This is a lovely dish. Try to get the cod from a sustainable source, such as Alaska, and you can usually get the cooked brown shrimps from a fishmonger. If peeled, cooked brown shrimps prove elusive, you could use potted shrimps instead, removing as much of the butter as possible, or small cooked prawns. Sea purslane can be found on salt marshes throughout the year and can be picked at any time. I prefer the smaller leaves and use them sparingly when a salty back note is required. Larger leaves can be blanched in boiling water or wilted down in cream or butter. An alternative could be samphire or even large leaf spinach. The key to this dish is having superb cod and ensuring your butter has reached the right ‘nut brown’ stage.
SERVES 4 as a sharing tapas, or 2 as a main course
2 x 100g/31⁄2oz cod fillets
3–4 tbsp olive oil, for cooking
100g/31⁄2oz unsalted butter
80g/23⁄4oz sea purslane (or samphire, or large leafed spinach, or 1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed well and chopped finely)
80g/23⁄4oz peeled pre-cooked brown shrimps, or potted shrimps
2–3 tsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1–2 tsp lemon juice
8 thin wild asparagus
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the batter
300ml/101⁄2 fl oz/scant 11⁄4 cups sparkling water
small pinch baking powder
80g/23⁄4oz/scant 2/3 cup plain flour, sifted
500ml/17 floz/2 cups vegetable oil
1 Incorporate all the batter ingredients together and mix well until smooth. Cover and rest until required.
2 Season the cod well with salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat and add enough olive oil to cover the base. once smoking, add the cod, skin side down, and cook for 3–4 minutes until the skin is crisp and golden brown. Turn the fillets and cook for a further 2 minutes.
3 Add the butter and then cook for 2–3 minutes until the butter turns a golden brown. (Too less and the flavour will lack, too much and it will burn.) as soon as the butter is right add the purslane, shrimps, parsley and the lemon juice to the pan. Cook for a further 1 minute. Remove the cod from the pan and keep it warm. Turn off the heat and season the butter with salt and pepper to taste.
4 Heat the vegetable oil in a high-sided pan to about 170°C/325°f. A cube of bread should brown instantly at this temperature. Dip the asparagus in the batter and then fry in the hot oil for 1–2 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the oil, drain well, and season.
5 Spoon the butter/shrimp sauce onto serving plates,top with the cod and the crispy asparagus. Serve immediately.