Recipe: Nisha Katona’s Cod and Popcorn Gratin

Nisha Katona’s cod and popcorn gratin

Nisha Katona’s cod and popcorn gratin

Cook up a delicious dish with a little help from Nisha Katona

Words by Liz Skone James

In her new book, out this month, the TV chef and founder of Mowgli Street Food restaurants shows us that thinking outside the box in the way ingredients are combined can change the way you cook forever

The stunning new cookbook from TV chef and bestselling cookery author Nisha Katona takes her signature style of big flavours and applies it to classic dishes. Out this month, Bold: Big flavour twists to classic dishes is packed full of seriously tasty dishes that are guaranteed to impress whoever you’re cooking for. From family favourites to exciting and exotic dishes you may never have tried before, Nisha’s aim is to encourage us to step out of our comfort zone and try something new – though none will involve spending hours in the kitchen, or a fortune on ingredients. A chicken burger is given a makeover with crunchy nut flakes; an oxtail pie is pepped up with coffee; and delicious doughnuts are topped with a miso and parmesan cheese glaze. Here, she shares a delicious twist on fish pie – the perfect dish to serve as a Good Friday dinner. Nisha tells us: “Lift a family-style gratin out of the everyday and into extraordinary territory with the addition of wasabi, for some fresh clean heat. For an added level of excitement, I have played on the corn flavours here and added some buttery toasty popcorn on top. Ideally it needs to be eaten on the day it is made, as the popcorn topping does go soggy in the refrigerator, although it still tastes nice. For an easy life, use a bag of shop-bought salted popcorn if you don’t want the extra step of popping your own.”

(Nourish Books, hardback, £30) 

Nisha Katona’s cod and popcorn gratin Photograph by Martin Poole


For the topping

2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil | 50g popcorn kernels • 50g salted butter, melted • sea salt flakes

For the filling

40g butter | 1 large leek (or 2 smaller), finely sliced • kernels sliced from 2 corn cobs (or 200g drained canned sweetcorn or thawed frozen sweetcorn) | 3 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour | 350ml whole milk, plus extra if needed | 80g Cheddar cheese, grated • 100g/31⁄2oz baby spinach leaves | 550g cod fillets, chopped into large chunks | about 1 tbsp wasabi powder (or paste), or more to taste | a large handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped • 2 tbsp lemon juicesea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. First make the topping, so it’s ready to go. Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the popcorn kernels and put the lid on the pan. After a few seconds you will begin to hear popping. Keep the pan over the heat, giving it a shake occasionally, until the popping really slows down, then turn off the heat. Tip the popped corn into a food processor, being careful to leave behind any hard, unpopped kernels, and pulse to a coarse crumb. Tip the crumbs into a bowl, pour in the melted butter and a good pinch of sea salt flakes, and stir so the corn is well coated in the butter. Set aside.

2.For the filling, heat the butter in a large saucepan over a low–medium heat, add the leek and sauté for a few minutes until softened. Add the corn and cook for a minute or so before sprinkling the fl our over the top and stirring in. Pour in the milk and cook gently for about 5 minutes until the sauce is thickening.

3.Meanwhile, preheat the grill.

4.Add two-thirds of the Cheddar to the pan and stir in until melted, then stir in the spinach and the cod – be gentle with the cod as you don’t want to break it all up. Cook for another couple of minutes until the spinach is wilted into the sauce and the cod is almost cooked. Stir in the wasabi, parsley and lemon juice, then taste and season well with salt and pepper. Add a splash more milk if the filling is a little thick. 5. Tip the filling into a baking dish and sprinkle the buttery popcorn over the top. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top and place the dish under the grill for a few minutes until the popcorn is golden and toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately, otherwise the popcorn has a tendency to go soggy if left too long.