I love food to be full of flavour, elegant looking on the plate, but not so fussy that the flavours clash or too many different items on the plate. A good meal should arrive at the table hot and my worry is that with too many different ingredients to garnish a dish there is no way that the main item will stay hot. I also believe that it is important not to lose sight of what the actual dish is. For example, this dish is primarily about a fresh piece of cod and everything that accompanies it is to enhance the cod. Too many times dishes are over-complicated and the diner is left asking, “what is the dish about?”
Cod Fillet with Herb Crust and Tapenade
This dish of fresh cod with a herb crust garnished with a black olive tapenade, pea and mint puree and finished with a light butter sauce covers all the bases of flavour, presentation and ease of preparation.
I have stated previously that I prefer to buy whole fish and filet them or portion them how I want them and then to use the head and bones for stock. If you are comfortable handling a whole cod – then go for it! Alternatively, buy the number of portions that you need, each one approximately 200 g in weight.
To make 4 portions;
4 cod fillets (200 g each)
Handful fresh parsley
Fresh thyme leaves
12 – 15 green olives (stoned)
Splash olive oil
The herbs that you choose to use are entirely up to you. I think that rosemary and thyme match cod very nicely and the parsley adds a good hit of colour without being overly pungent. Try basil and coriander or sage. You could even add some onion or garlic but be careful about overpowering the cod.
Place all the ingredients (except the cod!) in a food processor and blitz until a paste is achieved. Take 2 sheets of baking/parchment paper and put the paste on one of them. Cover with the other sheet and roll flat to about 2mm thickness. The easiest way to deal with the crust now is to place it in the freezer until required. When you are ready to use the crust, cut a piece from the frozen sheet to match the size of your cod fillet, place over the top and cook for approximately 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 180C.
For the Tapenade;
75 g black olives (stoned)
6 – 8 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
splash olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz.
For the Pea & Mint Puree;
1 portion cooked peas
10 -12 mint leaves
Scant splash of cream
Ideally using a hand held blender blend all the ingredients to make a smooth puree. You may need to add just a splash of the cooking water from the peas but do not over moisten the puree. To make the puree extra smooth pass it through a sieve to extract the pea skins.
Arrange the cod in the centre of a warm plate, perhaps on top of a little mash, make a quenelle of the tapenade and smear or dot the pea purée.