July 15th 2011
Hake cooked with tomatoes and olives is a typical Spanish dish. Hake is a very popular fish in Spain and as I’ve said before, a lot of it’s caught in British waters and exported – we don’t seem to have a taste for it, which is a shame, since it’s an excellent, firm white fish, with very few bones.
Hake and Tomato recipe:
half a pound of small tomatoes, cut in half (Santa are one of my favourites for flavour)
20 mixed olives which have been preserved in olive oil
some oil from the above olives
10 pieces of garlic (bruised and peeled)
2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
a few fresh basil leaves (ripped, not chopped)
1 hake cut into steaks (mine weighed about a pound, but a larger fish would be fine)
a splash of dry vermouth
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Before doing anything else, cut the hake into steaks and sprinkle it with some sea salt – this helps to remove water and firm up the flesh, as well as adding to the flavour. If you are cooking promptly (in an hour or so), you should cover the fish and leave it out of the fridge, so that it’s at room temperature when ready to be cooked.
Slice the tomatoes in half, bruise the garlic and remove the skin. Put the vegetables and thyme into an oven dish, along with a good slug of olive oil. It might look a lot of oil in the picture above, but it will reduce and be absorbed. If you use the oil from preserving the olives, it will have a fantastic, intense flavour, not found in bottled olive oil – it’s very good for cooking or pouring on bread. Season with a little sea salt and cracked black pepper. Put your dish into a preheated oven at 200º and cook for 20 minutes.
When the 20 minutes are up, the garlic, olives and tomatoes should have taken some colour and softened. Make room for the hake in the dish, tear the basil and add it with a splash of dry vermouth.
Cook for a further 20 minutes or until the hake has become firm (see the top picture). Serve with boiled potatoes – I cooked the hake head in with the potatoes, for flavour, like the Spanish do.
You could use hake filets for this, in which case lay them on top of the other ingredients and cook for a few minutes less (have a look when they have been in the oven for about 15 minutes). Any other firm white fish, like pollock, would work equally well.