Tom Eagle’s montadito de varitas de pescado con tortilla de guisantes y ali oli
Tom Eagle is a creative powerhouse based in Seville. I asked him to immerse himself in the world of fishfinger sandwiches and this was his response.
Where I live in Seville, whitebait costs €2 for a kilo or €1.50 for 1/2 and sardines are about the same. When you see economies of scale at the micro level, you realise fish must cost to Tesco what krill costs to a blue whale. Either of those fish can be grilled, barbecued or rolled in breadcrumbs and shallow-fried in olive oil, put on bread with some coarse salt and a squeeze of lemon and devoured as a really cheap, really amazing fish sandwich. Legend has it that Ferran Adrià‘s favourite restaurant is some shack along the coast that serves grilled sardines and not much else.
Which begs the question, why do fishfingers exist? What can the “finger” do to the “fish”? Urgh. Don’t answer.
But, attacked by childhood nostalgia at the strains of the Thompson Twins “I know what it means to work hard at machines,” fishfingers seemed for a moment like a good idea. I bought some. I should have known better: fishfingers are what the unfortunates in the bowels of hulking, floating processing factories off the coast of Somalia make with the bleached bones, eyes, skin and wotnot of surimi when they run out of pink colouring for that one face of crabsticks. Less fishy than beef; more lumpen than the proletariat that consumes them: fishfingers are fish for those who don’t know how to cook fish… for those who think a supermarket is a super market… who think fish shoal across the atlantic cling-filmed onto pale blue expanded polystyrene… who wonder whether the crispy, crunchy crumb coating of so many marine species is evolution or intelligent design. In an increasingly environmentally-aware age, there is absolutely no excuse for them. Jamie Oliver is just pandering to your wallet and ego when he serves them “onto a bed” of rocket. Don’t fall for it.
But now it was too late; I had a box of fishfingers in the freezer. And a sandwich to concoct. I did remember that, as a child, fishfingers always went with peas. So I thought a fishfinger sandwich might be improved by peas too, but how in the name of science would peas go in a sandwich? A binding agent or a support medium was going to be needed, and so I thought, “Right. Egg. And ali-oli, in case the egg doesn’t work.” So here’s the recipe:
- 4 varitas de merluza (fishfingers)
- 1/2 barra gallega (baguette-like crunchy bread)
- a handful of peas
- Ybarra Ali-oli (garlicky mayonnaise)
- 1 egg
- black pepper
- Break the egg into a bowl with the peas, a bit of paprika and some black pepper. Mix.
- Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, then add the egg & pea mixture. Make a low tortilla, turning it midway through cooking.
- Fry the four fishfingers in the same pan and watch in dismay as they start to disassemble (surely they are bio-engineered for one purpose alone – get from the cardboard box to your mouth still finger-shaped and breadcrumbed via a frying pan, oven or grill – if they can’t cope with that, what hope is there? And if they can, what the f*** has been done to them?).
- While they gradually fall apart behind you, notice the lack of smell of fish. And cut your barra gallega in two, toast and then spread some garlicky ali-oli on one face.
- Cut the pea tortilla into slabs the shape of the sandwich and place on top of the ali-oli face.
- Cut your fishfingers in half, notice the lack of fish flesh pattern, try to ignore it, and put the severed-at-the-metaphorical-knuckle fingers in line on top of the tortilla. With the other half of the bread, try to shut Pandora’s box. The sandwich, I mean.
- Pour yourself a stiff drink.
- Taste the sandwich.
- Swig grimacingly at the drink.
- Either a) desperately add salt and sweet chili sauce to try to hide the lack of taste or b) take out the fishfingers and eat your nice pea tortilla and ali-oli sandwich.
Learn from my mistake, and do what you can to correct humanity’s… in the future, eat fish, eat fingers if you like, but don’t eat fishfingers.