Cod Fillets from Cornwall

Cod fillet

Ask Chef Phyllis:

I am a native of Cornwall-on-the-sea in Great Britain. I haven’t lived there since 1976, but I remember how much seafood and fish were part of my daily life and daily meals. As a child, all of my early memories center around fishing off the rocks. I know none of the original recipes, but I do recall they often had unusual ingredients paired together, like fish and beans—my favorite. It has become my wish to duplicate some of these childhood recipes for my grandchildren. Can you help?
—Norey Morgans from Cambridge, Maine

I did a little research and learned that Cornwall is indeed a special seaside retreat town in Great Britain’s southwestern-most corner, and it’s still famous for some of the best seafood in the world, which is no wonder as the sun shines strongest there. The rocky cliffs, semitropical vegetation, sandy beaches, and palm trees—yes, palm trees—add a raw Mediterranean flair that’s missing from other parts of England.

The recipes of the region reflect unusual combinations, with some Roman or Neapolitan influence I think, including cod or hake with flageolet beans and a mussel, clam, and scallop bake with polenta, to mention just two. There are many recipes that match your request for Wine-Poached Cod with Beans, but this one is from Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant, which is open year-round in Cornwall. I hope this dish brings back great memories.


For the Mayonnaise Tarragon Sauce:
¾ cup good homemade mayonnaise
4 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh chopped tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon champagne or tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce

For the Cod Fillets:

8½ cups water
1 cup dried flageolet, cannellini, or white beans
4 shallots, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup dry white wine
4 (6–7 oz.) cod fillets, or hake if available
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3–4 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped, or 8–10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon champagne or tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon capers
Cayenne pepper, for garnish


  1. Prepare Mayonnaise-Tarragon Sauce by mixing mayonnaise, olive oil, tarragon, vinegar, mustard, and hot pepper sauce in a bowl. Refrigerate until needed.
  2. Bring 5½ cups water, beans, and half of the shallots to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer until beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and keep the beans covered.
  4. In a large skillet, heat remaining 3 cups water and wine to a boil to make a poaching liquid.
  5. Add fish, then bring the liquid back to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Cover tightly. Let stand until the fish is opaque in the center, about 10–13 minutes. If necessary, wrap to keep hot.
  6. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and add the remaining 2 shallots. Sauté 2 minutes. Add drained beans, tomatoes, and vinegar. Stir and mash a few of the beans until heated completely, about 3–4 minutes.
  7. Divide the bean mixture among serving plates. Using a slotted spatula, remove fish from the poaching liquid and place it atop the beans. Add 1–2 generous tablespoons of the Tarragon-Mayonnaise Sauce.
  8. Sprinkle with capers and cayenne pepper. Serve immediately.

Chef Phyllis


To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:

  • chemical- and hormone-free meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • pasture-raised, organic eggs
  • whole, unrefined grains
  • virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
  • whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
  • pure, clean, spring water
  • sea salt
  • raw and/or cultured milk and cream products

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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