Cod with horseradish and brown butter

Torsk med pepparrot och brynt smör

Cod with freshly grated horseradish and brown butter

Swedes combine fish and horseradish so frequently that many fishmongers in Sweden stock fresh horseradish. It really is a delicious combination and when combined with brown butter I don’t think there is a better way of cooking cod.

I rarely see fresh horseradish in my local supermarket, so you may struggle finding some. Whenever I see any I buy it because it keeps very well if wrapped in clingfilm (food wrap) and kept in the dark. I normally keep it in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of months. If you can’t find any you can use a jar of hot horseradish sauce, but for this particular dish it isn’t as good as fresh horseradish.

Skrei at London's Borough Market

Supermarkets in the UK tend to only stock cod fillets. Although you can make this dish with fillets the flavour and texture is much better if you can find a good fishmonger, either locally or online, to supply cod steaks on the bone. Even better if you can find some Skrei, a migratory cod caught off the coast of Norway between January and April.

My favourite accompaniments for this dish are new potatoes and fresh English asparagus, which both go wonderfully with brown butter. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for cod steaks with horseradish


• Leave grating the horseradish until just before serving to prevent it from discolouring. (That's why horseradish is normally mixed with vinegar.)

Chopped egg and cornichons in a dish

• I like to add a little chopped egg, chopped cornichon and some coarsely ground black pepper to each dish and then put the cod on top of it.


3 tbsp   salt
1 litre (2 pints) water
1   onion, peeled and sliced
2   carrots, peeled and sliced
10   white peppercorns
3   allspice corns
2   bay leaves
4   cod steaks, about 250 g (8 oz) each
75 g (3 oz) fresh horseradish, finely grated
170 g (¾ cup) butter, preferably unsalted
    lemon wedges to garnish
    dill sprigs to garnish


Poaching liquid being prepared

1. Add the salt, water, onion, carrots, corns and bay leaves to a large pan. (Make sure the pan is big enough to take all the cod steaks.) Heat until the mixture boils and then simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Lower the cod steaks into the pan and return to boiling point. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until the fish comes away from the bone.

3. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat until it is a light brown colour and then keep warm. (See below for further advice.)


4. Peel the horseradish with a potato peeler and then grate it using the medium cutter on a grater.

5. Serve the cod steaks on individual plates or dishes, topped with the grated horseradish, and pour some of the brown butter over. Garnish with lemon wedges and sprigs of dill. Serve the remaining browned butter in a jug for people to help themselves to if they want more.

Browning butter

Browned butter adds an extra dimension to the dish and is fairly easy to do if you follow our tips. The idea is that the butter is heated a little past its melting point, which results in the milk solids in the butter browning and creating a wonderful nutty aroma.

Sliced butter in a thick bottomed saucepan

1. Heat a thick bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add the butter cut into slices or cubes so that it heats evenly and all the butter melts at the same time.

Butter being heated in a saucepan until foaming

2. Once the butter has melted whisk it frequently. It will produce quite a lot of white foam initially, but then the foam will begin to subside.

Butter being browned in a saucepan

3. Continue whisking and heating the butter, but watching it carefully. Lightly browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will give off a gorgeous nutty aroma.

Browned butter in a saucepan

4. Once the butter is a rich golden colour and has a nice nutty aroma, remove the butter from the heat to stop it from cooking any more, but keep it warm. When required, pour it carefully over and around the fish, leaving the speckly brown bits in the saucepan. 

If you are worried about browning the butter when you've got guests, you can brown it in advance and then gently reheat it.

Butter is easy to brown provided you watch it carefully and keep whisking it. If you neglect it and end up overcooking it, so that the butter becomes black, I am afraid you will have to discard it and start again!


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