I know what you’re thinking. Minted peas and pancetta; this sounds a little like one of the more exciting episodes of Come Dine With Me where the ‘zany’ host gets ideas above their station and serves the meal accompanied by a soprano they’ve drafted in for the evening… What next, scallops and black pudding? Eton Mess? But no, trust me, persevere as this is super easy, looks great, and tastes amazing.
The inspiration for this came in the way that many of my recipes start; through me buying a huge amount of something very cheap. I don’t know what it is, but I’m hardwired to love a bargain. Sometimes I know what I’m buying is a little ridiculous, but I can’t help myself. I just have to buy it and Saturday was one of those times. Ambling around Borough Market in the afternoon sun I found a huge block of pancetta for a fiver. Putty in their hands, I snapped it up and went straight home to start cooking…
2 big handfuls of frozen peas.
1 big dollop of crème fraîche
Small handful of chopped mint leaves
Small handful of pancetta (streaky bacon)
2 handfuls of podded broad beans.
2 Cod Fillets (with or without skin)
Small knob of butter
I boiled up some peas for a few minutes until they were tender but still bright green (overcooking peas until they shrivel up and die is a crime) and roughly mashed them up with a fork. I added a bit of crème fraîche to bind my pea mixture slightly, and some fresh chopped mint and plenty of seasoning. This was to be the bed for the cod fillet and so I set it aside until the end.
My pancetta was a huge block so I spent a while slicing up the pancetta as thin as I could practically manage with a chefs knife, knowing that it wasn’t going to crisp up if it wasn’t really thin. Armed with my pancetta slices, I diced these up into pieces and dry fried them to release their delicious salty-savoury flavour. Once they were crisp and pretty much ready, I threw in a small bowlful of podded broad beans and heated them through.
In yet another pan (3 pans? This is posh) I heated a splash of olive oil and added the cod loin, seasoned generously on both sides, to cook for about 4 minutes. At this point it was golden brown so I flipped it over and added a small knob of butter before cooking the other side for a further 3 minutes.
To assemble the dish I made a bed of the minted peas, on top of which went the delicately placed cod fillet the broad bean and pancetta mix scattered around the edge. The soft sweet peas and gentle bite of the broad beans were a wonderful contrast to the crispy salty pancetta, and the cod flaked up into large quivering flakes which almost melted in the mouth. Voila, a meal fit for the 4 strangers that you don’t like but invited round in the vain hope of winning the cash prize at the end of the week. My word of advice to try to resist the temptation to go overboard on the pancetta like I did – you’re guests will almost certainly mark you down for it…