The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

Curried cod

According to Arabella Boxer, this was one of the few fish dishes served as a main course for dinner parties in the grander English country houses between the wars. A fish course otherwise would have preceded the principal one. The custom is all the more remarkable because curry generally had fallen from favor as a dinner offering and had been consigned to breakfast or lunch by the eve of the First World War. It is a typically austere English curry that will not overpower the delicate cod. This is comfort food of a high order that is extremely easy to prepare. Four servings.


 

  • Cod003.jpg3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups onion sliced in thin crescents
  • 1 cup peeled and smashed tomatoes or canned San Marzanos from Italy
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • some cayenne if your curry powder is mild
  • about 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1½ lb skinned cod filet
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro (inauthentic, optional and excellent)

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium high heat and brown the onion.
  2. Stir the tomatoes into the pot followed by the curry powder and possibly cayenne, bring the sauce to a boil and simmer until the flavors marry in 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile simmer the cod in salted water until just flakey, usually in 10 minutes or less.
  5. Fish the cod from its bath and pat it dry, then follow its fissures to flake it into chunky discs.
  6. Stir the lemon juice into the awaiting warm curry sauce, pour it over the cod and shower all with coriander.

Notes:

-Curried cod always was served with rice and chutneys. Branston pickle, weird as it sounds, makes a nice relish for this curry.

-Traditional fish cooks will have boiled the cod to pulp instead of gently simmering it. Boxer’s source, Lightning Cookery by the fraudster Countess Morphy (she had neither title nor culinary training nor was she English, but rather was an adventurer from New Orleans on the make amidst the British gentry), boils her cod in salted water for 20 minutes.

-Sauce any white fish you like with this curry. Haddock, hake and the various snappers are good choices. So, although strictly speaking not white, is catfish.

-The dish is even better if you have enough time to make a courtbouillon for your cod. Simmer some carrot, celery, onion and possibly leek seasoned with bay, mustard seeds and peppercorns; toss a dried chili into the mix if you like along with a squeeze of lemon and some of its peel. Simply simmer the stock for 20 to 30 minutes, strain it and go.

-You also might simmer your fish in coconut milk.

-Feeling flush? Toss some little shrimp into the curry sauce just until they curl right before serving the curry. A handful of crab is delightful, and you can get away with the pasteurized product in this preparation.