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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Hake, Brown Shrimp ‘salad’ and Jerseys

Hake Brown Shrimp Egg Salad

I’ve had a great week with my family who were up for an extended stay, with the additional bonus of giving me the opportunity to cater for more than just Helen and I (I’m aware that outside of the realms of likeminded bloggers people will think I’m weird).

Being a bit of a holiday, I’ve been through a repertoire of Full English breakfasts, BBQ, handmade pizza (a big hit with the kids) and easy to create ‘al forno’ pasta.

And so as the waist line inches toward what can only be described as ‘maximum’ it’s time to ditch the dairy and retire the red meat for a little while I think. Or cut down at least.

After dropping everyone off at the train station for the trip back down to the Midlands, I headed over to my local fishmongers. I’d received a tweet that they had just landed crab, langoustines, monkfish and hake. Now THIS is how social media should be used.

I did my usual trick of ordering far too much for the two of us and then gulping at the price when it’s read out from the assistant at the scales. Of course, most people would say “sorry that’s too much, can you put some back” but not me. Like someone who does that little jog after tripping on the pavement, I act casual. “That’s great” I replied.

I’m probably embellishing this a bit, but I gave half to my in-laws so all’s well…

I actually got some really good hake fillets. These are thick and cod-like but, for me, with a subtle, sea bass like flavour. I served it with some brown shrimps – lovely salty little suckers that add an (albeit far subtler) anchovy style kick, made into a sort of egg salad with wild garlic and capers and home made salad cream.

Hake Brown Shrimp

Jersey royals are bang in season too at the moment, so I’m filling my boots whilst I can….

  • 2 hake fillets
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 100g brown shrimps (they’re normally sold cooked)
  • 1 egg, boiled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp whole capers then chopped
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 or 5 wild garlic leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp chives + a little extra for presentation.
  • 2 – 3 heaped tbsp homemade salad cream – I used this recipe from the BBC, but substituted single cream.
  • 4 or 5 Jersey Royals (or other new potato) each

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400°F.

Bring a pan of water to a boil and cook the egg. Once done (4 minutes), remove and add the potatoes for around 15 minutes.

In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the oil until smoking hot. Rinse and thoroughly dry the fish on kitchen paper, season and carefully lay into the pan, and rub it around so it doesn’t ‘catch’. Hold it down for a few seconds to stop it curling up if necessary.

Pan fried Hake

Turn the heat down a bit and allow to cook on the skin side, until the sides start to turn opaque. Transfer to an oven for about 10 minutes to cook through

In a small pan, fry the shallots and brown shrimps in the olive oil with a pinch of salt. Add the wild garlic leaves, capers and egg to warm through. Leave to cool slightly and stir through the salad cream. It should be warm but not hot.

Plate up the fish, crispy skin side up, with the shrimp/egg salad and the Jersey Royals. Sprinkle over some more chives and black pepper. They would have benefitted from butter, but not this week for me!

Hake Brown Shrimp Egg Salad