One of my favourite tastes has to be that of the classic Catalan sauce romesco. A piquant paste made with toasted almonds, roasted red peppers, fried bread, garlic and plenty of olive oil; romesco is bursting with flavour and can transform the most bland bowl of grub into a smoky delight.
Tonight I made a warm lentil and rice salad with parsley, tomato and a romesco dressing to serve with fried fish. It was super tasty, and my daughter gobbled it down very happily too, even though she doesn’t always go for green lentils. If, like me, you don’t have a food processor, romesco is a bit time consuming to prepare but it lasts well in the fridge and a little goes a long way.
Cod with romesco, lentil and feta salad
Serves 2 gannets or 4 hens
For the romesco
Before you tell me off, the romesco here is of my own design and not from an authentic source (excuse the pun). It could use some refinement as a condiment, but I find it works very nicely as an ingredient on which to base other dishes.
100g stale bread, cubed
4 cloves garlic
2 red peppers
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, plenty!
For the salad
1 mugful green lentils
1 mugful brown rice
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Bunch of flat leaf parsley
1/4 pack feta cheese
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
1/3 of your freshly made romesco, as above
2 cod or hake fillets
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
To make the romesco
Halve or quarter the peppers so that they lie flat in a roasting dish. Roast the peppers skin side up, with a little oil, in an oven about 200c for 35-40 minutes until they are soft and the skins can be peeled off easily.
Peel the almonds by submerging in boiling water for five minutes and then squeezing the skins off between thumb and forefinger.
When the almonds are peeled, toast them in a dry pan for 4-5 minutes until they begin to colour, keep the almonds moving in the pan and be careful not to burn them.
When the almonds are toasted, place in a food processor. Alternatively, chop the nuts quite finely and place in a pestle and mortar, or a flat-bottomed jug if using a hand blender.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the cubes of bread until they are crisp and golden but not charred.
If using a food processor, put the skinned roasted peppers, fried bread, almonds, garlic, paprika and vinegar in and blend to a smooth paste, adding olive oil as you go to achieve the desired consistency. I prefer a stiff paste like chunky peanut butter, but you can add more oil and vinegar for a looser sauce if you wish.
If using a pestle and mortar or hand blender you’ll need to blend or pound the dry ingredients one at a time to achieve a paste of your desired constistency.
Check the seasoning, you may want to add chilli, sweet paprika or just some salt and pepper.
To make the salad
Rinse the lentils and bring them to a boil in a pan full of unsalted cold water. Simmer for 20 minutes from boiling, drain and rinse again.
Bring another pan of salted water to the boil; add the brown rice, simmer for 25 minutes, then drain.
Roughly chop the parsley and cube the feta and tomato.
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir together while the grains are still hot.
Dilute the romesco sauce with the citrus juices and pour over the salad. Stir well and serve warm if possible.
To cook the fish
Because the salad is so flavoursome I prefer not to overcomplicate the dish and simply season the fish on each side with smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a frying pan and place the fish skin side down in the hot oil. After about 5-6 minutes turn the fish over to finish cooking for another 2-3 minutes, when cooked the skin should be crisp and the flesh soft but opaque.
Serve the fish on a bed of rice and lentil salad, for a little extra kick you may want to mix a little romesco with some more olive oil and drizzle it over the fish.
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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