Cod Bilbaina

People are a little afraid to eat cod these days believing it to be environmentally irresponsible but sustainably sourced cod which is long-line caught is fine to eat (according to the Marine Conservation Society).  However, if you prefer not to you could happily substitute any of the lesser used white fish.

The most important thing you can do is make friends with your fish monger who can tell you everything you need to know about the fish you buy.

This recipe uses sherry and sherry vinegar, which may seem a bit extravagant, but they really do add a distictive Spanish flavour to the dish.  Remember to use a dry sherry – your grandmother’s Harveys Bristol Cream just won’t do!


4 cod fillets – evenly sized and about 4 cm thick

1 tbsp Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

For the Tomato Sauce

12 small plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

4 Cloves of Garlic

2 tbsp Olive Oil

2 Bay Leaves

2 tbsp Sherry (Fino or Manzanilla)

2 tbsp sherry vinegar


Pre heat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F / Gas mark 4.

First make the sauce

Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Cut the tomatoes in half (lengthways), peel and thinly slice the garlic and place in the pan with the bay leaves. Cook for 3-4 minutes until just soft. Add the sherry and sherry vinegar, season and allow to bubble for 2 minutes until reduced. Set aside but keep warm.

Heat a large, ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Put the cod pieces in the pan, skin side down, and fry for 4 minutes to crisp the skin. Remove from the heat and place the pan in the oven for a further 4 minutes until the cod is just cooked through.

Serve the fish immediately with the warm tomato sauce.


Tarta de Santiago

I first ate this tart in a restaurant in Santiago de Compostela at the end of a very long walk; every part of my body longed for a soak in a bath but first I needed sustenance.  After 5 weeks of frugality a very large glass of Rioja and a chunk of this tart made me a very happy woman indeed.  I was even happier next morning when it appeared on the breakfast buffet at the hotel I stayed in – now that’s what I call a pastry.

Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful cathedral city; the regional capital of Galicia in Spain.  The city buzzes with pilgrims who have completed the arduous Camino de Santiago and a distinct celebratory atmosphere exists throughout the walled old town.  You cannot possibly visit without gaining a sense of the history and culture of the region and without a desire to join the party.

This tart is a local speciality and it is truly delicious – almondy, rich and sweet it really hits the spot – if you like Bakewell tart you will love this.  The quince layer is made from quince jelly which you should be able to get from good delicatessen if you live in a large town or city – if not, do what I do and order it on line.  Quince jelly is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to cheese so make sure you save a bit for a cheese course.

Serve the tart with cream or ice cream or, better still, indulge in a little Spanish/Cornish fusion and add a little clotted cream.  It is wonderful accompanied by a glass of chilled Oloroso or a little almondi liqueur, either of which serves to bring out the almondy flavours perfectly..

The original recipe for this tart can be found in Modern Spanish Cooking by Sam and Eddie Hart, to whom I am indebted.


For the Pastry

30g / 1 1/2 oz ground almonds

225g / 8oz Plain Flour

100g / 3 1/2 oz Icing Sugar

Pinch of Salt

135g / 5 oz Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)

Grated zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

1 Egg, free range, beaten

For the Almond Filling

200g / 7 oz Ground Almonds

Grated zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

Grated zest and Juice of 1 orange

2 tbsp Amaretto almond liqueur

200g / 7 oz Unsalted Butter

100g / 3 1/2 oz Icing Sugar

4 Eggs, free range

For the Quince Layer

120g / 4 1/2 oz Quince Jelly

1 tbsp water

Squeeze lemon juice

To Finish

Icing sugar for dusting


To Make the Pastry

Mix together the ground almonds, flour, icing sugar and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. This can all be done in a food processor if you prefer.

Add the lemon zest and juice along with the egg and mix until it comes together into a smooth dough. Do not over work the dough. Wrap the pastry dough in cling film and chill for three hours.  Don’t be alarmed by this pastry – at this stage it is more like a soft paste than a normal pastry dough which is why it needs chilling for so long.

Lightly grease a large tart tin (25-30 cm in diameter).

Roll out the pastry thinly on a cold surface – this pastry has a high butter content so you need to keep it cool.  You will also need plenty of flour on the surface and the rolling pin. Use to line the tart tin, pressing the pastry well into the sides. Return to the fridge to chill once more (15-20 minutes) before baking. This will help to prevent the pastry from shrinking too much.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas mark 4

Trim the excess pastry from around the tart tin, line the pastry case with greaseproof pastry and baking beans and bake “blind” for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and baking beans and return to the oven for a further five minutes to dry out the base. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To Make the Almond Filling

Put the ground almonds into a bowl and mix through the citrus zests and juices and the amaretto. Set aside.

Beat together the icing sugar and butter, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add this mixture to the almond mix and stir well. Set aside.

To make the quince layer

Put the quince jelly, water, and a squeeze of lemon juice in a small pan and stir over a low heat until the jelly is melted and smooth. Pour a thin layer of the quince mixture over the base of the pastry case, spoon the almond mixture over the top and use the back of the spoon to ensure a smooth, even layer.

Bake the tart for 40 – 45 minutes until the filling is golden.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then carefully transfer the tart to a plate. Dust with icing sugar and serve, warm, with clotted cream or ice cream.