Saturday, June 16

Roast Cod, Pea Soup & Shoots, Basil Oil

Falling somewhere between a soup and a main meal, I have been cooking this for over a decade. It makes a cracking special lunch or a light supper when accompanied by a hunk of good bread. There are so few ingredients - pretty much just peas and water - that you must use only the best ingredients. If you can get really fresh peas then use these, otherwise consider frozen petis pois. After a day or so the sugars in the peas turn to starch and you loose that sweet freshness. These days peas are frozen within hours and make for a really good product - don't feel bad about using them.

I normally use mint as the flavouring herb in this dish but my greengrocer only had basil. I didn't want a pesto to mask the delicate flavour of the cod and peas so I made a basil oil - the flavour combo works surprisingly well for a non-classical pairing. For two:

Fresh or frozen peas - 500g podded weight
A pinch of marigold veg bouillion powder
Extra virgin olive oil - 50ml
Ground nut oil for frying the fish
Fresh basil, leaves only - 1 small bunch
Pea shoots
Salt and white pepper
Thick 'skin on' cod loin - 2x175g fillets

Boil the kettle and heat the oven to 220c. Get a good non-stick frying pan with a metal handle on a medium high heat. Season the fish fillets with salt and a little pepper and add a generous glug of the ground nut oil to the frying pan. When the oil is shimmering hot, fry the cod skin side down pressing the skin flat to the bottom of the pan with a fish slice.

In a pestle and mortar, grind up the basil leaves to a pulp with the olive oil. Over a bowl, scrape all the mush into a sieve and allow the oil to drain from the solids.

In another saucepan add the peas, the bouillon powder and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Get this on the stove and just cover the peas with the boiling water from the kettle. When the water returns to the boil take off the heat, strain the peas reserving a little of the water. Blitz the peas in a liquidiser with half the basil mush left in the sieve and just enough cooking water to make a soup with the consistency of pouring cream. Pass through a sieve discarding the pea solids left behind. Correct the seasoning and keep the soup warm.

When your cod is golden on the skin side, flip over and finish cooking in the oven. Divide the soup between two warmed bowls, add the fish 'skin side up' and dress with pea shoots and the basil oil. 

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