We’ve just spent the Easter week in Portugal, where to my delight cod (Bacalhau) is hugely popular. Specifically, salt cod is the traditional dish and adored by the Portuguese. They love it so much, it is called ‘fiel amigo’ (faithful friend). It is said they have 365 different ways to cook it….a new recipe for each day of the yearJ
I’m also a huge fish fan - the oily and white variety. Ironically, as a child I used to seethe inside every Friday when mum presented us with a fish dish (the fish man used to deliver fresh fish in a vanJ). So to all mummies out there, perseverance pays off (and your children WILL one day be thankful and give you a big hug for instilling good eating habits in them!:)
Anyway, yes, I am now very aware that eating fish is of great benefit to my health. Cod is a fabulous source of both protein and vitamin B12 - for energy production, building red blood cells and soothing the nervous system. A 3oz serving of cod can also provide you with 10% of your daily requirement of magnesium and phosphorus. Magnesium helps to keep your blood pressure and blood sugars stable, and phosphorus is vital for strong bones, DNA replication and strong bones.
Cod is a wonderful food to eat during pregnancy, as it also contains choline and some omega 3 essential fatty acids to assist in the development of baby’s brain and nervous system.
The aspect I love most about cod is its versatility. It can be used with delicate or bold flavours.
This is a dish I like to cook either using plain cod or salted cod from the Portuguese shop in Camden (the cod requires soaking the salt cod in milk for 24 hours to allow the salt to leach out in to the milk, and the cod to absorb some milk and soften the fibres).
Ingredients (Serves 4):
For the cod:
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp mild curry powder
4 x cod fillets
For the spiced lentils:
275g Puy lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic gloves, crushed or finely chopped (I had a pinch of salt to help chop it into a ‘paste’)
1 medium fresh red chill, deseeded and chopped (if you have children use ½ a chilli so it provides only a slight heat)
3 tsp ground cumin
1 small red onion, finely chopped
6 tbsp fresh chicken stock
A squeeze of lemon or lime juice
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Sea salt & pepper to season
Place 4 tbsp of olive oil and 4 teaspoons of mild curry powder in a dish and mix thoroughly. Lay the cod fillets in the dish to soak up some of the ‘curry oil’. Once the underside is coated, turn the fillets over to allow the second side to absorb some of the oil. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the lentils in a pan of simmering water for 20 minutes (or until tender), then drain the lentils. NB: If you need to save time, a good alternative is M&S lentil pouches (precooked lentils).
In a saucepan, add 1tbsp of olive oil and warm on a gentle heat. Add the red onion and cook until transparent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cumin and red chilli, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the lentils to the saucepan, and heat through. Add the stock, lemon or lime juice and coriander and stir well. Keep warm on a very low heat whilst you cook the fish. Season with sea salt and pepper.
Heat an ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Grease with a little oil and add the ‘curry’ cod, meaty-side down. Fry for 5 minutes until the underside is light golden, then flip the fish over and place a lid over the frying pan to allow the fish to cook all the way through (this should take 3-5 minutes – remove the fish as soon as you see the fibres begin flake apart)
Serve the lentils on a plate with the cod placed on top. Add broccoli rabe or samphire/sea vegetables (from Waitrose) and fresh coriander for a touch of bright green.