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Roast cod loin with fennel and buckwheat, served with tarragon and anchovy dressing

Roast Norwegian cod loin with fennel and buckwheat, served with tarragon and anchovy dressing

PT30M

I am always amazed how versatile cod is in this regard's to unusual flavour combinations. A handsome piece of fillet, chunky and thick, can stand up to a lot and in some respects, a simple destination of batter and deep-frying can seem like a crying shame. Saying that, I don’t think I could ever totally forgo fish and chips. Especially by the seaside.

But yes, cod, meaty and strong, turns out rather delicious when paired with say, spice or garlic. Even vanilla works surprisingly well. Heading back to more robust waters though, I particularly like to match up cod with aniseed, in the form of fennel and to provide an earthy base, I like to throw some buckwheat into the mix. This seed, which is related to sorrel and rhubarb and not wheat, has a strong savoury taste, not too dissimilar to beef. As such, buckwheat does deliver quite the whack of umami to the tastebuds. However, cod soaks this up nicely and if cooked to delicate perfection, those lovely, white flakes can provide just the right sort of counterbalance. And if you crisp the skin up, then all the better.

Even with the final dressing, again you might think that the cod would be blasted into oblivion. It is fairly punchy after all. Yet, the cod happily gathers it all up and still manages to sing, aloft a raft of flavours.

Ingredients

1
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
2
To prepare the fennel, rinse the bulbs under some cold water, trim off the fronds and stems and put them to one side for a moment. Trim the base and slice the bulbs into thin wedges, roughly eight per bulb
3
Return to the stems, chopping everything up into a fine dice, and roughly chop the fronds. Place a saucepan over a medium heat and add a good glug of oil. Add the diced fennel stems and the garlic and stir until they’re soft and slightly translucent
4
Add the buckwheat, stir through for a minute or so then add the stock. Bring the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer then cover the saucepan with a lid. Leave to cook for 15 minutes
5
Whilst the buckwheat is cooking, place a large, wide saucepan and place over a high heat, again adding a healthy splash of oil. Pop the fennel wedges in and quickly fry for about 2 minutes on each side, so that they catch a touch and begin to caramelise. Pour over the vermouth
6
Turn the heat right down, cover and leave for 10–15 minutes, until they become soft and golden
7
Now place the cod fillets on a baking tray, skin-side up. Lightly drizzle with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast for 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets. The aim is to slightly undercook, so that the fillets just begin to flake but still hold together
8
Once you’ve got everything cooking away, you can now quickly make the dressing by mixing together the oil, lemon (juice only), chopped anchovy, tarragon and tomato
9
When almost ready to serve, add the lemon zest and chopped fennel fronds to the buckwheat and check the seasoning
10
To serve, spoon a generous amount of buckwheat into the centre of each plate and arrange the fennel around the side. Crown it all by placing a cod fillet on top. Finish by drizzling over a generous amount of the dressing

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