TONY STAPLES: Make your ingredients work twice as hard this December

Cod loins with Dauphin potatoes and pancetta twirls
Cod loins with Dauphin potatoes and pancetta twirls

Hosting a dinner party in the days leading up to Christmas Day? Make your ingredients work twice as hard to give you a head start, says Tony Staples, executive head chef of the Arora Hotel in Crawley..

Having friends round for dinner on the Friday before Christmas calls for a special fish dish. What gives this recipe the ‘wow’ factor are the accompaniments – tiny, crispy pancetta twirls and light-as-air Dauphin potato puffs. We serve it in The Grill restaurant on a sweep of broccoli cream, decorated with broccoli foam.

The good news is that some of this dish can be prepared in advance and the accompaniments have a dual use. You can make extra of the pancetta twirls to keep in the fridge and serve with turkey on Christmas Day. And the Dauphin potato puffs can become party nibbles by adding some grated cheese – perfect for dipping into cranberry sauce.

The Grill in the Arora is Crawley’s only AA-rosette restaurant and has recently retained this honour for the third year running. To book, phone 01293 530000. Follow us on Twitter. You can share your fish dishes on Instagram by tagging @aroragatwick. Visit

Cod and pancetta with Dauphin potato puffs

Serves 4

4 cod loins

1 tab rapeseed oil

For the Dauphin potatoes:

500g hot water

200g unsalted butter

50g caster sugar

250g plain flour

9 eggs

125g peeled and chopped King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes

12 slices of pancetta


Wrap parchment paper around a stainless-steel rod, about 1cm in diameter, then wrap the pancetta slices around this. Place the rod in a preheated oven, 175oC, until the pancetta twirls are crisp - about 13 minutes. When cool, slide off the rod and keep in air tight container.

For the Dauphin potatoes, make the mash by boiling the potatoes until soft and mashing just with salt and pepper, no butter. Keep warm.

Put the butter, hot water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the butter has melted. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough.

Pop into a mixing bowl and beat in the eggs with a hand whisk, until the batter is smooth and reaches a dropping consistency. Fold in the hot mash with salt and pepper. This will now keep in the fridge for a few days.

Heat oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180oC. Using two dessertspoons, form oval shapes out of the potato mix and drop into the hot oil. They will be cooked when they float to the top and are golden brown (about four mins). Drain on kitchen paper.

To cook the fish, score the skin with a sharp knife and season with salt and paper. Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a frying pan and cook the fish, skin side down, for three mins. Turn over and cook for a further three minutes or until the fish ‘gives’ a little when pressed with your finger.

Serve the fish on warmed plates with the Dauphin potato puffs and decorate with pancetta twirls.

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