Cod, Cockles, Samphire and Split Peas

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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.

Sand Haven Beach in December last year. Another storm coming at us in the distance.

Sand Haven Beach in December last year. Another storm coming at us in the distance.

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.

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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 hake cod fillets
  • 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)
  • Samphire
  • 2 parma ham slices

Boil the split peas in vegetable stock or slightly salted water until done, about 40 minutes.

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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.

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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 ;).

This me, being brave.

This me, being brave.

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.

Cod Samphire Cockles and Split Peas

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Cod and Crayfish Filo Parcels

 

Cod and crayfish - preparing

The first snow of this winter started falling today and I must say it makes a welcome change from the rain. This is the UK though and ‘attractive’ weather will never do, turning quickly to ugly grey slush followed by sleet. Sleet; basically even colder rain. Wonderful.

My first thoughts for dinner then would be of something hearty – a beef stew or sausage casserole maybe? Well no, as pescatarian January rumbles on it’s still off limits. Now, I love fish, and until now have been managing perfectly nicely. I probably order fish in restaurants as often as meat (perhaps more so actually) so this is no chore for me, but I did fancy something a little ‘richer’ tonight. So, a compromise, fish pie?

The idea for this came from Salmon en Croute, but I’m trying to avoid heavy pastries at the moment and so thought about using filo. I swung by a local fish deli on the way home, having left the office a bit early today and wouldn’t you know it – closed on Mondays. So off to the supermarket it was….

I used cod loin here, as I needed a thick fillet of fish for this. I’m not a huge fan of cod and there are sustainability issues around it, but there was not much in the way of alternatives and I couldn’t possibly post another salmon recipe! I also came across some crayfish tails – salty and sweet, to help the rather bland flavour of the cod. I served it up with a simple vegetable mash (sweet potatoes, swede and carrot), flavoured with a little light single cream and mustard.

The results were good but I may try frying the fillets first for more flavour and to compensate, cook the the parcels on a very high heat for a much shorted duration just to crisp up the filo. Experimentation and all that….

Cod and crayfish

So, cod and crayfish filo parcels:

Ingredients.

  • 2 x 200g thick white fish fillets (I used cod)
  • 2 x tsp butter
  • 200g crayfish
  • 2 large cabbage leaves – halved – removing the stems in the middle
  • 6 filo pastry sheets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper

For the mash

  • About a third of a swede, peeled
  • One medium sized carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • about 3 tbsp light single cream
  • 1 tsp coarse mustard.
  • Salt and pepper

Put the oven on to 180ºC/Gas 4 and boil the kettle.

Pour the boiler water into the pan and blanch the cabbage leaves for a couple of minutes. Set a side in a bowl of ice water for later and keep the water on a low heat for the mashed vegetables.

The filo parcels will take longest so make them first:

Place three sheets on a board, with the thinnest sides towards you. About a third of the way into the sheets, place the cabbage leaves (pat them dry first). Place the fish fillet on this with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Finally top with half the crayfish tails and 1 tsp of butter. Fold the sides of the pastry in and it roll up from the end nearest you using some beaten egg to seal it.

Repeat with the other fillet and place in the oven on a baking tray for about 30 minutes.

Whilst cooking make the mash:

Bring the reserved water in the pan back to the boil and add the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes until just done (stick a knife in to them, they should slowly slide off). Drain and roughly mash. We’re going for rustic here so keep some lumps. Stir in the cream, mustard and the salt and pepper to taste.

Put the lid on to keep warm.

I used a thermometer to check the fish was cooked and it was fine after 30 minutes.

Serve it with a nice pile of the mash.

Cod and crayfish parcels