For seemingly months now, since the last rolls of Christmas wrap were pensioned off in discount bins, supermarket entrances have been lined with tinsel-wrapped chocolate rabbits standing in rows and staring at entering customers like mute soldiers. People have generally been sensible enough not to buy them yet, but occasionally one gets dragged off its cardboard sentry box and thrown unceremoniously into a trolley, never to see the light of day on Easter morn. Hot cross buns are a little further in, near the bread wall; but in their own racks, like a baked goods minority sect. They seem to be selling better than the rabbits, but there must be plenty thrown out. They won't keep until Good Friday.
I prefer to wait for Easter for Easter things, but even so I won't be buying any hot cross buns from any supermarket. I have my sources and they are not far from home.
One Eastery thing, however, does come early for me. Of course, smoked cod is available all year round but I associate it with Good Friday because I had it on that day for as long as I can remember. I don't know why. Must have been a family thing. Shops once never opened on Good Friday, so smoked cod was bought early and kept better than fresh. (Shops never opened on Sundays once either, but that's another story. Imagine if shops still didn't open on Sundays: people wouldn't know what to do with themselves. They'd go nuts. All that peace and quiet.)
Digressing aside, I bought some smoked cod and cooked in the way it was always cooked: with an onion-flecked, bay-infused white sauce that, combined with the fish, creates a delicious house-filling aroma that for some reason seems to fit perfectly with these golden autumn days, still warm, of longer shadows and cooler nights.
Smoked cod with onion sauce.
Simmer your smoked cod in enough milk (full cream, please; skim is becoming the default choice in many 'fridges but full cream has its uses) to barely cover it, adding a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and a chopped onion.
Simmer twenty minutes. Remove fish to plates. Melt 50g butter in a saucepan, add a couple of tablespoons of flour and stir through off the heat; stir into white sauce to thicken. Add chopped parsley if desired. Pour sauce over fish. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes.
Cod is inexpensive, so buy extra and make kedgeree out of the leftovers: flake the fish into cooked rice and add a selection of spices; for example, freshly ground coriander seeds, cardomom pods, a little chili, crushed curry or fenugreek leaves, cumin, garam masala etc etc. Add salt, fold through a little cream. Top each serve with a gently poached egg and sprinkle with finely chopped spring onion.