Greatest recipes ever: Fergus Henderson’s salt cod and beans

‘Fergus Henderson is the man who single-handedly yanked British cooking back from the brink. It happened in 1999 with the publication of Nose to Tail. Before Fergus, we had jokes about spotted dick and lumpy custard. After Fergus… well, salt cod and white beans says it all’

Elisabeth Luard

Fergus Henderson’s Salt cod and beans

Extract from Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking

To serve six


500g dried white haricot beans, soaked overnight
1 whole head of garlic
2 bay leaves
2 onions, peeled and sliced
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
2 heads of fennel, sliced against the grain
Olive oil
800g chorizo, the variety suitable for cooking (I realise this is not strictly a British sausage, but it comes under my list of  ingredients that will travel),
sliced into 1cm-thick rounds
Half tin peeled plum tomatoes
A bundle of fresh herbs
1 litre chicken stock
1kg salt cod of the lightly salted variety, soaked overnight,
cut into six pieces
Sea salt and pepper


Drain the beans from their soaking water, cover in clean cold water in a pan, add the heads of garlic and the bay leaves, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately two hours. When they’re thoroughly cooked, remove them from the heat and drain, keeping the bean juice.

Meanwhile, in another pan, sweat the onions, garlic cloves, and fennel in olive oil until soft, then add the chorizo followed very shortly by the tomatoes, crushed in your hand as you place them in the pan. Nestle in the bundle of herbs and let this mixture cook for another 20 minutes, then add the beans and enough stock to just cover all the ingredients (if you do not have enough stock, use bean water). Simmer for one hour, allowing all the ingredients to acclimatise to each other.

Bring a pan of clean water to a gentle simmer, and when your beans are ready and you have checked them for seasoning, poach the salt cod pieces for 6-8 minutes in the water. Finally, carefully lift and drain the cod, and serve on top of a mound of your beans.