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My Kids Meals: Baked fish with pesto crust

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Happy Chinese New Year to all the Sassy Mamas! I hope you are rested, relaxed and raring to hit the kitchen (armed with another tried and tested recipe from Sassy Mama, of course!)

Now I know it’s the year of the snake, but I spotted some lovely looking Ling fillets for sale, so I put the snake hotpot on hold (for this week at least!) Ling is a firm white fish with a mild, ‘not too fishy’ flavour, making it a perfect candidate for baking. The recipe doesn’t really have a name as such, well nothing cute and catchy, more a description of ingredients – ready? Baked Fish with Pesto Crust on a Tomato Sauce. I agree, it does sound very complicated, but I assure you it is not! The great part is that aside from the fish, most of you probably have the rest of the ingredients in the fridge or pantry already. Easy!


This was the perfect opportunity to serve one of my children’s new favourite sides – maple carrots – and what I hope will be a new favourite – couscous. I realised recently that while my husband and I eat couscous regularly, I have never made it for the children. But couscous salad is a very simple, quick dish that can host a multitude of different veggies like corn, grated carrots and halved cherry tomatoes to name just a few – perfect for the kids. The maple carrots have been a menu regular since their introduction at Christmas lunch. They are sticky and sweet, and a far cry from boring old boiled carrots that even eat only under protest!

However, back to the fish, a lovely ling fillet topped with pesto, breadcrumbs and a light sprinkling of Parmesan, making a very tasty crust, and served on a bed of tomato passata. There is lots of room to play around with this recipe, starting with the type of fish (I can’t quite figure out how to make this a vegetarian meal, but would love to know if you managed it!) Just keep in mind that any firm fish will hold its shape and texture when baked. As I have mentioned before, my kids do love pesto, but if yours are just being introduced to it than you can either go very light, or omit it completely and instead mix a few favourite herbs chopped finely into the breadcrumbs. If you were going for a herbed crust then I would add the Parmesan to the topping, rather than as another layer as I did. As for the herbs, basil obviously would be an excellent choice, a little thyme, or fresh parsley just to start introducing a bit of green. Honestly, make it up as you go along and you will see what a great recipe this one is, and not just for the kids either!


  • 500g Ling or other white fish fillet
  • 1 cup of tomato passata or pasta sauce
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • ½ cup of breadcrumbs (fresh is great, or I use Panko)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup couscous
  • ½ cup chopped vegetables e.g. cucumber and red and yellow peppers
  • 2 tbsp of toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup of boiling chicken or vegetable stock


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Spread the passata over the base of a small baking dish or tray with sides.
  • Dry the fish fillet on a paper towel and place on top of the tomato passata.
  • Spread the pesto over the fish then top with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Cooking time will need to be adjusted according to the thickness of your fish fillet.
  • Peel and slice the carrot into 1 cm thick rounds.
  • In a bowl, combine the carrots, maple syrup and olive oil. Season to taste at this stage.
  • Place on a baking tray and bake for the remainder of the cooking time, about 20mins.
  • Place the couscous in a bowl, add the stock, cover with cling film and leave for 15mins. The liquid will be absorbed during this time. After 15mins uncover and ‘fluff’ with a fork, you can also add a little drizzle of olive oil either at this stage, or when you add the stock. I tend to leave the oil out as I don’t think you can really tell the difference and the children certainly can’t! Finally add the vegetables and pine nuts and mix well to combine.
  • The fish and carrots will now be ready, so remove from the oven and serve with the couscous.

Clean plate rating: 3 clean plates!

The fish was a big hit! They loved the slightly crunchy crust on top of the fish as much as the tomato sauce that accompanied it. It is great to have another fish recipe in the repertoire that is not either fish fingers or served with fries. As for the carrots, I did say that I have road-tested this recipe before so no surprises that they ate those. They had not tried couscous salad before, but they most certainly will be having it again as there was not a morsel left on anyone’s plate!

chanelle sig

Chanelle Jackson pic for biogcopyOriginally from Australia, Chanelle Jackson was a Critical Care Nurse living in Sydney when she met and married her husband. Now a mum to three kids aged 4, 5 and 7, she has a home full of willing guinea pigs ready to try out her family-friendly recipes! Although cooking was always a hobby, Chanelle noticed spaghetti Bolognese was creeping onto the menu a little too regularly for comfort. Taking a stand against dull dinners, Chanelle was motivated to create and road-test exciting, yummy meals that the whole family can enjoy, and she’s sharing them with Sassy Mama! Check out her ‘clean plate rating’ for guaranteed dinner winners, and she’d love to hear your recipe feedback and suggestions!

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