Recipe: Baked fillet of cod with a herb crust on a bed of creamy puy lentils

HEAD chef Matthew Read has a simple approach to his job at The Bluecoat and is the first to admit it sounds obvious – to provide customers with good food. Pushed further, he says his philosophy is to offer ‘simple, well-priced’ meals that encourage people to use the restaurant frequently rather than on special occasions only.

Moving from The Cricketers at Redbourne last November when The Bluecoat opened, he credits the pan-Mediterranean influences on cooking of the past 20 years or so for the style he has developed. He chose the cod dish featured here ‘because it is a good dinner-party item for people at home and it sells by the bucketful at The Bluecoat’ – but he has many more items in his repertoire, including an acclaimed salmon and spinach lasagne, to keep the customers coming. ‘I seem to be a lucky chef,’ he says. ‘Most places I have been, my cooking has been well received.

Baked fillet of cod with a herb crust on a bed of creamy puy lentils (serves 4)

4 x 200g cod fillet steaks

Herb crust:6 slices medium sliced white bread50g unsalted butter1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley� tsp chopped tarragon� tsp chopped chivessalt and pepper

Method:Melt butter, remove crusts from bread and chop in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. Add melted butter and herbs, process until thoroughly combined, season to taste and pour on to a sheet of baking parchment with another sheet on top. Roll out to a thickness of 3mm, place on a tray in fridge and allow 2 hours to set.

Creamy puy lentils:300g puy lentils1 white onion finely diced1 large carrot, peeled, quartered lengthways and finely sliced1 stick celery, split lengthways finely sliced1 clove garlic, crushed1 tsp chopped fresh thyme1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley� tsp chopped fresh tarragon1 bay leaf100ml white wine200ml double cream

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Method:Put lentils, garlic, bay leaf and thyme into a pan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10min. Drain and refresh with cold water. Remove bay leaf. In a clean pan, melt 50g unsalted butter, add onion, carrot and celery and cook on a low heat until onion is soft. Add lentils and cook on a low heat for a further 10min, add white wine and cook for 2min, add cream and cook for a 3min, add herbs and season.

Cooking the cod:Season cod and place on a buttered baking tray, cut herb crust into pieces the same size as the cod steaks and place on top and put into a preheated oven at 180deg C and cook for 10min. Remove from oven and check cod is cooked (flesh should look firm and white). Place under a preheated grill to finish browning crust. Dress lentils and sauce on plate and place cod on top.

BOOK A TABLE The Bluecoat117 Fore StreetHertford SG14 1AX01992