Roasted cod, dinner party style

You saw the opening act of our latest dinner party in my last post (here), so I imagine you might be wondering what we offered up as a veggie-friendly main course. As I said previously, we’re lucky enough that my friend eats fish, which broadens the choice slightly, and in the end we decided to go for a light, almost Mediterranean-style main course that would be easy to execute, but tasty, impressive and not too stodgy.

We declared this course the remit of Mr Manning, and he certainly came up with the goods. His choice of recipe was a lovely rustic cod dish from Delicious Magazine. After doubling the amounts to make sure nobody was hungry, we found ourselves with a hefty load of cod fillet and enough vegetables to fill an army and he set to work.

The recipe itself (here) was fairly quick and easy – similar to the starter – and just goes to show that sometimes simple is just as good, providing it’s well executed. Again, like the starter, most of it could be prepared in advance, making it a great dinner party dish that you can just put in the oven when the time is right, while enjoying spending time with your guests.

Mr M prepared the vegetables in the afternoon, chopping fennel, red onion, and fresh chillies and scattering them in the bottom of a roasting pan. Later on these were drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and roasted for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, he skinned the cod and got rid of the last few rogue bones. I personally don’t mind fish skin, but only when it’s nice and crispy. The recipe called for skinless fillets, and we agreed that was probably the best way to go since the baking was unlikely to crisp up the skin in the same way that pan searing would, so off it came.

So once the veg had roasted for 10 minutes, on popped the tomatoes – the recipe called for cherry toms, but we decided some vine tomatoes might look a bit prettier. They were drizzled with balsamic vinegar and roasted for another five minutes. And then it was on with the cod and a hefty helping of capers, more olive oil and some seasoning, and in the oven for another 10-12 minutes.

Roasted cod with fennel, vegetables and capers
Nothing like a ‘chuck everything in a roasting pan’ kinda dish to take the stress away

I’m actually less nervous about cooking fish than I am things like chicken, because it’s often pretty easy to tell when it’s cooked, especially white fish. And when you watch those chunky flakes gently fall apart, oozing that clean, fresh smell of the sea, you know it’s going to be a good dish.

We served it up with some new potatoes, crushed with Parmesan, olive oil and seasoning – a salute to the rustic Italian feel of the dish. The presentation was fairly simple, a hefty pile of veg, with the capers and cod laid on top, not forgetting the roasted tomatoes still on their vine. And I’ve become a fan of using circular moulds to arrange rice and potatoes. Very easy, but always makes it look that tiny bit more professional on a plate.

Roasted cod with fennel and balsamic vinegar
Roasted cod with fennel and balsamic vinegar

The verdict on tasting was good, and it was lucky we doubled the amounts as everything was eaten! The good thing about such a light dish for a dinner party is your guests don’t end up full to burst after the main course, and still have room for pud (more on that in the next post!).

So, one highly successful, easy main course. We’ve done meaty mains for dinner parties before that have taken hours of preparation, lengthy cooking times, and tonnes of prep. Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious, but in terms of effort and complexity this recipe was a dream compared to those and still produced the goods we wanted for an impressive dinner – damn tasty and pretty on a plate.

Next up – the not quite as successful dessert…..