"The photographer is like the cod, which lays a million eggs in order that one may be hatched."
George Bernard Shaw (1901)
Each year I seem to “lose if you snooze” when it comes to local day boat caught winter cod but not so the other week. I managed to bag a 1.7kg cod and, once I’d prepped it, I had 4 more than substantial boneless fillets (two loins for roasting and baking, and two tail ends for pan-frying or the UK’s favourite fish and chips) plus a half litre of the most drinkable stock from the head (gills and eyes removed) and frame.
This recipe was sent to me by my Dad only very recently, so what a happy coincidence that within days I should happen across a large specimen of UK finest. I think the original recipe comes from The Mediterranean Dish, and that’s the one I used, but there seem to be a number of copies out there. I can’t, however, vouch for why this is claimed to be “Greek-style” - I haven’t yet found any Greek recipes that look anything like this, though I’d love to know more! But it’s absolutely delicious and really simple to make: fish dressed in lemon, olive oil and butter, coated with earthy, smoky, spiced flour, briefly fried and then transferred to the oven for a bake with the remaining lemon mixture and garlic. A final shower of chopped parsley and that’s it.
Of course the combination of garlic, lemon and parsley are reminiscent of the Italian Gremolata, and there has been something of a flurry of recipes recently featuring them as a trio, but the simple fact is they are flavours that work extremely well with fish so there's no reason not to join what you can't beat.
I definitely think a dish like this deserves some bread to mop up the sauce but a pilaf-style rice dish would be a lovely accompaniment.
If you like, the cod fillets can be halved, it can make them more manageable in the pan. Hake would be another excellent choice of fish for a recipe like this, and monkfish would be another good contender, though the monkfish might take a little longer in the oven to cook through, given its somewhat denser texture.
It's not essential to use a skillet - an oven-proof frying or sauté pan would work as well. Alternatively the fish can be browned in a frying pan and transferred to an oven dish, though I would suggest that the dish be warmed in the oven ahead of time so that the short period in the oven is spent cooking the fish rather than heating the dish!
Baked Spiced Cod with Garlic and Lemon
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 x 175g fillets of cod, ideally from the loin, skinned or unskinned
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
30g plain flour
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet/smoked paprika (can be a hot variety if preferred)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp (or to taste) chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 200°C. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, melted butter and half the olive oil and add the fish fillets. Coat well and leave aside.
In another bowl sift in the flour and mix with the coriander, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and when hot, but not smoking, drain the excess lemon, butter and oil mixture (reserve the residual mixture) from the fish fillets, coat them in the flour mixture and fry for a minute or two on each side to brown, then remove from the heat.
Add the chopped garlic to the remaining lemon, butter and oil mixture and pour this over the fish. Transfer to the oven for about 10 mins or until the fish is just about flaking.
Sprinkle over the the chopped parsley and serve straight away.
"Greek-Style Baked Cod Recipe with Lemon and Garlic", The Mediterranean Dish, accessed 9 February 2021