Crispy Skin Cod with White Beans, Padron Peppers, Spinach, Dill and Aioli

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Not so long ago I had a really memorable lunch at Vinoteca in Farringdon. It’s a really relaxed, unstuffy little restaurant with wooden floor boards, a huge (285 if you want to get precise) selection of wines to drink there or buy to take away and a very fine menu of seasonal tasty food. I had this wonderful hake and beans dish with pardon peppers, spinach and aioli and flecks of dill. It was SO good I swore I would  replicate the dish at home and share it all with you.

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For the fish connoisseurs among you you will notice that I have replaced hake with cod. My preference would have been to use hake but as I had recently bought cod to make cod fritters I decided to use that up instead. If you can find hake however I would suggest using that as it holds together far better than cod, which tends to be flakier. In fact any firm white fish would work well.

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The hardest parts of this dish are making the aioli which can be tricky. In an ideal world I would have liked mine a little less runny but the taste and creaminess were spot on. Cooking fish can also be tricky as you want it to have crispy skin and for it not to dry out. You want to make sure the fish is completely dry before cooking so place it on kitchen paper and then add a splash of oil to the skin and season with salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick pan and when it is hot place the fish skin side down for around 4 minutes and then turn over and cook for a further 3. You then should remove from the pan and let it rest whilst you plate up the rest of the dish. If it breaks up, don’t worry it will also taste great in pieces within the beans instead of on top of them.

Padron peppers are available right now in the larger super markets. They come from Southern Spain and Morocco and complement this dish really well. They take a couple of minutes to cook so are quick and easy to prepare like the spinach.

A lot of my blog followers have told me how much they love my ‘chickpea, chorizo and cod stew with fresh parsley‘ so I hope that this one will also become one of your new go-to recipes.

Crispy Skin Cod with White Beans, Padron Peppers, Spinach, Dill and Aioli 

Serves 4

Homemade Aioli

1 garlic, finely grated

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp water

1/4 tsp salt

sprinkling of freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

4 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon, juice only (or to taste)

1. In an electric blender or whisk, blend the garlic, egg yolk, salt, water and pepper together. Then add the Dijon mustard and blend again.

2. Then add the oils a teaspoon at the time, continuing to whisk as you do so. Keep doing this until the sauce has thickened and emulsified.

Taste and add more lemon or salt as you require. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Crispy Skin Cod with White Beans, Padron Pepper, Spinach and Dill 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1 carrot, finely sliced

1 garlic bulb, finely chopped

540g white beans (this will include the water that they sit in)

1 vegetable stock cube

100ml boiling water

175g fresh fish per serving (700g if feeding 4 people)

135g padron peppers

260g fresh spinach

handful of fresh dill

1 lemon, cut into 4 to serve

1. Heat a pan and add the olive oil and when it is hot add the shallots, carrots and salt on a medium heat.

2. After 5 minutes add the garlic and cook for an extra couple of minutes before adding the white beans (including the water they are in). In addition add the extra boiling water and a vegetable stock cube.

3. Simmer on a low heat for up to 10 minutes, adding more boiling water if it becomes too dry.

4. Meanwhile heat a different non stick pan. Clean each portion of fish and pat dry with kitchen paper. If it has skin place a little olive oil onto the skin along with a pinch of salt and pepper. When the pan is really hot add the fish skin side down for around 4 minutes. Do not move the pan of fish for this time as it will make the fish fall apart. After 4 minutes, gently flip the fish over and cook for a further 3 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to rest on a warm place whilst you prepare the spinach and padron peppers.

5. Using the same pan as the fish add a tablespoon of olive oil and add the pardon peppers. Move them around the pan so that they burn slightly on each side and begin to wilt and soften. This will take around 3 minutes. Place to one side on a warm plate.

6. Using the same pan as the pardon peppers add the fresh spinach and a splash of water and move around the pan for up to a minute, by which time it will have wilted.

To plate up add the beans and carrots stew then add the spinach and pardon peppers. Lay the fish on top and then pop a dollop of aioli by the fish and sprinkle some dill over the dish. Add a quartered lemon to each serving.

Serve immediately so it is nice and hot.


Cha Ca La Vong – Vietnamese Fish with Turmeric, Ginger and Dill

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The melodic sounding ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ is one of Hanoi’s famous dishes consisting of white fish (often Vietnamese Snakehead fish) along with fresh turmeric, galangal, ginger, the pungent smelling Vietnamese shrimp paste, spring onions, rice noodles and a generous helping of fresh dill, coriander and mint and a scattering of peanuts.

