- 2 cod fillets, skin on, each weighing about 175g, see box, far right
A popular mild-flavoured saltwater fish mainly found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Cod…
- 1 tsp coarse salt flakes
- 2 red pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 lemon
Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…
- 2 fennel bulb
Like Marmite, fennel is something that you either love or hate - its strong aniseed flavour…
- 6 tbsp olive oil
Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…
- 350g very ripe cherry tomato, halved
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
True Balsamic vinegar is an artisan product from Modena, in Emilia Romagna, Italy, and is made…
- handful pitted black olives
- 1 tbsp caper in brine, drained
Capers are the small flower buds of the Capparis shrub, which grows in the Mediterranean. As…
- small handful each lemon thyme, oregano and basil leaves, with a few smal basil leaves kept aside
Closely related to marjoram, of which it is the wild equivalent, oregano has a coarser, more…
- 20 marinated anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
Silver, slender salty little fish found mainly around the Black Sea and the Pacific and Atlantic…
Neatly trim the cod fillets. Score the skin of each fillet 3-4 times at regular intervals. Lay the fish in a shallow dish and sprinkle both sides of the fillets with the salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Set aside or chill overnight, see box, far right.
Deseed and finely slice the peppers, then finely grate the garlic and lemon zest over the peppers. Carefully slice the fennel on a mandolin, or as finely as possible with a sharp knife, then tip half the fennel into a bowl of iced water and set aside.
Brush the salt off the fish or, if it has dissolved, wipe the brine off with kitchen paper. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan, cook the fish, skin side down, for 4 mins until the skin is crisp and browned, then remove from the pan.
Put 1 tbsp more oil into the pan. Fry the fennel and the marinated peppers together for 4-5 mins until soft and starting to brown. Throw in the tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar, then continue to cook for 2-3 mins until they soften and release their juices. Scatter over the olives, capers and herbs, then toss everything together.
Nestle the fish fillets, skin side up, among the vegetables, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 mins until the fish is just cooked through. Lift the fish from the pan and give the sauce a final simmer and stir, then turn off the heat. This dish is better served warm rather than hot, so don’t worry about the vegetables or fish resting before you serve.
Drain the reserved fennel and pat dry with kitchen paper. Toss with the juice from half the grated lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil and the anchovies. To serve, spoon the vegetables into the middle of two large dinner plates. Sit the cod, skin side up, on top of the vegetables and top with a neat bundle of fennel salad. Drizzle everything with a touch more oil, then scatter with the small basil leaves.
I salt the cod fillets first as it firms up the soft flesh, making it easier to cook and intensifying its flavour. In my kitchens we salt whole fillets overnight, but even if you do it for just 10 minutes beforehand it will make a difference. Bear in mind that the fish won’t need any extra seasoning.
Make sure you use really ripe, juicy tomatoes that feel plump and are aromatic – it will make all the difference to the finished dish. It’s good to buy tomatoes on the vine, but don’t be fooled by their aroma – it’s the vine that has the fantastic aroma, even when it’s attached to the most tasteless tomatoes.
I now serve only sustainable cod in my restaurants and advise you to use only sustainably caught and responsibly farmed fish, too. You can get fantastic farmed Atlantic cod from most supermarkets or look for MSC - approved line-caught cod. Pollack or farmed halibut also make good sustainable alternatives to cod.
I also serve the vegetables and fennel salad with other fillets of Mediterranean fish, such as red mullet, tuna or sea bass, but pan-fry the fish separately once the vegetables are ready.