Light & Bright - Baked Cod on a bed of ratatouille with curry butter - Tomato, Olive and Lemon Cous Cous

Funny how the weather suddenly turned wet and miserable just when summer was announced, and all the fashion pages filled up with beachwear and sandals – but,  except on the darkest days, there’s a different quality to the light at this time of year that urges us to think colourfully in the kitchen too. Today’s recipes should be just the ticket – one for a special meal, and one for a quick but satisfying bite.
Recipe for Baked Cod on a bed of ratatouille with curry butter and a poppadomBaked Cod on a Bed of Ratatouille with Curry Butter & a Poppadom
The Irish love affair with Indian food continues to develop and this subtle take on the familiar fish curry comes from the BIM Seafood Restaurant of the Year, The King Sitric in Howth, Co Dublin, which overlooks the harbour, so chef-proprietor Aidan MacManus can see the fishing boats coming in – and also keep an eye on his lobster pots in nearby Balscadden Bay. They give  a listing of Irish fish in six languages on the menu – if only more rerstaurants would do that.  Although cod is suggested here, any firm-fleshed white fish could  be used.  Serves 4:

4 x 170-225g/ 6-8oz portions of cod fillet
1 rounded tbsp flour mixed with 1 tsp curry powder, or to taste  
a little olive oil
Curry butter (see below)
Ratatouille to serve (see below)

Peheat a moderate oven, 180’C/350’F/gas mark 4.
Dust the fish with the flour and curry powder mixture, shaking off any excess, then pan fry in a little olive oil for 1-2 minutes on each side.  Place on an oiled tray with about 2oz/50g of the curry butter on top,  and finish in the preheated oven for 6-8 minutes. Place on a generous bed of ratatouille pouring all of the melted butter on top.  Finish with a poppadom on top to serve.

Ratatouille makes a great side dish for all sorts of main courses, including barbecued meats and poultry as well as fish. It is a little early in the year for it, but Irish peppers are certainly in the shops, and the other ingredients wil be gradually arriving over the next month or two - and, meanwhile, will be available from southern European countries.

1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 medium aubergine
1 courgette
1 clove garlic
3 tomatoes
Olive oil

Slice the onion and dice all the other vegetables except the tomatoes, which you need to skin (loosen the skin first,by immersing briefly in boiling water) and deseed.  Crush the garlic.  Saut the onion and garlic in the olive oil until just cooked then add all of the other items, cover and cook slowly for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with grated nutmeg and pepper.

Curry Butter
A handy flavoured butter to keep in the fridge and use as required.

½ cooking apple (or a whole small one)
1 clove garlic
1 medium red onion
2 tablespoons hot curry powder
A little oil for cooking
225g/½ lb  butter

Peel the apple and chop into fairly small pieces, and do the same with the onion and garlic, then saut with the curry powder until cooked.  Cool, then blend with the butter until smooth. Turn into a screwtop jar seal and refrigerate to use as needed.

Recipe for Tomato, Olive and Lemon Cous CousSHORT RECIPE : TOMATO OLIVE AND LEMON COUSCOUS

This versatile and colourful salad can be rustled up in 10  minutes. to serve as a starter or  accompaniment - or you could add an extra ingredient  such as balls of goat cheese, or slivers of cooked ham or  chicken, to make a light main course to serve with some fresh crusty bread.   Serves 4

150g/5oz couscous
zest and juice 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
225g/8oz cherry tomatoes, halved
75g/3oz pitted black olives
1 small crisp-leaved lettuce - eg cos or Little Gem - washed and dried  (or a bag of salad leaves)

 Boil a kettle of water. Place the couscous, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and plenty of seasoning in a large bowl, then add 300ml/1/2pt boiling water from the kettle. Stir well then leave to soak for 10 minutes or until the water has been absorbed by the couscous.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and parsley and halve the cherry tomatoes.
When the couscous is ready, stir in the onion, parsley, tomatoes and olives, and season to taste. Place the salad leaves on a large platter or shallow bowl then spoon the couscous mixture on top and serve.


What Is It?
Couscous looks like a grain but it is actually a kind of pasta and is made from semolina, the durum wheat flour used to make commercial Italian pasta.

Where Does It Come From? It is a northern African speciality, particularly associated with traditional Moroccan cooking, where it is steamed in special pots (couscousieres)  over big stews of spicy vegetables and meat or fish – one of the world’s great one-pot dishes.

Where Can I Get It? It is very easily available in Ireland now, and found on the supermarket shelf,  along with rices and regular pastas.

What Can I Do With It?
The version on sale in this country is usually pre-cooked, which means it only needs to be moistened and steamed for long enough to heat it through; then softened butter can be stirred through it to separate the grains and add flavour, in the same way as pasta is tossed in olive oil. It’s a very handy convenience food, ideal at any time but especially at a time of year when the new season produce can seem slow to arrive. Use it as an accompaniment for ‘wet’ dishes – simply fluff up with a fork before serving – or as a base for mixed dishes, especially salads.  

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