za’atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce

za’atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce

I received two Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks for my birthday, and I have fallen in love with his cuisine ever since I first cooked one of his recipes. What I love about Ottolenghi’s cuisine is his mix of Middle Eastern flavors — something I can totally relate to, as we both come from an Israeli background. Featuring some of my favorite ingredients — such as tahini, za’atar, tomatoes, cumin and paprika — Ottolenghi’s recipes are always a hit in our home, impressing both Jon and I as well as our guests. So far I’ve tried several vegetable recipes and meat dishes as well as what Ottolenghi calls codcakes in tomato sauce, which, to my surprise, turned boring cod fillets into some of the most scrumptious fish patties I’ve ever tasted. But as you probably know by now, I love to tweak recipes and add my personal touch, and so I’ve reworked Ottolenghi’s codcakes and added a couple more of my favorite ingredients, such as za’atar — a Middle Eastern herb generally made out of thyme, oregano and sesame seeds.

za'atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce za'atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce

Fish is one of my favorite healthy things to cook, however I have to admit that cod is never my first choice. With its delicate, mild flavor, cod can be quite bland if you cook it as is, unlike salmon which tends to be delicious even when just grilled on its own. But once I season cod and cook it in a delicious sauce, it becomes one of my favorite fish fillets, so soft and so full of flavor.

za'atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce

Ottolenghi’s recipe calls for cooking cod patties in a thick tomato-onion sauce spiced with paprika, ground coriander, cumin and garlic. He suggests slicing cod fillets into tiny chunks, mixing them with parsley, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, an egg and breadcrumbs before forming them into patties. Slicing the cod fillets by hand gives them a chunkier texture, but I like to throw all the ingredients including the fish into my food processor and mix them until thoroughly combined. This not only saves time, but also ensures that you’ll have a homogenous mixture.

za'atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce

The tomato sauce is made by frying diced onion in olive oil with cumin, paprika, ground black pepper and ground coriander until softened and fragrant. Then add crushed tomatoes, crushed garlic, salt and a bit of sugar, and let the whole simmer until it thickens and smells utterly delicious. Meanwhile, whiz all the ingredients for the patties in your food processor — or slice the cod fillets by hand into tiny chunks and combine the rest by hand — and form tight, small patties with your hands, ensuring that you press each and every one to make sure that they’ll remain intact while cooking. Fry the patties in a bit of olive oil to give them some color on both sides, then add them to the tomato mixture. Sprinkle some za’atar on top of the patties, add enough water to the skillet to cover half of the patties, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes until cooked through. The za’atar increases the Middle Eastern aromas of this dish while bringing a pungent flavor to both the patties and the tomato sauce, making this dish the perfect healthy yet incredibly tasty meal to serve on top of rice or bulgur. Who says cod is always bland now?

za'atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce

za'atar spiced cod patties in tomato sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Israeli
Serves: 8 to 10 patties
Ingredients for tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Ground black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 400g canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
Ingredients for the cod patties
  • 400g cod fillets
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 medium onion, roughly choped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • More olive oil to fry the patties
  • 2 teaspoons za'atar
  1. Start with the preparation of the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the onions with the cumin, paprika, coriander and ground black pepper until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the white wine and let simmer until half of the liquid has evaporated. Add the canned crushed tomatoes, garlic clove, salt and sugar and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Prepare the cod patties while the tomato sauce is cooking. Place all the ingredients for the cod patties into a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into small patties, patting them firmly to make sure that they stick together. You should have about 8 to 10 patties.
  3. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet and fry the patties for 3 minutes on each side. When golden on each side, add them to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Add enough water to the skillet to cover half of the patties. Sprinkle the za'atar over the patties. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through and tender. Serve immediately.
HEAVILY ADAPTED FROM: Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Codcakes in tomato sauce, from their Jerusalem cookbook


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