Homemade fish finger pitas for the busy season

Serve the meaty fish soldiers with Marie Rose sauce, tangy gherkins and green beans

The busy holiday season calls for some delicious fast food that’s healthier than the regular go-tos. Fish finger sandwiches, made with shop-bought fish fingers, have long been a favourite of mine, but lately they’re just not the same. Maybe they would taste different if my mother made them for me, but I think they’re not the golden plump fish-filled little soldiers they used to be.

It’s easy to make your own and means that you’re in control of what fish to use and how fresh it is. A meaty white fish is what’s called for; pollock, hake or haddock are ideal.

I conducted a very unscientific poll via my Instagram account to gauge if Marie Rose sauce is still acceptable. A whopping 86 per cent of the 1,248 responders confirmed my hopes. They love Marie Rose sauce, and feel that it is essential when eating crisp, fried fish. Of course, plain mayonnaise is a good choice too, and I love Ballymaloe’s black-pepper flecked one.

Whipping up a batch of Marie Rose is the perfect job for a four-year-old. There’s very little room for error and you can usually tell by colour alone if it’s going to taste right. A squeeze of lemon juice and you’re halfway to making prawn cocktail.


One of my own children is a ketchup fiend and loves everything doused in it. Cork mother-of-three Loretta Kennedy found herself facing the same conundrum so she founded Mama Bear Ketchup, a low-sugar sauce rich in prebiotic-rich chicory root. My own children love it, the flavour is much brighter than the usual and the texture is richer.

I’m constantly trying to cut down on food waste in my kitchen. Any scraps of bread can be frozen right away and I’m always amazed to see how quickly they mount up. Every few weeks I blitz them all in the food processor and return them to the freezer as neat little bags of breadcrumbs, and they are perfect for coating the fish fingers.

I love to serve this with a mixture of beans and peas, sometimes I’ll fold through some very finely chopped mint, or will just blitz the peas into a puree. Tangy gherkins are a regular on our table as a snack, and are essential for burger nights, and great with fish too.

You can, of course, serve these fish fingers between some good sliced bread. I find the warm pita bread holds it all together better, especially when smaller kids are eating them.


Serves 6

1 egg
110g breadcrumbs
4 tbsp white flour
¼ tsp paprika
Sea salt and black pepper
600g thick fillets of white fish
6 x pita breads
4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
½ a lemon
100g frozen peas
80g frozen broad beans
100g green beans


1 Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celsius, or equivalent. Get three shallow dishes, and tip the flour into the first. Whisk the egg in another. Season the breadcrumbs with paprika, salt and pepper in the final dish.

2 Slice the fish into 18 equal-sized strips. Brush a baking tray with olive oil. Dip each fish strip in flour, then egg and finally breadcrumbs before placing on the tray. Bake for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden, turning after 10-15 minutes.

3 Meanwhile make the Marie Rose sauce by mixing the tomato ketchup with the mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and add black pepper if needed.

4 Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. Add the broad beans and cook for two minutes before adding the green beans. After a further minute add the peas. Drain well after two minutes. I usually dress the mix in a little lemon juice and olive oil with a scattering of sea salt.

5 Warm the pita breads in the oven before filling them with the fish fingers. Serve with the beans and Marie Rose sauce.