Because it’s not as subtle as other fish you can pair cod with quite assertive flavours. I roast fillets, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with a little paprika, on a bed of almost-cooked potatoes, chorizo, onions, peppers and smoked paprika, or serve them with a sauce of mussels, cream and saffron.
But it’s the easier treatments – dishes in which the flavours are a bit more restrained – that I really love. In these the cod shines through. A simple bread-based crust is brilliant; as well as the Cheddar cheese one here, try one made just with herbs and grated lemon zest, or with parsley and white crab meat. These dishes are easy too. ‘A nice bit of cod’ might not be a weekly meal but it’s always a treat, and perfect for two.
Preheat the oven to 220C (fan 200C, 425F, gas 7).
Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley in a small bowl.
Add the oil, melted butter, salt and pepper, and mix together.
Lay the fish in a buttered gratin dish where it can lie in a single layer.
Pat the breadcrumb crust all over the top of the fish.
Cook for 11–15 minutes (thicker fish fillets will take longer). Check, by poking into the centre of the fish with the tip of a knife, to see whether the fish is cooked right through: cooked fish will have lost that ‘glassy’ look. The flesh should be pearly white.
Serve immediately. This is really good with a purée of peas (just whizz cooked frozen peas with a little chicken stock and a bit of cream or butter). The sweetness of the peas is lovely against the saltiness of the fish and cheese. Or it's equally good with a peppery watercress salad.
Visit our fish and seafood section for more fish recipes, including baked cod with mushroom salsa, fish goujons and French baked cod.
I follow the advice of the Marine Conservation Society when it comes to which fish to eat. If you care about sustainable fishing – and unless we do care, entire species will disappear – you should check out www.mcsuk.org/goodfishguide/search.
It tells you which fish you can eat without worrying, the problematic ones, and those to avoid. Fish stock levels change over time, so I check it every four months.
When it comes to cod, I buy Icelandic or fish from the eastern Baltic, as stocks in the Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland are still overfished. To make sure you are eating sustainably, ask your fishmonger where it comes from or, if you’re buying it in the supermarket, look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo.
I approach cod with respect and don’t buy it that often. If my grandchildren are to enjoy its glories, I have to exercise restraint.