Sourdough cod cheeks with spicy pea salsa
For the cod cheeks
- 150g/5½oz stale sourdough bread, roughly chopped
- 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest only, plus extra lemon wedges to serve
- 75g/2½oz plain flour
- 3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 20 cod cheeks, cleaned, membranes removed (available from fishmongers or online specialists)
- vegetable oil (or vegetable oil mixed with beef dripping), for deep-frying
For the salsa
For the cod cheeks, blend the bread to crumbs in a food processor, then add the lemon zest and pulse again to combine. Tip the mixture into a shallow bowl and clean the food processor.
Sprinkle the flour onto a plate and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
In batches, dust the cod cheeks in the flour, then dip them in the beaten egg, then roll them in the breadcrumb mixture until completely coated. Place each breaded cod cheek on a plate. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until needed.
For the salsa, blend the peas, mint, chillies, lime juice and crème fraîche in the food processor to a rough paste. Tip it into a serving bowl, cover and chill until needed.
Heat the oil (and dripping, if using) in a deep-fat fryer to 190C. Alternatively, heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden-brown when dropped into it. (CAUTION: Hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)
Carefully lower the cod cheeks into the hot fat in batches, and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Repeat the process with the remaining cod cheeks.
To serve, pile the breaded cod cheeks onto a serving platter. Place the lemon wedges and the bowl of pea salsa alongside.
Tip 1: Cod cheeks are solid lumps of meat with a membrane running through them, which needs to be removed - ask your fishmonger to do this for you. If you can’t get hold of cod cheeks, cod fillets will do.
Tip 2: Both the cod cheeks and the salsa can be prepared one day in advance and chilled to make your dinner party run smoothly.