My version is all of the above except no galangal (unless I happen to chance upon it), turmeric powder instead of fresh turmeric and no Vietnamese shrimp paste. I also find cod or tilapia work best for me, but basically you can use any thick white fish that has been filleted and does not have a propensity to fall apart.

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The flavour combinations work so well and I find it refreshing to give dill centre stage once in a while as I tend to find that it only ever gets partnered with salmon, trout and creme fraiche. The textures also really compliment each other, from the soft and yet delicately fried fish, to the crunchy nuts, the fresh flavoursome herbs and the filling noodles.  I like to accompany the dish with my sweet and sour nuoc cham dipping sauce – see here (at the bottom of the post).

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It’s one of those dishes which is perfect for guests to get stuck in and help themselves.  Part of the fun of it is to create the dish yourself, choosing the amounts of herbs that suit your requirements. I also find that when guests help themselves there is far less wastage as people, on the whole, tend to take what they are going to eat.  Both my daughters adore the dish and for my youngest I tend to make up a separate nuoc cham dipping sauce without fresh chilli.

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Cha Ca La Vong – Vietnamese Fish with Turmeric, Ginger and Dill

Serves 4

600g cod or tilapia, cut into 2 inch chunks

1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated (equally you could use ginger paste)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or as above)

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

3/4 tbsp of vegetable oil

6 spring onions, thinly cut on the diagonal

bunch of fresh dill

bunch of fresh coriander

bunch of fresh mint

1 generous handful of unsalted peanuts, slightly crushed

300g rice noodles

1. Place the fish chunks, turmeric, ginger, garlic, flour, sugar and fish sauce in a bowl and gently mix in together so that the fish is completely coated in the turmeric. Cover and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

2. Cook the rice noodles according to the packet (normally I boil them for 4 mins) and drain. Run cold water through them and place to one side. When ready to serve pour boiling water through it once, drain and place in a serving bowl.

4. In a different bowl place the fresh coriander and mint and in another place the peanuts.

5. Prepare the nuoc cham dipping sauce. For four people you will need to make two batches of this – see here.

6. In a frying pan add the oil and when it is hot add the fish in batches along with any remaining ginger and garlic from the marinade. Leave for a 2-3 minutes so they begin to crisp before turning over for another couple of minutes. Place the fish on kitchen roll whilst you are cooking the remaining fish chunks.

7. Once the fish has crisped up sufficiently add the dill and the spring onions for up to a minute before placing in a large serving bowl.

8. Allow guests to serve themselves, showing them how to layer up the dish by first placing the noodles in a bowl, followed by the fish, spring onions and dill, mint and coriander, peanuts and then a little nuoc cham dipping sauce over the top.


Roasted Cod with Fennel, Red Onion and Tomatoes in a Lemony Balsamic Jus

OK I admit it, I wasn’t telling the whole truth when I put together the grand title for this dish. It only takes a passing glance at the photo above for you to see that there is a sprinkling of fresh chilli in this dish. It’s totally NOT essential, so if your palate prefers the absence of chilli – or if you are feeding it to little ones, then please omit the chilli part as it still tastes really good.

We try and eat fish and seafood a couple of times a week, which reminds me, I must put up another of my squid recipes as squid gets a big thumbs up in our household. My six year old, known as big A in this blog (as she is my eldest daughter) has loved it for as long as I can remember; she is a joy to cook for as she eats and tries everything. She has her sights set on junior Masterchef, way to go girl.

This dish is perfect with white fish and cod works particularly well as it does not flake too readily during cooking. This dish is rustic and juicy and has the definite thumbs up from Mr B. There are a lot of flavours going on in the dish, from the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar, red onions and tomatoes to the subtle aniseed taste of the fennel and the wonderful kick from the chilli. I find they compliment each other so well, I hope you agree.

Roasted Cod with Fennel, Red Onion and Tomatoes in a Lemony Balsamic Jus

Adapted from a recipe by ‘Delicious Magazine’

Serves 2-4

600 g filleted cod

1 red onion, roughly chopped

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced (set the fronds to one side)

juice of one lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 large red chilli, sliced (not essential)

seasoning, as required


1. Prepare the fennel, red onion and chilli and place in an oven proof dish with 1 tbsp of olive oil and the juice from one lemon. Place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees if you are using a fan oven and 20 degrees more if you are not or gas mark 6, for 10 minutes

2. Add the tomatoes and roast for a further 5 minutes. Now place the cod fillets, balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil on the vegetables and roast for 10-12 minutes. Do not overdo the cooking of the fish as it will begin to dry out. It needs less cooking time than you think!

3. Serve immediately with the fennel fronds scattered on top to garnish. I like to eat this with rice, although it would also work equally well with little cubed roast potatoes.