We’re lucky enough to live very near the coast and although we take it for granted nothing beats a walk down the beach on a cold day. OK, maybe a warm day, but relatively speaking, it’s quiet this time of the year, bar the occaisional couple and dog walker.
Being on the North East England coast we’ve missed the intensity of most of the storms battering the South at the moment. There was an incident of flooding on the river Tyne in Newcastle last year caused by a combination of storm surge and exceptional high tides but we’ve had it nothing like as bad.
Still, Helen popped into our local fishmongers, Latimers today to get some fish for tonight’s dinner and crab for a colleauge but is seems one of the boats had an accident in the rough weather last week and its in shorter supply than usual. There was no hake either and so we ended up with cod. I must admit, I’m generally not to enamoured by the fish in the cod family, (including hake, haddock, coley etc), I’d much rather have mackerel, sardines or, when we can afford it (or indeed get it), turbot. But nonetheless I think a thick piece of chunky white fish was needed in this dish. She also picked up some samphire, my favourite fish accompaniment and some huge cockles. ‘Oo-er missus’ indeed.
This seemed fairly simple but ended up with the inevitable dash to finish it. The split peas were boiled until tender, but not mushy, like you might have them in a dhal. The samphire, nice and salty as it is, was simply steamed above the peas for a few minutes to leave them with some nice ‘bite’. The cockles, cooked in wine, garlic and thyme, gave up a beautiful cooking liquor to blend with some butter for a rich sauce. It was finished with some crisp parma ham and, of course, some cod crisped in a searing hot pan and finished under the grill.
Ingredients, serves 2:
- 2 x
- Oil for frying
- Butter to finish
- 10 large cockles
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced.
- A handful of fresh thyme, leaves only.
- Salt to tasteC1 glass white wine
- A knob of butter to finish a sauce.
- 100g split peas
- Vegetable stock (optional)
- 2 parma ham slices
Boil the split peas in vegetable stock or slightly salted water until done, about 40 minutes.
When nearly done, start the cockles/sauce: fry the garlic in some oil in a pan gently for a couple of minutes. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and then add the cockles.
Place a lid on and steam for 3 or 4 minutes until the well opened.
Chuck away any that don’t open – I didn’t get any this time.
If necessary, pick out the cockles and rinse well under the tap to remove any sand. Place in a bowl, cover and heat up/keep warm in an oven (60º/140ºF). Strain the cooking liquor with a very fine sieve and pour the liquid only back into the pan. Whisk in the butter, season and bring to a simmer. Put a lit on and keep warm.
Whilst cooking the cockles, steam the samphire with a steamer insert over the split peas. If not, steam, or blanch separately for a few minutes and keep warm.
Under a hot grill, crisp the pieces of parma ham. Keep warm.
Lastly, heat a pan with a good lug of oil until smoking. Pat dry the fish with kitchen and, being brave, move it around the pan to stop it sticking, pushing the skin down to stop it curling. Use a spatula if it spits too much – please don’t make me do a warning message when cooking with hot oil ;).
Either flip the fish over to finish or finish under a very hot grill – a temperature probe is useful so as not to over cook it (60-65º/140ºF-150ºF).
Plate it all up, whisking the sauce again if it’s seperated.