The crumb is also important and its made from panko and cayenne pepper, so super crisp with just a tiny bit of warmth. We also added a titchy pinch of MSG because we like to live on the edge in this house. That’s totally optional, just as long as you know that being scared of MSG is pointless.
So, there you have it: the perfect fish finger sandwich. There is one problem with it, actually, and that is the fact that it has ruined regular fish finger sandwiches for me, forever. I’ll never be able to enjoy a hastily slapped together hangover special again. Maybe.
The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Recipe
This makes 4 sandwiches but is easily cut in half.
270g cod (2 fillets)
270g haddock (2 fillets)
15g Maldon or other good sea salt
120g panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional but fun)
Plain flour, for dredging
2 eggs, lightly whisked
8 slices white bread (I use a white loaf from my local bakery, The Hill – you need something soft and white that won’t fall apart too easily but equally you don’t want a hardcore sourdough)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons chopped sweet pickled gherkins
Shredded iceberg lettuce
A few drops malt vinegar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cut the fillets in half lengthways (or whichever way works for the shape of your bread).
Coat them with the salt, cover and leave for 30 minutes in the fridge. After this time, wash the salt off the filets and pat dry with paper towel.
Mix the panko, paprika, cayenne and MSG (if using).
Spread one plate with a little flour, put the eggs in a shallow bowl and spread the crumbs on another plate. Dip the fish first into flour, then egg, then crumbs. Arrange on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
To assemble each sandwich, spread one piece of bread with ketchup. Mix the mayo and gherkins and spread some on the other piece. Top with lettuce then fish fingers. Close the sandwich and taste. Add a few drops malt vinegar if you feel it needs it.