I got the fabulous Polpo cookbook for Christmas and spent the festive period drooling over the delicious dishes within it. One of the dishes I immediately took a fancy to was the Cod Cheeks, Lentils and Salsa Verde. Having never had cod cheeks, but being a fan of the Italian braised lentils the recipe is accompanied by, I set about finding some cod cheeks to give it a go. My local fishmonger (Fish on Shoreham harbour) stocked them frozen, as the demand is not high enough to warrant being on the slab every day. Easily cooked in a few minutes and relatively cheap, they’re one of those foods (like the ox cheek and breast of lamb) that are not used enough. In the Polpo dish, the sweet flesh of the cheeks contrasts beautifully with the acidity of the salsa verde.
With things firmly in the ‘hungry gap’ at the allotment, one of the only crops I’m harvesting is Jerusalem artichokes. They make a beautiful cream coloured purée, which is a great accompaniment to white fish or sweet scallops. So the other day I combined the cod cheeks and the artichoke purée for a early spring supper.
You will need (serves 2)
For the Jerusalem artichoke purée
200g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped
water, to cover
20ml double cream
A little lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the braised peas
Half an onion chopped
3 rashers streaky smoked bacon, chopped
100g frozen peas
For the cod cheeks and salsa verde
Parsley, mint and basil leaves (a small handful of each)
1/2 tbsp. each of capers and gherkins
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Enough olive oil to bring the salsa verde together into a pourable sauce
250g cod cheeks, cleaned of small pieces of bone
Chopped clove of garlic
For the Jerusalem artichoke purée, bring the Jerusalem artichokes to the boil in a saucepan and simmer until tender, then drain and allow to cool. Whizz the Jerusalem artichokes into a food processor with the butter, cream and lemon juice to make a smooth purée. When ready to serve, season the purée and heat gently to warm through.
To make the braised peas, heat a little olive oil in a shallow saucepan, then cook the chopped onion and bacon for 8 – 10 minutes until the onion turns golden and the pancetta is brown but not crisp. Turn the heat down, add the peas to the pan, then cover and braise for 5 mins until peas are tender. Add a dash of lemon juice, seasoning and a bit more olive oil, if necessary.
The salsa verde is simple to prepare. Finely chop the herbs, gherkins, capers and anchovy using a sharp knife and combine with the mustard and enough oil to make a pourable sauce. Put to one side for the flavours to mingle and mature. Season the cod cheeks with salt and pepper and fry in a little olive oil for 2 minutes on each side. In the last minute, add the chopped garlic and a little lemon juice.
To serve, place a spoonful of artichoke purée onto each plate and smear a little across the plate. Top with the cod cheeks, followed by a drizzle of salsa verde. Scatter the braised peas around the plate.