Last week my oldest friend from Denmark came to visit me in Toronto, and I was excited to show her around and had just bought a great book about strolls in Toronto. To me walking through neighborhoods in a city is the best way really to get a feel of the diversity a city has to offer. I guess it’s a bit as with food, you have to smell it to really know it and enjoy it. When we got home from one of our walks, we were tired in that pleasant way where you are ready for a nice glass of wine and comfort food. None of us, however, was ready to spend hours in the kitchen cooking dinner, so I remembered this recipe which I partly owe to my cousin’s husband who is a great cook and a great admirer of French cooking. It’s a very simple dish really, and it only takes about 40 minutes to make, which is lightning speed in my book, considering it is real comfort food. Like all the best French cooking it is also very honest with only a few ingredients, a bit masculine, kind of like a Breton, with loads of garlic and strong tastes, and it will, I promise, keep an oncoming cold at bay. It’s also a very easy way to cook cod, which is a wonderful but, let’s be honest, very delicate fish to cook. And to my own great surprise even the kids liked it (minus the olives though :)).
Cod and tomato stew with lots of garlic, parsley and black olives (serves 4 as a main, 6 as a starter)
1.5-2 lbs (700-800 g) cod fillet
20 medium sized tomatoes
2-3 tbsp canola (rapeseed) oil
15 cloves (about 2 bulbs) garlic
5 oz (150 ml) white wine (preferably a French Sauvignon Blanc – I’d serve the rest with the dish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sugar
1 large bunch of parsley
About 1.5 oz (50 g) Nicoise olives
French baguette to serve
1. First, cut the tomatoes into cubes and remove the stem. Don’t worry too much about the cubes being the same size as the tomatoes will cook into a sauce. Peel the garlic cloves so they are ready to be pressed.
2. Heat the canola (rapeseed) oil in a sauté pan on maximum heat for a minute, and pour the tomato cubes into the pan. Stir for 1-2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium. Press all the garlic cloves into the tomato sauce, stir, and then add the white wine, a pinch of sugar and about 6 pinches or churns of sea salt and 4-5 churns of freshly ground black pepper. Stir for a minute and then turn down the heat low while you cover the pan with a lid and let the tomato sauce simmer while you prepare the cod.
3. Cut the cod into portion sizes about 3 inches wide. Season them with a bit of salt and pepper before gently putting them on top of the sauce to stew. Put back the lid on the pan and let the cod stew for about 10-12 minutes. The sauce should simmer just a bit while you stew the fish, so check the heat and turn it up just a little if needed, otherwise the fish will not stew properly. While the fish is stewing, chop up the parsley.
4. Check if the fish is cooked properly. If you’re not sure if the fish is ready or not, get a fork and gently check one of the pieces of cod to see if it falls apart into flakes easily. If it does it’s ready. When it’s ready, serve the stew in soup plates. Start by scooping up some of the tomato stew onto the plates and then carefully place 2-3 pieces of fish on top, ideally without the fish breaking up into pieces. Garnish with Nicoise olives, loads of chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve with fresh French baguette. The whole point of the baguette is basically to scoop and soak up as much of the stew as you possibly can, so please don’t hold back. This is after all what comfort food is all about.