Sourdough cod cheeks with spicy pea salsa

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This sophisticated dish takes a lesser known part of the fish and jazzes it up as a sensational starter.

Equipment and preparation: for this recipe you will need a food processor.

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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


  1. 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.

  2. Sprinkle the flour onto a plate and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Beat the eggs in a bowl.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.)

  6. 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.

  7. To serve, pile the breaded cod cheeks onto a serving platter. Place the lemon wedges and the bowl of pea salsa alongside.

Recipe Tips

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.