Although you can buy tapenade, making your own will add much more flavour. Gemma recommends buying the cod in a single thick piece if you can as it will stay more tender. Or, if you prefer to use chicken, you can stuff the tapenade under the skin and scatter the breadcrumbs under the chicken to soak up the juices before roasting. Fancy lamb instead? No problem – simply spread the tapenade and crumbs over the surface of a leg of lamb before roasting.
Gemma also recommends doing some prep ahead – you can make the toasted crumbs and tapenade a couple of days before and the fennel can be braised the day before.
For the braised fennel
- 30g (1 oz) salted butter
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 large bulbs fennel
- 1 glass (200ml) Mirabeau rosé wine
- Half a stock cube – chicken or vegetable
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the roast cod with tapenade
- 900g (2lb) skinless boneless cod fillet, ideally in 1 piece
- 2 tbsps fresh breadcrumbs, made by blitzing a slice of bread in the food processor
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- A stem of rosemary
- 2 lemons
- 4 tbsps black olive tapenade, or make your own with the recipe below
For the tapenade
- 200g (7 oz) stone-in black olives, ideally Kalamata olives
- 3 tbsps capers
- 2 anchovies
- 1 clove of garlic
- A lemon
- 4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
For the braised fennel
1Heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection).
2Put the butter into a small frying pan over a medium heat while you peel and slice the garlic. Add the garlic slices to the pan along with the fennel seeds and cook gently while you prep the fennel.
3Cut the very ends off the fennel stalks, keeping any feathery fronds to use as a herb at the end of cooking. Chop the fennel bulb in half from root to stalk then cut the root ends off. Then cut each half into slices around 5mm (¼ inch) thick from root to tip. Lay the fennel in deep sided ceramic or glass baking dish, around A4 size.
4When the garlic is gently golden and soft, add the wine to the pan and allow to bubble for a minute before adding the stock cube and 100ml (half a cup) boiling water. Use a spatula to squish the cube into the liquid until combined then take off the heat and pour it over the fennel slices. Tightly cover the dish of fennel with foil then bake for 45 minutes until the fennel is tender.
5When the fennel is ready, either season with lemon zest and juice and a final splash of wine and serve immediately, or use as a base for the cod. Once cooked, the fennel can sit in the fridge for 4 days and can be reheated in the oven.
For the cod
1Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection).
2Put the breadcrumbs into a small frying pan with a teaspoon of oil and a whole stem of rosemary, cook on a medium heat for around 6 minutes, shaking occasionally until they turn a dark golden brown and rustle when you shake the pan. These can be done the day before and sit out of the fridge.
3Season both sides of the cod with salt and pepper then mix the tapenade and two thirds of the breadcrumbs together and spread over the top of the fish. It is easier but slightly messier to do this with your fingers.
4Place the cod on top of the cooked fennel or cook it on its own on a slightly oiled metal baking tray. Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your piece of fish. A single piece will take longer. Check after 10 minutes and once you see the large flakes starting to separate, take a look at the centre, it should no longer be cold and should gently flake when you push it, if it doesn’t flake, put it back in the oven for 2 minutes before checking again. Remember the fish will continue to cook for a few minutes so it is worth playing a waiting game and keep checking every 2 minutes at this stage.
5When the fish is ready, take it from the oven and zest a lemon all over the tapenade before sprinkling the remaining toasted breadcrumbs over the tapenade for a final contrasting crunch.
6Serve the fish and fennel with wedges of lemon. A blob of good homemade or shop bought mayonnaise would be pretty lovely alongside too.
For the tapenade
1Use the side of a knife to squish the olives then rip them to remove the stones. Discard the stones.
2Put all the olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine mush. Alternatively, crush in a mortar and pestle or chop finely with a knife.
3Add the olive oil and the juice and zest of half a lemon and mix or blend again. Taste and add more lemon juice and zest as needed. A jar will last for a week in the fridge.