Sadly, British summers aren’t all that. The last couple of weeks, the weather has been predictably dreary, with some impressive downpours forcing us indoors, dreaming of warmer climes.
Grey days like this call for heartier fodder. But preferably still with a nudge to summer holidays. Such as this Mediterranean inspired chickpea casserole with sunny tomatoes, spicy chorizo and gorgeous bright white cod.
This recipe begs to be played with though. Change up the fish, the pesto and the beans and you’re transported to a new country in a heartbeat:
French: Use buttery flageolet or haricot beans instead of chickpeas and Toulouse sausage or bacon lardons instead of chorizo. Replace the carrot with 1/3 of a courgette and add when you add the red pepper. Add a little piment d’espelette if you have it. Replace the coriander in the pesto with chives and/or chervil Add a dollop of creme fraiche on top of each serving. Serve with crusty baguette for dipping.
Moroccan: Replace the chorizo with Merguez sausage, add some pitted olives and replace the paprika with a little Ras El Hanout. You may want to replace the tomato paste with Harissa. Serve with couscous or flatbreads.
Spanish: Use hunky chunky butter beans instead of chickpeas, add 1 or 2 pieces of fresh orange peel and choose smoked paprika. Serve with rice or rustic bread
Mexican: Use black beans or black eyed peas, replace the paprika with chili powder. You may want to replace the tomato paste with a little smoked chipotle paste or similar. Use lime in the pesto instead of lemon, and use only coriander. Add a spoonful of sour cream to each serving and top with a few avocado chunks. Serve with tortillas, either the soft flour ones or the crunchy variety.
I am over the moon that British North Sea cod is now back at sustainable levels, as it is my favourite white fish. But let’s not overdo it, else it will be over-fished again before all too soon. Meaty monkfish works perfectly in this dish, as do haddock, hake or coley. I’d not go for a delicate fish fillet like sole or seabass though, as the powerful flavours will likely simply overwhelm them.
I used cod misshapes this time, which are really cheap. They are basically left over cut-offs from filleting. It’s worth asking your fish monger if he has any going spare, as they usually just end up being thrown out and wasted. Perfect for fish pies too.
While you’re there, you might as well ask for some fish bones and that kind of thing for the next time you make fish stock.
A drizzle of homemade fresh pesto can really lift a dish. I love messing about with flavour combinations. Something green, something acidic and something nutty, cheese optional. Nothing wrong with a classic basil pesto, but how about a kale and cashew one? Or parsley and chervil? Or spinach, walnut and mixed herbs, which is what I’m using today.
Add a generous dollop to your favourite pasta. Spoon it next to grilled meat or fish, or onto Mediterranean roast vegetables or chargrilled halloumi. Mix it with mayonnaise or yogurt for a quick dip or thin it out with a little water, extra citrus juice or extra oil to use as a salad dressing.
Versatility is a beautiful thing.
Mediterranean Cod with Chorizo and Chickpeas (serves 2 – GF LC DF RSF)
If you can’t find cooking chorizo, use fully cured, but be aware the oily juices will flow less freely. As we’re not using any oil or fat other than the natural fats in the chorizo, you may need to add a dash of oil.
200 gr firm white fish, skinned and cut into bite sized chunks
1 small carrot, finely diced
150 gr cooking chorizo, spicy or mild, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 tin of chickpeas (400 gr), drained and rinsed
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400 gr)
120 ml wine (red or white, you choose. I like a good rioja in this), water or light vegetable stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey or agave syrup
a pinch of saffron stamen
1/2 tsp paprika and a little extra for serving
a few good shakes of Worcestershire sauce
1-2 bay leaves
a sprig of fresh thyme
a sprig of fresh rosemary
Optional for serving: pesto, crusty bread
Heat a heavy-based casserole over medium-high heat.
Add the chorizo and fry for a coupe of minutes until the juices start to run, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking, Add the onion, turn the heat down to medium and fry for a couple of mins until the onion is translucent..
Add the garlic, fry for another minute or so, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, carrot, herbs, paprika, balsamic, honey, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and saffron. Season to taste, but go easy on the salt if you are using stock instead of wine or water.
Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to low, partially cover with a lid and simmer for 10 mins or so.
Check the seasoning. Add the red pepper and the chickpeas, cover and gently simmer for another 5 mins.
Carefully lay the fish chucks on top of the sauce, cover and simmer for 5 mins or until the fish is opaque and just cooked. Be careful not to overcook.
Remove the fish from the casserole and set aside. Remove the woody herbs and bay leaves from the casserole..
Divide the casserole over 2 deep plates. Divide the fish chunks over the plates and dust them with a little paprika.
Drizzle over some pesto over or just dollop if yours is on the thick side.
Serve as is or with crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Spinach, Walnut and Mixed Herb Pesto (makes approx 200ml – GF V RSF LC)
Feel free to use pine nuts, cashew nuts or pecans instead of the walnuts. Leave out the cheese or replace with 1 tbsp nutritional yeast to make the pesto dairy free and vegan.
1 good handful of spinach, washed and dried
1 good handful of soft herbs such as basil, parsley, coriander or all three as I did
20 gr Parmesan, Grana Padano or similar, cut into very small pieces (please don’t use the ready grated or sneeze-powder variety for this)
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp walnut pieces
Approx 100-150 ml cold pressed rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
Add all the ingredients except half of the oil to a food processor or blender and pulse until chopped and combined. It’s up to you if you blend it smooth or keep it rustic like mine.
Remove to a bowl or jar and stir through enough olive oil to reach the consistency you like. Season to taste.
Pour over a good layer of oil to cover for storing. This will keep in the fridge for at least a week if not a month. Keep covering it with oil though.