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.
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
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.
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.
I usually do as well, but this was a disappointment. Strange flavors.
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!
The whole combination of flavors was odd. Really terrible.
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.
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!
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.
It’s been great for roasted veggies, but I haven’t done much else except for these pieces of cod!
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!
The fish sticks turned out to be the best part of this dish! The pickled stuff was good, too!
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.
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!
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. ❤️
I love Nigella as well, but this dish failed. Plenty more to make!
Thanks for testing this one, saved me from trying it.
You are welcome!
I’d say your recipe is definitely an improvement on the original. And so very pretty too!
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.
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!
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!
I understand. This didn’t end up being my thing either!
Agree with you on the mustard and making your own fish fingers.
I obviously didn’t read the recipe through before making it. I remember being enthralled with the photo!
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!
I was too! But I know what to do next time!
I am not familiar with bhorta, but this dish looks fantastic! Indeed, it’s a wonderful combo of flavours, textures, and colours.
I was certainly a feast for the eyes!
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
That surprised me as well. I know from her many cookbooks that she embraces it all. Well, this one wasn’t for me.
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. :-)
I’m getting used to the air fryer. It has a lot of potential, but so far I’ve mostly roasted vegetables!
I love your fresh fish version. I’ll also be curious to see how your relationship with the air fryer develops.
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
That indeed had many colors, textures and flavors, I love them
It’s a very pretty dish – no argument there!