Cooking some “Proper Food”

Elix came home one evening last week with a surprise gift for me – for no reason – just because she is lovely! The gift is Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food cookbook and is full of hearty dishes varying from Breakfasts, Roasts, Seafood and Desserts.
The first dish we tried was his Pot Roasted Pollock (although we used hake) with Chickpeas and Chorizo and my best friend Bex came over to sample it too. We had spent the day pottering around the Saatchi gallery and did the “ladies what lunch” on the Kings Road at Le Pain Quotidien and so a light but tasty dinner was a lovely end to the day. I always like to try and impress Bex when she comes over because she is an amazing cook (her babaganoush is delicious and the chocolate and date loaf she baked for my birthday a couple of years ago was AMAZING) and has eaten at some of London’s best restaurants so she has high standards! This dish is right up her street as she loves fish and trying new recipes and anything which is a bit different.

The meal is ideal for big groups – its very easy and really tasty – perfect comfort food now that Summer is over and evenings are darker and cooler. With chickpeas, spinach and a decent portion of fish the meal is healthy too.

Unfortunately the Toots supermarket didnt have any pollack and after a longer-than-needed deliberation at the fish counter between Bex and me over whether to go for coley, cod, haddock or hake we decided hake was something a bit different and the meatiness of the fish would stand up to the strong chorizo and soak up the lovely paprika-infused sauce.

Recipe below :

Serves 4–6
150g dried chickpeas (soaked and boiled for 2 hours) or a regular 400g tin of chickpeas (boiled for 5 minutes until softened)
4 tablespoons salt
a pinch of saffron
1 fillet of pollock, about 500g, skinned and pin bones removed
100ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 fresh red chillies, chopped – with seeds and all
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cooking chorizos, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml chicken stock
400g spinach leaves

A few alterations made by me… we used one chilli which was hot enough, i also used a tin of chickpeas as i hadnt planned ahead enough to soak any dried ones the night before and, we found that there was enough taste and salt from the fish and chorizo I didn’t add any extra to taste. Again – we used 3 pieces of hake instead of the pollack.

Start by mixing together the salt and saffron sprinkle half of this onto the fish and wrap in clingfilm or in a sandwich bag and refrigerate for 1 ½ hours (i did 45 minutes as it was getting late and we were hungry which was enough although would the extra 45 minutes would allow the saffron to infuse more i think).

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof pan, add garlic, red chillies and onions and fry, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.
Add the chorizo fry for a further 5 minutes so the aromatic paprika-soaked oil comes out from the chorizo. Stir in the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin and paprika and fry, stirring, for a further 3–4 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Drain the chickpeas and add them to the pot, then add the tomatoes and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and put it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and taste the chickpeas. The sauce should have reduced a little and thickened.
Rinse the fish in cold water. Pat it dry and place on top of the chickpeas. Place the pot back into the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the flesh flakes easily.
Remove the pot from the oven. Take the fish from the pot and place it onto a large serving plate. Stir the spinach into the hot chickpeas until it just wilts. Spoon this mix over and around the fish. I served this with asparagus and mange tout which matched well, i think this would also go well with some crusty bread.

I think the base sauce for this dish which is the tomatoes, cumin, bay, paprika and cinnamon would be ideal for any stew-type meal – could match with sausage and bean stew or chicken and chorizo – anything really! Tom Kerridge’s book is a pleasure to read and cook from and I can’t wait to try more dishes from it!

tom kerridge's roasted fish, chickpeas and chorizo

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