Simple Pan-Fried Cod Fillet with Sauce Vierge

February 6, 2013

What is sauce vierge? It's a simple vinaigrette-style sauce of olive oil, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and lemon juice - and it's excellent on fish! Sauces don't have to be complicated, nor does cooking fish. Watch how easy it is to make this delicious Mediterranean Pan-Fried Cod Fillet with Sauce Vierge recipe in this short video and get the recipe below.

Pan fried cod, Sauce Vierge. Sauce Vierge, what is it?  It’s virgin olive oil, tomatoes, coriander (cilantro), basil, lemon juice, very simple, very pretty dish, very clean, and easy to make.  Our fish cube, a tiny bit of olive oil and as you’ll notice I’m going to cook my cod skin on because I think the skin, one - protects it, two - adds flavor and it just helps it stay moist. Okay, as you can see, I have my paste.  Again, this is one large fillet which I chopped into three, which I got down the supermarket.  If you don’t like cod, use haddock.  If you can’t get cod, get a haddock, you know, it’s simple.  This sauce goes well with red mullet, with sea bass, with see bream.  It goes well with cod, it goes well with haddock.  It’s just a great sauce to go with fish.  When I walk into the supermarket and the fish has got a head on, I look at the head.  I want to see the eyes, I want to see that they’re glossy and clear, I want to see that the gills aren’t oxidized.  But, not all fish has a head on so therefore, I like to feel my fish, I want it nice and firm.  I want to build that relationship with the fishmonger because he’s going to steer me in the right direction.

As you’ve noticed I’ve put my cod into a very hot pan.  Why?  Because when I put my three cod steaks into that pan, what happens?  It takes the heat out of the pan, so in a strange sort of way, what I’m doing is making the pan hotter than I already want it, knowing full well once I put the three cods steaks in, it’s going to take it to the temperature that I want it.  So now while that’s cooking, that’s got about another two and half/three minutes to go, we’ll make our Sauce Vierge, again, olive oil in a pan, lemon juice.  So what are we really making?  We’re making a vinaigrette basically, with lemon and oil; it’s as simple as that.  I think the secret of cooking fish is having confidence.  A lot of people are scared because they don’t know how to make a sauce but why do you have to make a sauce?  So let’s take some basil leaves.  And again, it’s your choice how much you want to put in there.  I like basil, so therefore I have a fair bit.  Just cut them in half or into three, so in with the basil, nice and simple.  And when you put your knife into the fish if there is resistance, it’s still undercooked.  The knife should just sink straight into it.

And with the Sauce Vierge, just bring it up to the heat.  If it boils, what happens is, you’re evaporating the lemon so all you end up with is a pan of oil.  And then what we add, some fresh tomatoes and just warm them slowly.  And then what we take, we take our tomatoes, sprinkle fresh herbs on top, whatever you have, coriander, basil, parsley, delicious.  It’s a great lunchtime dish in the summer; I mean I’ve served this many times in my restaurant.  The last bit, just finish, a bit of coriander and a little salt crystal.  Cook the cod four or five minutes in the pan, lemon juice, olive oil in another pan, fresh basil, tomatoes and serve (continue watching video here).

Pan-Fried Cod Fillet with Sauce Vierge
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 min.
Cook time: 5 min


4 cod fillets, preferably with skin on
1x Knorr Fish Stock Cube
4 tomatoes (skinned, de-seeded and chopped) *See tip below!
3 tbsp basil

2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped 
Scant 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
3/4 cup black olives

To make the sauce vierge, put the olive oil in a pan and add some lemon juice. Tailor the recipe to your own taste – 3 parts oil to one part lemon is about right. Cut the basil leaves into two or three pieces, depending on their size, then add them to the pan with the tomato, parsley and cilantro.

Make a paste with a Knorr Fish Stock Cube and a tiny bit of olive oil and rub it onto the fish fillet to season it. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Then, when it is very hot, add the fish. I cook the cod skin-on for extra flavour and to protect the fish while it cooks. If you don’t like the taste, just peel it off afterwards. The cod will need two, maximum three minutes cooking time on each side, depending on the thickness of the pieces. If you can’t get cod, try haddock, sea bream, sea bass or red mullet. All are delicious with this easy recipe.

With two or three minutes to go, heat up the sauce vierge slowly and gently in the pan. Transfer the fish to a serving plate. Once the sauce is warm – not hot – pour it over the fish.

Scatter the black olives over the top, then sprinkle fresh herbs such as basil, coriander or parsley to garnish. Finish with a little sea salt and just a splash of olive oil.

*TIP: To peel tomatoes, put them in boiling water and remove after 30 seconds. The skin will come away easily.