Februray 1st, 2011
Hake is a deep sea member of the cod family. The flesh is firmer than cod and to my mind it’s tastier too. Oddly they are not very popular in Britain – perhaps it’s the eel like shape and vicious looking, razor sharp teeth…
I caught the fishmonger in Chapel Market, the day before his month long holiday to New Zealand and came away with 3 hake for £5 – unbelievable, they are about £12 per pound in the supermarkets! Having done hake and potatoes last week, I thought I’d try hake with cannellini beans and chorizo.
Hake, bean and chorizo recipe (serves 2):
1 hake (about 2lb)
Half a pound of dry cannellini beans (you could use tinned)
6 pieces of garlic (peeled)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
1 stick of celery (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (finely chopped)
1 hot chorizo ring (sliced into quarter inch pieces)
6 bay leaves
1 or 2 pinches of crushed chilli (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle, with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
2 teaspoons of hot paprika
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 large squirt of anchovy paste
1 squirt of tomato purée
1 glass of dry vermouth (or a glass of dry white wine)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper where needed
I cut my hake up into steaks – you can fillet it, but the bone will add some flavour during cooking and since the fish doesn’t have any little bones, the flesh will come off quite easily. Do ask your fishmonger to clean and scale your fish – they do it very quickly, as a matter of course and it will save you a lot of work later on. I keep them heads and tails on – they are good for stock. White fish is improved by adding a little salt, an hour or so before cooking – it helps to firm up the flesh (see Jane Grigson on cooking white fish) and it’s good to take your fish out of the fridge an hour or so before cooking (though perhaps not at the height of summer).
I like dried pulses – I find the texture to be firmer than those that have been sitting in a can for years. Once again, I use a pressure cooker to cook beans. With cannellini, I soak them for an hour in boiling water and then cook them for about 15 minutes in water, with 6 pieces of garlic (peeled only), 3 bay leaves, sea salt, black pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and the fish head and tail. The fish adds flavour and at the end of cooking can be scooped out carefuly with a slatted spoon and discarded. Keep the cooking liquid from the beans (in a jug), it tastes good and you can use it to add to the cooking when it starts to look a little dry.
Since this needs to cook on the hob and in the oven, it’s practical to use a shallow cast iron casserole, but a deep one would do. Add some olive oil to the casserole and a little crushed chilli, before turning the gas on (enamel covered cast iron will crack if you get it hot first, though you are OK if you have bare cast iron). When the oil is hot, add your onions and when they go translucent, add the sliced chorizo. Paprika and oil will be released from the chorizo and the colour of your onions will become orange. Next add your garlic, celery and carrot, sprinkle on the hot paprika and the ground herbs. Squeeze in a generous amount of anchovy paste and some tomato purée – you could use a few anchovy fillets instead and don’t overdo the tomato, this isn’t a tomato dish, the purée is a flavour enhancer. Taste what you have so far – I like hot things and at this point added more chilli and some black pepper.
When you are happy with the taste, put the beans into the casserole, along with the vermouth. Give everything a stir, add 3 bay leaves and some of your bean and fish stock. You want to have a thick, rich sauce, but remember it will evaporate a little in the oven, so it shouldn’t be too thick. You should have a pint or so of fish and beans stock, so you can add a bit more if things get too thick at the end. Taste your sauce again and when you are happy with it, push your fish steaks into the liquid, but don’t cover them. Remove your casserole (lid off) to a pre heated oven at 200º C for 15 to 20 minutes. It’s done when the fish has become firm and pulls off the bone easily. If your sauce is too thick at the end, take the fish out for a minute (keep it warm) and stir in a little stock, while heating on the hob. You could serve this on it’s own or with some toasted sour dough bread with roasted garlic spread on top. This recipe would suite any firm fleshed, white fish.