Cod was the reason that European sailors braved the uncharted Atlantic all the way to North America. For the several hundred years of colonization, this fish was the mainstay of existence. Wars were fought over it, revolutions were spurred by it, diets have been based on it and the first settlers were driven by it. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple food in medieval times? Cod!
I like this dish. There are no overpowering sauces to confuse the palate. There is no complicated cooking method, and the key is to let the ingredients shine on their own merits. The cod is served here flanked by minted peas and prosciutto-flavoured broad beans. This delightful light lunch or small appetizer is a key to health and happiness.
(For 4 light lunches or 4 appetizers)
For the minted peas
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups frozen peas
1 tbsp fresh half & half cream
5 sprigs fresh mint leaves,
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
For the broad beans and prosciutto
1 cup broad beans, pods removed
8 thinly sliced pieces prosciutto
For the cod
4 medium-sized or 2 large cod fillets
Pinch sea salt
Pinch ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
For the minted peas, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan and boil until the volume of liquid is reduced by half. Add the peas and boil for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain well, and return the peas to the pan (with the pan removed from the heat). Lightly mash the peas with a fork. Stir the fresh cream and chopped mint through the mashed peas until well combined. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm until needed.
For the broad beans and prosciutto, blanch the beans in a pan of salted, boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain. Peel off the inner membranes. Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat. Add the strips of proscuitto and fry until the fat is released and the proscuitto is crisp. Add the crisp prosciutto to the broad beans, mix well and set aside.
For the cod, season the fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the frying pan. Add the olive oil and fry the cod fillets for 2 minutes each side for a medium-sized fillet or 3 minutes each side for a large fillet.
To serve appetizers, using a chef’s ring place a ring of minted peas circling the centre of each of four appetizer plates. Place half a cod fillet on top of each mound of peas. Scatter the broad beans and prosciutto around the edge of the plate. Finally add a little freshly squeezed lemon juice. Use whole, medium-sized cod for a light lunch.
Ian Leatt, advertising director at Pegasus Publications, was a trained chef in Jersey, the Channel Islands.