If you’re anything like me, you’ll fondly remember childhood dinners made up of fish fingers, chicken nuggets, or even on special occasions the legendary turkey dinosaurs. Sadly though, there comes a time where apparently you’re too old to have potato smiles as a perfectly reasonable accompaniment to any and all meals, and heaven forbid you even think of wanting the birthday party staple of jelly and ice cream without facing a wave of judgement from a mother who expects you to be able to fend for yourself and cook like a sensible adult who has their life together. Well you know what? I want fish fingers, and I have to find a way to eat them without being judged then I will and to me that means one thing: making them yourself with a twist.
So I’ll start with the solution to fish fingers: Thai style fish fingers. While this may sound very similar to Thai fishcakes there is a subtle yet crucial difference in that these are finger shaped and I can pretend I’m seven again. These aren’t even too difficult to make. While they may require a lot of different ingredients, the actual process is simple. Throw your white fish, aromatic spices, a hint of chilli and an egg to hold it all together in a blender or food processor and there you have it, the mix is prepared. From there just coat them in some seasoned breadcrumbs and fry them until they’re golden brown and there you have it – a grown up version of a childhood favourite. Now I hear you asking, and rightly so, what should I make to go with them? The answer is obviously sweet potato smiles.
Boil sweet potatoes, mash them up, then add some butter, flour and some of the leftover spice from the fish fingers. Shape them into small disks, use a spoon to make the smile and the back of the spoon to make some eyes then bake them in the oven until they look just right (you’ll know when they’re done as you’ll be making a face similar to that in the potato). Get them on a plate with those fish fingers and some sweet chilli sauce and send a photo home to let them know that you’re a real live adult who still wants fish fingers.
Another all-star childhood dinner was chicken nuggets and baked beans. The best thing about this is making your own could not be any simpler, just cut up some chicken into rough nugget sized pieces, dip them in egg or buttermilk then into some flour seasoned with whatever spices and flavours you want to try (personally I find paprika, mustard powder, oregano and salt and pepper is the way forward) then either fry them or bake them and, voila, your very own chicken nuggets. At this point you could just open a tin of baked beans and make it nice and easy for yourself but no no, you’re on a mission to prove you can survive in this scary adult world. Instead, buy yourself some tins of kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans or any other beans you want to try and mix them together with some tomato puree, a tiny bit of vegetable stock and some smoked paprika to match your nuggets and simmer away until you have a nice thick sauce to dip into. Even better, you can use those leftover beans to make other meals and not let them go to waste, how adult is that?! At this rate you might as well start your midlife crisis with how adult you’re being, go you!
What about those turkey dinosaurs then? You could always combine turkey mince, cranberry sauce and rosemary, shape them as close to a T-Rex as you can make, coat in some fresh homemade breadcrumbs and bake them into delicious prehistoric themed goodness. Add some homemade potato wedges in there and you’ve got the ultimate treat of turkey dinosaurs made fresh and with twice the flavour you could ever get out of the freezer.
To round off your childhood feast there can only be one way to go, and that way is jelly and ice cream. So far you’ve been a functional adult, making things from scratch and doing your best to try new flavours and incorporate them into the repertoire of dishes you can prepare. That sounds like a big achievement to me, so let’s celebrate with some alcohol. Prepare your jelly with whatever flavour you want to use and instead of mixing in some cold water, throw some vodka in there – the solution to all student dilemmas. To make the ice cream to go with it, you can do it simply with a tin of condensed milk, some cream, whatever flavours you want to add (sea salt and caramel pieces for life) and finish off with a whole lot of Baileys liqueur. Mix it all together, pop it in the freezer and hope for the best… and if it does all go wrong, there’s always plenty leftover booze to make the pain of pretending to be a grown up stop, what more could you want?