As I mentioned in my recent monkfish adventure, I’m not a regular fish cook. I am fond of seared tuna and flakey white fish but any filleting should be avoided. This is how I came to cook one of my favourite dishes over the Bank Holiday weekend.
After watching Rick Stein’s weekend in Reykjavik and Masterchef contestants feeding the Royal Navy I was maybe subliminally led in that direction. Whatever the inspiration I love cod and bought a couple of loins of line-caught fish to work with. The combination of cod with lentils is magnificent and so I started by finely dicing carrot and onion and adding a little garlic, thyme, chopped parsley leaves and stalks, a bay leaf and some seasoning. I let that base soften in a little oil and butter before adding some chopped tomato and the lentils. After letting the components introduce themselves to one another for a while I let the whole thing simmer down in vegetable stock for half an hour to create a delicious and earthy combination.
I had a marvellous fishmonger before we recently moved house and I used to buy bread crumbs from him. I put my last remaining dried breadcrumbs in a bowl with finely chopped parsley, lemon zest, chopped garlic and a little seaweed-based rub from Captain Cat and then ran olive oil through it to give it some body. (Captain Cat’s spicy rub is a new impulse purchase from Marks and Spencer that I am playing with currently).
I cut three nice chunky steaks, seasoned them and brushed them in olive oil before giving them a zesty cover of the topping and pressing it down to make it stick. I let them sit in a medium/hot oven for 15 minutes. The topping was just browning when they came out.
I squeezed half a lemon into the lentils before serving, added some steamed spinach and sat the cod on top. It looked beautiful but tasted better. The lentils are sweet and still have some bite. The fish flaked into brilliant white mouthfuls and the zesty topping gave a bit of crunch and some flavour.
This is a good dinner party dish because the lentils will just look after themselves and the fish – because of the topping – will cook safely as long as you remember the timing. Plenty of time to mingle and still put up an attractive plate of food.