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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Plaice with Sautéed Potatoes and Samphire

Plaice Sauteed Potatoes Samphire

I tend to do so many things accidentally as I’m so badly organised. It’s been snowing across the UK of late and with my wife’s car not being the most ‘snow friendly’ vehicle found myself driving her to work.

On the way, I passed our local fish deli which was open this time and I dropped in on the way back to the office. The store is called Latimer’s and they seem seriously dedicated to fresh fish, providing produce to a number of restaurants in the North East. Their website even has a page entitled ‘Today’s Catch’. I can vouch that the service is excellent and it’s a goldmine of advice.

I asked for a couple of plaice fillets (although in truth could have tried a bit of everything) and the guy serving asked if i minded hanging on while he cut the fillets as the fish had “only just come in”. Of course I didn’t – no vacuum packed week old fish sold here…

Plaice is a delicate fish and can be ruined by heavy or strongly flavoured sauces so I tried to keep it light, with a simple tried and tested caper butter. Samphire is now easily available, works brilliantly with fish and keeps a nice ‘bite’ even after cooking.

Helen made the sautéed potatoes and we went for some small new potatoes for a slight sweetness. She didn’t peel the potatoes and I think they’re all the better for it!

This is just my sort of thing and I thoroughly enjoyed it….

Ingredients:

  • 2 Plaice fillets, about 200g each
  • 1 tsp oil
  • A small knob of butter
  • About two tbsp capers, drained and chopped roughly
  • Sea salt
  • About 10 small new potatoes, thinly sliced
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Some fine chopped parsley
  • (Optional) garlic infused oil to finish
  • Two large handfuls of samphire

Start the sauteed potatoes first by frying with a good pinch of salt on a moderate heat in a large pan for about 15-20 minutes. Some recipes call for par boiling them first, but it wasn’t necessary here.

The fish and the samphire cooking quickly, so start these only at the end of cooking the potatoes. The oven grill will be used so get that on if it takes a while to heat up (like mine). Heat the plates.

Bring a pan of water to the boil (or use a kettle) and blanch the samphire for a couple of minutes. Drain and return to the pan with a lid on to keep warm.

Heat a pan large enough for the fish with a small amount of oil until hot. Lay the fish onto the pan and hold them down to begin with to try and prevent them curling up too much.

They will take only minutes to cook from the bottom, but finish briefly in the same pan under a medium grill.

Once the potatoes are done, finish with a little garlic infused oil (if you want) and chopped parsley. Plate up the fish, potatoes and samphire.

To make the caper butter, simply return the fish pan to the hob and heat the butter and capers with a pinch of salt (and a squeeze of lemon if you want). Spoon it over the fish and you’re done.

Plaice Samphire Sauteed Potatoes Top View