Nigella’s Fish Bhorta

A while back on Instagram, I saw a Nigella Lawson dish called fish finger bhorta. The dish was so beautiful – many colors, textures and flavors.

However, when I dug deeper, I realized that her fish fingers are……… frozen fish fingers!!! Now I’ve always loved Ms. Lawson because she embraces it all when it comes to food, but I must draw the line here for myself.

And yet, I couldn’t dismiss this recipe altogether. I’d recently purchased an air fryer, and thought that making fish fingers in it would be a great test. (And they came out perfectly!)

Unfortunately, I disliked the recipe immensely. Probably because I don’t feel that the mustard belonged. It’s definitely a British thing, which I confirmed with my son-in-law.

Fish  Bhorta
Nigella Lawson

2 regular onions
2 red chillies (I only had serranos and habaneros
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (approx. 50g / 3-inch chunk)
12 frozen fish fingers
3 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons English mustard
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
4 ounces young spinach
1 lime
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander (plus more to serve)
Pickled onions, purchased or home made

Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/425°F. While you’re waiting, peel and slice your 2 regular onions into fine half-moons, deseed the chillies (or not if you prefer) and slice them finely, and peel the garlic. If the skin is tough, peel the ginger (using the tip of a teaspoon) then grate it finely to give 1 tablespoonful.

When the oven’s hot, and your ingredients are assembled and ready, put the frozen fish fingers on a baking sheet and cook for approx. 20–25 minutes, which may be slightly longer than the packet directs, but will ensure the breadcrumb coating is really crisp.

Instead of doing that, although I wanted to respect the original recipe, I used 1 pound of cod, seasoned, and cut into bite-sized pieces. I dipped them in flour, then 2 whisked eggs, and then in panko. They cooked in 3 batches at 385 degrees for about 6 minutes each batch.

Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions over medium-low for 20 minutes, stirring regularly, by which time they will be pale gold and soft. Add the sliced chillies and cook, stirring all the while, for 3 minutes, then stir in the grated ginger, mince or grate in the garlic, and cook, still stirring, for another 2 minutes.

Spoon in the mustard and salt, (or just salt!), stirring to combine, then add the spinach leaves and let them wilt in the pan for 2–3 minutes, stirring regularly, then squeeze in the juice of the lime.

Take the pan off the heat while you get the fish fingers. Break them up a bit with a spatula then add them to the wok or frying pan. Toss everything together, breaking them up further and mashing them into the pan, then sprinkle over the coriander.

I left my fish fingers as is, heated but not mashed into the other ingredients.

Serve topped with pickled onions, adding extra chopped coriander if wished.

I not only pickled onions, but also red cabbage and blueberries. I got the inspiration from Valentina, of the blog, “Cooking on the Weekends.”

If you need fabulous jarred pickled onions, I use these, from Amazon of course.

I might try this recipe again, but totally omit the mustard.

By Published On: April 18th, 202236 Comments on Nigella’s Fish Bhorta

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. BERNADETTE April 18, 2022 at 6:08 AM - Reply

    I like short cuts but when I read the recipe I also thought “frozen fish sticks are nasty”. I honestly thought when I read it that the whole recipe wasn’t worth the effort and usually I like Nigella’s recipes.

    • Chef Mimi April 18, 2022 at 8:00 AM - Reply

      I usually do as well, but this was a disappointment. Strange flavors.

  2. sherry April 18, 2022 at 6:41 AM - Reply

    those pickled onions look great. i am not a huge fan of english mustard or any mustard other than my own homemade grain mustard. MMm and yes i think mustard does not sound at all right with fish fingers!

    • Chef Mimi April 18, 2022 at 8:01 AM - Reply

      The whole combination of flavors was odd. Really terrible.

  3. Vicky April 18, 2022 at 7:19 AM - Reply

    Love these fish finger bhorta. So beautiful and different. Something to impress my family this week. The recipe is great, very detailed and with lots of pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    • Chef Mimi April 18, 2022 at 8:02 AM - Reply

      Well consider omitting the mustard – it just didn’t go with the other flavors, and I should have caught that beforehand. I just trust Nigella!

  4. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen April 18, 2022 at 8:33 AM - Reply

    I’m surprised she used frozen fish sticks. I have yet to fall in love with my air fryer, but this looks like a good use of it.

    • Chef Mimi April 18, 2022 at 6:50 PM - Reply

      It’s been great for roasted veggies, but I haven’t done much else except for these pieces of cod!

  5. terrie gura April 18, 2022 at 2:55 PM - Reply

    OMG, frozen fish sticks! I haven’t even seen those since my mom made them when I was about nine. Hahaha! Nice save, making your own from scratch in the air fryer. I have no doubt they turned out great, especially with the “bite shot” you included in your photos. I’m also completely in love with the vibrant pink of those pickled onions!

    • Chef Mimi April 18, 2022 at 6:51 PM - Reply

      The fish sticks turned out to be the best part of this dish! The pickled stuff was good, too!

