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Rick Stein’s Deep-Fried Cod Stuffed with Pesto Butter

Delicious deep fried cod stuffed with a fresh pesto butter. This Rick Stein fish recipe takes the contrast of a crisp coating with delicate white fish beneath.


The contrast between a crisp, golden breadcrumb coating, delicate flakes of moist white fish and a just-melted centre of fragrant basil, garlic and pine kernel pesto is a delight. It is important to get the right cut offish for this dish. A good thick fillet of cod cut from just behind the head of a large fish is ideal.

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For the pesto butter:
15g / ½ oz fresh basil
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
15g / ½ oz Parmesan cheese, grated
15g / ½ oz pine kernels
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
25g / 1oz butter, softened
For the cod:
1 x 1.25kg / 2½ lb thick fillet of cod, skinned
40g / 1½ oz plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
75g / 3oz fresh white breadcrumbs
Sunflower oil for deep frying


First make the pesto butter: Put all the ingredients except the butter into a food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and beat in the softened butter Spoon the pesto butter on to a sheet of cling film in a line about 10 cm (4 in) long, then roll it up in the cling film into a sausage shape, twisting the ends of the cling film to secure it. Put in the freezer until hard. When the butter is firm, use to stuff the fish (see below).

Stuffing the Cod with Pesto Butter

Trim away the thinner belly flap from the fillet and cut the rest into four 175 g (6 oz) pieces, each about 12.5 cm (5 in) long.

To make a pocket in the pieces of cod, make a deep cut, 7.5 cm (3 in) long, in the side of each piece of fish with a small, sharp knife, taking care not to cut right through to the other side.

Remove the butter from the freezer, unwrap and cut into slices 1 cm (½ in) thick Gently poke 2 pieces of butter into the pocket of each piece of fish and then close up the pocket so that no butter is visible.

Pour the oil into a large pan so that it is about one-third full. Heat to 180°C/350°F or until a small piece of white bread dropped into the oil browns and rises to the surface in 1½ minutes. Dip the pieces of fish in the seasoned flour, making sure that they are all well coated. Then dip them into the beaten egg and lastly the breadcrumbs, pressing them on well to give a thick, even coating. Deep-fry the fish, 2 pieces at a time, for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper; then serve straight away.


Sun-dried Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper and Chilli Butter

Finely chop ½ roasted red pepper 2 sun-dried tomatoes and ½ red finger chilli, then mix together with a little salt Beat in 25 g (1 oz) softened butter then continue as for the main recipe.

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