There is change in the air. Summer is moving to autumn and cooler winds mean jumpers and even jackets. Bows on the trees groan with the weight of apples that should have been picked. Morning mists hang static and damper nights draw in sooner.
Depressing? Not really. I love that time of year. The subtlest smell of smoke from bonfires burning the end-of-Summer pruning drifts in the air. Trees perhaps looking sad and naked, but their roots will be cloaked with piles of dry brittle leaves just ready for the kicking. But I am not ready for that just yet. In my defiantly Summery mood I am still wearing shorts (Ok, only indoors and with a jumper), eating salads, draining the last reserves of the rosé wine, and reading books that bring summer thoughts to the coolest and darkest corners of the house.
Even so, I want to cook something that reflects my contrary mood. I am leaning towards heartier ingredients to keep me warm, and, as I am recovering from the heaviest of ‘man flu’ colds, has a healthy element to it as well.
Cod with Tapenade crust
Large piece of cod (salt cod rinsed thoroughly, or plain cod)
Jar of Tapenade (I had a jar of olive paste and added a teaspoon of rinsed capers, a good squeeze of anchovy purée, garlic, tossed into the blender then added oil to loosen and a squeeze of lemon juice)
Plum tomatoes on the vine
Baby leaf spinach
Flat leaf parley for garnish
Massage the cod with olive oil, smear the top with the tapenade and place in a roasting dish. I parboiled some large new potatoes, sliced them into thick discs and placing them under the fish first. Oil the tomatoes keeping them on the vine, put them around the cod. Place in a heated oven for 20 minutes at 180C (this could vary depending on the size of the fish). Remove the fish and tomatoes to a warm plate, throw the spinach into the roasting dish and wilt in the oils.
Not one to pat myself on the back (Oh go on Lou), this works for me. The contrast between the green and red vegetables and the dramatic black on white of the fish and paste (similar in contrast to the Cristianos y Moros recipe of beans and rice) is pleasing to the eye. To the taste, the sourness of the tapenade contrasted well with the rich, meaty fish emphasising its natural sweetness. The pepper and citrus zing were well tempered by the potatoes (thank goodness I was feeling greedy!) and further helped by a bottle of chilled and summer and citrus fruit flavoured Torres rosé (congratulations to Miguel Torres on his wine award for life time achievement) to keep in the spirit of things.
In the end, summer is still in my soul for the short term and my thirst for sun will be thankfully sated by my holiday to Spain. Then, and only then, will I be ready for the autumn lull and the run up to Christmas (did I say that?!), coats, boots, fires and stews.