  6. Tabula Rasa April 19, 2022 at 1:48 AM - Reply

    Bhorta/bhurta is from Bangladesh and would always have mustard in it although it would be in the form of mustard oil (which is integral to the dish) not a dollop of Colmans, it also wouldn’t be fried fish but instead possibly a normal fish or potatoes which would be mashed in with the spinach…. There would be no pickle incorporated but you might have a chutney on the side. I’m afraid it is another of Nigellas style over substance, she’s not a great cook and her recipe testing is poor.

    • Chef Mimi April 19, 2022 at 11:13 AM - Reply

      I could see mustard oil, or even mustard seeds, but not with the ginger. I disagree about Nigella, but each to his own! Thanks for the comment!

  7. Madalaine McDaniel April 19, 2022 at 2:25 PM - Reply

    This dish looks amazing! What a fabulous balance of crunch, tangy, mildly sweet, and fresh cilantro. I adore Nigella and find her so inspirational. Thank you for sharing her recipe. ❤️

    • Chef Mimi April 21, 2022 at 2:29 AM - Reply

      I love Nigella as well, but this dish failed. Plenty more to make!

  8. Éva Taylor April 19, 2022 at 9:42 PM - Reply

    Thanks for testing this one, saved me from trying it.

    • Chef Mimi April 21, 2022 at 2:31 AM - Reply

      You are welcome!

  9. Frank Fariello April 20, 2022 at 6:59 AM - Reply

    I’d say your recipe is definitely an improvement on the original. And so very pretty too!

    • Chef Mimi April 21, 2022 at 2:32 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Frank!

  10. Linger April 20, 2022 at 8:40 AM - Reply

    I’m so with you about the frozen fish sticks. So weird to use them in this recipe. I do love your idea though of pickling onions, cabbage and blueberries together. What a fabulous idea. I will have to try them because I am crazy about pickles onions. Also, thanks for being honest about the recipe.

    • Chef Mimi April 21, 2022 at 2:33 AM - Reply

      I remember how pretty her photo was, so I’m assuming I didn’t really read through the recipe. And even then I should have stopped at the mustard!

  11. kitchenriffs April 20, 2022 at 9:37 AM - Reply

    I haven’t had fish sticks in . . . well, so long ago, I can’t remember when! Probably not since I was a kid — hated them then, so I don’t think I’ve ever purchased them. Interesting recipe, though not sure if it’s my thing. Thanks!

    • Chef Mimi April 21, 2022 at 2:30 AM - Reply

      I understand. This didn’t end up being my thing either!

  12. StefanGourmet April 21, 2022 at 1:59 AM - Reply

    Agree with you on the mustard and making your own fish fingers.

    • Chef Mimi April 21, 2022 at 2:30 AM - Reply

      I obviously didn’t read the recipe through before making it. I remember being enthralled with the photo!

  13. thatskinnychickcanbake April 21, 2022 at 7:08 AM - Reply

    I love the idea of making the fish fingers….will probably wait until Lent next year to give them a try. The salad is beautiful, but sorry it didn’t taste as nice as it looks!

    • Chef Mimi April 22, 2022 at 10:39 PM - Reply

      I was too! But I know what to do next time!

  14. Ben | Havocinthekitchen April 21, 2022 at 12:15 PM - Reply

    I am not familiar with bhorta, but this dish looks fantastic! Indeed, it’s a wonderful combo of flavours, textures, and colours.

    • Chef Mimi April 22, 2022 at 10:39 PM - Reply

      I was certainly a feast for the eyes!

  15. David Scott Allen April 22, 2022 at 11:27 AM - Reply

    The thing that amazes me is that someone like Nigella would use standard fish fingers, when there are low polity fish and poorly processed. Just my two cents… Your version is much more interesting! Thanks for bringing it to us, and I have to admit that I’ve never heard of a bhorta

    • Chef Mimi April 22, 2022 at 10:40 PM - Reply

      That surprised me as well. I know from her many cookbooks that she embraces it all. Well, this one wasn’t for me.

  16. Debra April 22, 2022 at 9:49 PM - Reply

    This is really a beautiful dish! I would probably be ok with the frozen fish fingers, but I must admit your air fryer recipe is amazingly appealing. :-)

    • Chef Mimi April 22, 2022 at 10:41 PM - Reply

      I’m getting used to the air fryer. It has a lot of potential, but so far I’ve mostly roasted vegetables!

  17. Jeff the Chef April 24, 2022 at 10:28 AM - Reply

    I love your fresh fish version. I’ll also be curious to see how your relationship with the air fryer develops.

    • Chef Mimi April 25, 2022 at 4:41 AM - Reply

      I am intrigued by the air fryer, but need a serious chunk of time to test it. So far, so good! And it is unique. Still no interest here in an insta-pot, but it also depends on your lifestyle

  18. Raymund April 27, 2022 at 10:26 PM - Reply

    That indeed had many colors, textures and flavors, I love them

    • Chef Mimi May 8, 2022 at 10:29 AM - Reply

      It’s a very pretty dish – no argument there!

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