Cod Cheeks, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée and Braised Peas

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.

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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
30g butter
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
1 anchovy
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.

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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.

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This post has been entered into Delicieux & Eat Your Veg March Four Seasons Food Challenge.

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Jerusalem Artichoke & Apple Soup

November has traditionally been a month when our allotment’s harvest is limited; although this year I seem to have succeeded in keeping the cropping season going for longer. There are brassicas ready for accompanying a hearty stew and plenty of the bright and earthy beetroot and chard. However, one crop which I always grow and often fail to take advantage of are Jerusalem artichokes. They are not artichokes like those found in delicious Italian antipasti, but those which are tubers below a sunflower type plant. Indeed the Jerusalem part of the name comes from the Italian for sunflower, Girasole, whereas the artichoke part is down to their taste being similar to globe artichokes. Whatever their origins they are one of the easiest plants to grow; planted as tubers in spring, they grow up to 2m in height with small sunflowers on top. The tubers can be dug from September, and as long as you don’t dig out all the tubers (it’s almost impossible to find every one), they’ll come back year after year to provide you with colour and a great screening plant.

In terms of flavour they are similar to the globe artichoke, but nuttier, and apparently are one of the best non-meat sources of iron. We’ve made a delicious gratin of Jerusalem artichokes in the past, but a the weather was cold I decided on a soup and teamed the nutty artichokes with sharp apples to make a velvety soup.

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What you will need
1 tbsp  lemon juice
450 g  Jerusalem artichokes
3 tbsp  butter
1 onion, chopped
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp  salt
1/4 tsp  white pepper
500 ml chicken stock
Chopped chives to garnish

Jerusalem artichokes are usually pretty knobbly, but this year they seem to have grown quite smooth. Even so, they need to be peeled and sliced and then put into a bowl of acidulated water (1 tbsp. of lemon juice in a pint of water) to maintain their creamy white colour. Meanwhile, gently sweat the onion in the butter until it is soft and translucent, at which point add the sliced artichokes (retaining the lemon water for use later). Cook for a few minutes before adding the apple, salt and pepper. After a further five minutes add a little of the lemon water and the chicken stock and simmer until the artichokes are soft. Blend the mix into a smooth soup, adjust the seasoning and serve with a garnish of chopped chives.