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Man Food by Mark Hix | Crispy Cod Salad

Man Food by Mark Hix | Crispy Cod Salad

Esquire's resident chef Mark Hix gives you another dish for your to-do list. 

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Though we’ve been led to believe that cod is a no-go in the world of sustainable fishing, the truth is a little more complicated. Fishmongers are thin on the ground these days and I’ve tried quizzing supermarket floor staff about the rules but they seem as confused as the customers.

You can get an idea of what is OK to eat and what’s not from websites such as fish2fork.com and fishfight.net, both of which will tell you that cod from the abundant North East Arctic is still fine to eat without a guilty conscience.

Sadly, I missed out on a trip last year to the Lofoten Islands in Norway with fellow chef Mitch Tonks, but he reported back to me just how many cod he was pulling out of the water on hand lines. So many that he got bored of shaking them off their lures.

Here, I’ve given you three ways to get the most out of this succulent white fish. A whole cod of about 2–3kg should be big enough to feed six people. Simply ask your fishmonger to fillet, bone and skin the fish for you. (And make sure you check that it’s from the North East Arctic, too.)

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Crispy cod and bacon salad with horseradish (Serves 6 as a starter)

This dish makes good use of both the skinny tails and the fatty belly of your cod.

The salad
A whole piece of streaky bacon, weighing about 150g, rind removed and cut into rough 2cm cubes
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
250g or so of the cod tail and belly, cut into rough 2cm chunks
100–150g gluten-free self-raising flour
100ml milk
A couple of handfuls of small and tasty salad leaves like pea shoots, land cress, rocket, etc
2tbsps freshly grated horseradish

The dressing
1tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
4tbsps rapeseed or olive oil
2tsps Dijon or Tewkesbury mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1 | Put the pieces of bacon in a pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, then drain in a colander.
2 | Heat a little of the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon on a medium heat for 5–6 minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking until they are crisp, then blot on some kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven or under a very low grill.
3 | Meanwhile, preheat about 8cm of oil to 160–180°C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or deep-fat fryer.
4 | Season the fish, then pass through the flour, shaking off any excess. Pass through the milk, and then again through the flour.
5 | Deep fry for 2–4 minutes, turning the fish with a slotted spoon as it cooks, until crisp and golden. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
6 | To serve, whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season. Toss the leaves in the dressing and arrange on serving plates with the cod and bacon, then scatter the horseradish on top.

Photographs by Martha Pavlidou