James Lowe's cod cheeks with green sauce + potatoes

James Lowe's cod cheeks with green sauce + potatoes

By
From
A Lot on Her Plate
Serves
2
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

My friend James is a fantastic chef. In the absurdly stressful run-up to opening his first restaurant, Lyle’s in Shoreditch, he managed to spare an afternoon to teach me this dish in my tiny kitchen. I will always thank him for that. The dish centres around wonderful thrifty and meaty cod cheeks, which you’ll probably need to ask your fishmonger for a couple of days in advance. It’s a brilliant dish for its simplicity, purity and vibrancy, and it’s also a masterclass in balancing flavours. Have a go, and, as James would say, remember to use your palate to guide you when you’re cooking. James is very particular about ingredients. He says ‘Life’s too short for bad vinegar, oil and anchovies’ and advises using the best possible quality you can find to make this dish really special. I’m not about to argue!

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
300g small new potatoes, washed, (ideally Jersey royals or Yukon golds)
5g wakame seaweed
sea salt
500g cod cheeks, cleaned and sinew removed, (if you can’t find cod cheeks, fillets of any firm white fish like cod, coley or pollock will do)
flavourless oil, (rapeseed, groundnut or sunflower oil)
1/2 lemon, juiced

Green sauce

Quantity Ingredient
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
15g tarragon leaves
15g flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
10g small capers, rinsed
20g good-quality salt-packed anchovies, rinsed and chopped
generous pinch sea salt
1-2 tablespoons good-quality cider vinegar with mother, (or other good-quality vinegar)

Method

  1. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover them with water until there’s about 2 cm of water above the surface of the potatoes. Add the seaweed, cover and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down slightly and taste the water for salt. You want it salty but not overly so, as you’ll use some of this stock for the sauce: add salt accordingly. Simmer the potatoes for 15–20 minutes until they’re cooked and you can easily slide a knife or fork into them. Once they’re cooked, leave them standing in the cooking water off the heat while you prepare the rest of the dish – it will intensify their earthy potato flavour.
  2. Now make the green sauce. If you’re making it in a food processor, pour in the olive oil, then add the herbs, garlic and Dijon mustard, blitz and transfer to a mixing bowl. If you’re making it by hand, chop the herbs finely and put them in a mixing bowl with the oil, garlic and Dijon mustard and combine thoroughly.
  3. Add the capers, 7 g of the anchovies and the sea salt. Stir well and taste it – it should be grassy and green, but in need of a lift. Begin to add the vinegar, a little at a time, stirring vigorously and tasting as you go. You want the vinegar to pique the sauce with its acidity and bring out its fresh punch. James says: ‘This is the main acidic element to the dish and it will be used to heighten the rest of the food, so acidify with the vinegar until it almost makes you salivate! In a good way.’ Vinegars vary in acidity depending on quality, so you need to trust your palate here and add as much as you think it needs.
  4. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat until it’s stinking hot. Season the cod cheeks on one side with sea salt. Drizzle a dash of oil into the pan to coat the surface and add the cheeks, salty side down. Leave them untouched and let them cook for 1–2 minutes until they form a nice golden crust and come away easily from the bottom of the pan. Once they have coloured, flip them over and cook them for another 2 minutes (cook them for no longer than 5 minutes in total). Remove any smaller cod cheeks from the pan while you make the sauce as they will cook much quicker. Turn the heat down slightly and add the lemon juice. Then add 3 tablespoons of the potato stock, and swirl it around the pan to deglaze, being sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan – this is where the flavour is. Drain and add the potatoes, remaining anchovies and any cod cheeks you may have removed, to warm through.
  5. To serve, plate up 3–4 potatoes per person along with pieces of seaweed, and divide the cheeks between the plates. Pour over the pan sauce and drizzle the green sauce on top. Enjoy!

Tip:

  • James has a brilliant tip for making any kind of fresh sauce with chopped herbs, whether you’re making it in a food processor or in a bowl with hand-cut herbs: always start with olive oil. It coats the chopped herbs and stops them from oxidising, keeping them brighter and fresher for longer.
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