This is one of those dishes that was inspired by something I ate in a restaurant. Trouble is, I’ve never been too good at restaurant cooking (even when I was a cook in one!). I like to improvise too much, meaning that each new dish comes out a bit different than the last. Good at home, not so good for paying customers.
I like this because it’s full of protein and the fennel gives it a bit of a kick. It’s a frugal dish for me because I can find bags of 10-12 frozen cod fillets for about â‚¬4; the recipe calls for about 5 fillets, meaning that the fish costs only about â‚¬2. The lentils are only pennies and a big bulb of fennel costs less than â‚¬1, depending on the time of year. (If you’re not a fennel person, substitute with whole roasted carrots.) And the beer/wine doesn’t really count, because you can always drink the rest!
If you start from scratch all at once, it takes about an hour to prepare, but you can make the lentils and roast the veg the night before, meaning that you’ll only need about 25 minutes the night you serve.
Fish, Fennel and Lentils
- 5-6 cod fillets (1 per person)
- 1 large bulb fennel (or 1 large carrot per person)
- 3 cups dried lentils (1/2 cup per person)
- olive oil
- nice chunk butter
- lemon juice
- vegetable broth, cheap beer or white wine (1 cup)
- salt, pepper, dill, parsley
- Slice the green fronds and root off the fennel. Slice in half, lengthwise, then in quarters and eights if needed to obtain uniform slices. Place in a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil and place into a hot oven (450°F) for about 40 minutes (you want it to be brown, but not burnt). If using carrots, peel them, then follow the above directions.
- Place the lentils in enough cold water to cover twice over. Start cooking to a boil, then let simmer till soft, about 25 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, set aside.
- When the veg has only about 20 minutes of roasting left, melt the butter in a large, deep frying pan. Add your chosen liquid (I like cheap white wine) and then the fish. Simmer in order to let the fish poach. If necessary, turn once. I use frozen fillets, without defrosting, if you use fresh, you’ll only need to cook about 10 minutes, instead of 20-25.
- When the vegetables are roasted to a nice golden brown on the edges, take them out of the oven and add them to the frying pan. Let them simmer for about 5 minutes, adding the herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve a spoonful of lentils with a piece of fish and a drizzle of sauce. Don’t forget the large chunks of bread, to mop up all the sauce!