I really fancied some fish this week, simply crumbed and fried and possibly served with chips but all home made, partly because our local chippie is not much good. And partly because I made some fresh soft breadcrumbs a few weeks ago with leftover bread and put them into a big glass jar in the pantry. They catch my eye every day, making me want to use them. They are as far from the toxic orange sand that comes in packets from the supermarket as it is possible to be. They are large (relatively) and softly white, like curls of fluff and seemed to promise crispy golden casing of whatever I rolled them in. What joy!
Initially I was thinking of making fish cakes - it is such a long long time since I made any but last week, at Furness, I caught sight of the Whitby cod fillets and settled on them as my crumb center of choice. The fish is line caught and spanking fresh. I decided against chips - or even potato of any ilk - and went for a simpler dish with roasted peppers dressed with basil oil and a little mound of peppery watercress to make a really beautiful plate of food.
2 fillets of cod, about 180g each
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
About half an hour before you plan to eat set out 2 dinner plates and a shallow bowl. Tip the flour onto one plate and season generously. Tip the breadcrumbs onto the other plate. Beat the egg in the bowl and put the bowl between the two plates. Place a clean dinner plate after the plate of crumbs place. You need to do all this in advance as your hands get a ready coating of crumbs and it's just too complicated to try and retrieve something you have forgotten.
You are ready to crumb.
Pick up the first fillet and dredge it in the flour so that both sides are entirely coated in a thin layer of flour. Then dunk the fillet into the beaten egg, making sure there is a film of egg over the whole piece. Then dunk the fish into the crumbs, making sure the whole piece is covered.
Then, and this is the secret that will make your fish supper sublime, (and your fingers messy) dunk the fish into the egg again and then into the crumbs so that you have a lovely even coating. Place the well crumbed fillet onto the empty plate.
Repeat with the other fillet. Cover the fish with clingfilm and put it into the fridge for half an hour or so. This sets the crumb making it less likely to float straight off when the fish goes into the pan.
In a non stick pan heat about 2 tablespoons of oil till very hot. If the temperature is too low the oil will simply soak into the crumbs and be disgusting. When the oil is ready add the fillets and leave to cook, uncovered for 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness. With a fish slice, flip each one over, so that the golden crumbs are now facing up. Continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, when the whole fillet should be cased in deep rough golden crumbs.
Have a plate ready with a double layer of kitchen paper or a paper bag. When the fish is cooked remove it with a fish slice and put it briefly onto the paper to remove any excess oil. Then put onto dinner plates and serve with salad or chips and crusty bread.
Making your own breadcrumbs is really easy - as well as frugal and you end up with much better quality crumbs than any you buy prepacked. Cut the bread into thickish slices and, when you are next using the oven for something else, put the sliced bread onto the lower rack and leave to dry out for 10 minutes or so. Then break the bread up into the bowl of a food processor and whizz to your desired crumb size.
Feel smug at fresh food that has saved you money and cut your waste. Followed by a great dinner. What could be more perfect?