It’s funny how a quick chat with a food supplier can change your ideas completely. Twitter is especially good for this; there are loads of fishmongers, butchers and a huge amount of foodies writing about what they are eating and you cannot help but be inspired. If I ever have a lack of creativity, scouring my timeline soon gives me tons of things on my ‘to cook’ list.
This recipe is a prime example. I really wanted to cook with fish, but I had no idea what type or what I was going to do with it. It had been ages since I cooked with monkfish, so initially I was going to try and get some of that and cook it with prosciutto and a basil sauce. Still undecided, I asked for recommendations on Twitter, and within minutes I had a response from a local fishmonger. He was raving about hake, and even posted photos of the catch that was being delivered the next morning.
As soon as I saw that, my mind was made; I would go and buy some hake. It had been a while since I had bought any, and it really is a wonderful fish. I try and cook with cod as little as possible, and hake is a great alternative with it’s large, white, flakey texture. In fact, it shouldn’t be seen as an ‘alternative’ at all. Most of the hake caught in Britain goes straight to Spain, where it is really popular. It’s about time that it was used more, although I’m perfectly happy with the low price at the moment. Hake is a long fish, so for this dish try and get a thick fillet from the head end of the fish, or a piece from a large fish. Even better, buy a whole fish and have days of lovely meals.
Most of the time I like to cook fish with really simple, clean flavours and sauces. You want to taste the fresh, subtle fish; it is after all the main event, and whatever you serve with it should compliment it. The brown butter sauce in this dish is a classic with fish. I have used shrimps and capers here, but you could add clams the make the meal look stunning, or simply lemon and parsley is amazing.
Chard is in season at the moment and is beautiful cooked this way, but if you can’t get any then spinach cooked in the same way is just as good.
2 large hake fillets, pin boned and skin left on
500g new potatoes
4 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large handful red chard, thick stalks removed
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lemon, juice only
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large knob butter
100g salted butter
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
100g brown shrimps
1 lemon, juice only
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
First get the potatoes cooking by putting in a large saucepan of salted cold water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes, then drain and put back in the saucepan on the heat. Add the garlic, olive oil, tarragon and a good amount of seasoning, and crush the potatoes with a fork. I like quite a rough texture although it’s up to you how smooth you make them. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and add more oil or tarragon if needed. Keep warm while you prepare the rest of the dish.
While the potatoes are cooking, take your fish out of the fridge to get up to room temperature. Heat the oven to 180ºC.
To cook the chard, heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Quickly fry the garlic and anchovy for a minute then add the chard. Keep turning with some tongs until it starts to wilt and soften, then add the lemon juice and seasoning. Taste and adjust then take off the heat.
Season the fish well on both sides. Heat a non-stick frying pan to a medium heat and add a little olive oil. When hot, put the fillets skin-side down in the frying pan and cook for a few minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp. Still without turning, transfer the fish to an oven tray (or keep in the pan if suitable to go in the oven) and roast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until just cooked.
While the fish is frying, make the butter sauce. Heat a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. When hot, add the butter and allow to froth and bubble. Wait until the butter has turned a brown colour and starts to smell nutty add the capers, garlic and shrimp. Cook for a minute, then add the lemon juice, parsley and seasoning. Taste and adjust.
Heat up the chard and potatoes if necessary while the fish is cooking, then everything is ready to plate up. Put a nice pile of potatoes on the middle of the plate and top with some of the chard. Place the hake on top, and spoon a good amount of the butter sauce on top. Serve with a crisp white wine.