Nigel Slater’s cod cheeks, pancetta and tomato recipe

Ready in minutes: cod cheeks, pancetta and tomato.

A quick and tasty fish and ham supper

The recipe

Cut 300g of smoked pancetta into small dice, each piece measuring roughly 2cm. Warm 2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan, add the pancetta and let it cook over a moderate heat, stirring regularly, until the fat starts to turn a translucent gold.

Pull the leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme and add them to the pancetta. Cut 2 large tomatoes (not beefsteak) into small dice and add to the pancetta. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, and then add 400g of cod cheeks.

Roughly chop the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of parsley and stir in together with a light seasoning of salt and black pepper. Continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes until the cheeks are cooked and the sauce is thick and brick red. Serve immediately. Enough for 2.

The trick

Cod cheeks need very little cooking. Trim any silvery skin from them and cut them into spoon-sized pieces if they are particularly large. Use large tomatoes, but not beefsteak as they have a tendency to be watery. The dish is on the table in 10 minutes and is at its best served immediately.

The twist

If cod cheeks remain elusive, you can use prawns, either shelled, or, if you are happy to get your fingers deliciously messy, in their shells. The cooking time will be the same, the cost considerably more.

The Observer aims to publish recipes for fish rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide

Email Nigel at or follow him on Twitter@NigelSlater