Poor Man’s Potatoes with Roasted Cod Loins

This rich, oily, garlicky Spanish dish is the very definition of peasant food: a few simple ingredients gently introduced to each other over time to create something quite delicious.

You might baulk at the amount of olive oil used, but fear not. The deliciously aromatic oil is decanted before serving, leaving a heady gloss on the vegetables.

I use the decanted oily broth as a flavour base in soups and casseroles, just divide it into convenient portions and freeze until needed. It lifts anything it touches.

Amazingly, we had some leftovers when I made this last night. I intend to process the remains into a pulp to use as an aromatic thickener to the vegetable soup I am making today.

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RECIPE serves 4 

4 thick cod loins

225ml olive oil

3 large onions, thinly sliced

6 fat garlic cloves, thickly sliced

3 peppers, 1 each of red, yellow and green (often that’s how they are sold)

4 fresh bay leaves

1kg new potatoes (or firm, waxy potatoes if it is winter)

300g cherry tomatoes

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)


METHOD

In a very large, heavy bottomed casserole, heat 75ml of the olive oil over a gentle heat and when hot add the onions with a little salt and cook gently for about 20 minutes until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic, peppers and bay leaves (lightly crushed, to release their scent) and cook gently for a further 15 minutes.

Cut the potatoes into small chunks and salt them lightly. Pull the vegetables aside and add the remaining oil, when the oil is hot add the potatoes and tomatoes, stir thoroughly and leave to simmer for 45 minutes over a low heat under a lid. By this time the potatoes should be completely soft, but not mushy. The tomatoes will have pulped down and there will be a lot of liquid in which everything is braising.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Rub the cod loins lightly with oil and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Place the fish into a gratin dish and 10-15 minutes before serving roast in the oven. The fish should take around 12 minutes to cook through until the flesh just begins to flake, but keep an eye on it, there are few worse crimes than overcooked fish.

Warm a large serving dish, and using a spider, or a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked vegetables to it, leaving as much liquid behind as possible. Serve in bowls with the fish on top.

This dish stands all by itself, it needs no accompaniment other than a glass of sharp, dry white wine.

I like to stir a small bunch of chopped flat-leaf parsley through it just before serving, but this is entirely optional.

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Sea Bass in Acqua Pazza

Life has a habit of getting in the way, as I have been reminded these past few weeks. Much of my cooking has been quick and simple, and I haven’t found the time to write about it.

Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean that you can’t eat well, as this simple, quick and elegant dish illustrates.

Acqua Pazza translates as crazy water, the fresh and zingy poaching liquid which perfectly complements, and enhances, the soft white flesh of sea bass. You can make this with small whole fish (as the recipe below), a larger single fish, or fillets. Only the cooking time will change, just keep an eye on the fish and serve it as soon as the thickest part of the fish begins to flake.

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RECIPE serves 4 

4 small whole seabass, gutted, cleaned and scaled

75ml olive oil

2 thick garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely chopped

500g cherry tomatoes, halved

120ml dry vermouth

a small handful of capers, rinsed

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

a small handful of basil leaves, torn


METHOD

In a very large, high-sided pan (preferably one with a lid, if not you can use foil) heat the olive oil with the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt over a medium heat and lay the fish in it side by side.

After four minutes, gently turn the fish over and add the tomatoes. Cook for another four minutes then add the vermouth and capers. Cover, simmer for a further four minutes or until the fish is just cooked.

Lay the fish onto warmed plates, add the parsley and basil to the pan, turn the heat up for a couple of minutes to reduce the sauce to a syrupy consistency, then spoon over the fish.

Serve with some steamed rice and a simple lemon-dressed rocket salad.