Merluza a la Gallega

merluza a la gallega

Merluza a la Gallega is a typical hake dish from Galicia. Merluza a la Gallega is a fairly simple dish of potatoes, onion and hake made special with a garlic and pimentón Ajada sauce. Galicia is a large autonomous region in the north west of Spain on the Atlantic coast. The main sources of income in this area are farming and fishing. Being next to ocean, Galicia has a much cooler and wetter climate than the South of Spain and is known for it’s dairy farming. It is famous for it’s beef (very popular with Basque chefs), coming from Rubia Gallega dairy cows which are put out to grass when their milking days are over. They literally spend years grazing (until they are 8 – 18 years old) which makes for beautifully tasty and tender meat, currently fetching a high price internationally.


Hake is a firm fleshed, white fish, with a very solid spine – it has few little bones and is easy to slice or fillet. Hake isn’t highly prized in Britain, though there are a lots of them in British waters – most get exported to Spain, where it’s one of the most popular fish. Interestingly, many British fishing boats are owned by Galician famillies. Hake is still fairly cheap, often selling for €6.99 per kg in the Boqueria and about £8.99 in the UK. Relative to conservation, Merluccius merluccius, the European hake, is not considered to be an endangered species.

Receta de Merluza a la Gallega (serves 3):

500g (1lb) hake (sliced across the bone)
1 large onion (cut in half then sliced)
3 or 4 medium sized potatoes (peeled and sliced)
2 bay leaves
a glass dry white wine
1/2 pint fish stock
water to cover the potatoes and onions
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
chopped parsley (to serve)


6 cloves garlic (sliced)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 cups of stock from the fish and potatoes
a splash or two of sherry vinegar
extra virgin olive oil


First, as with all white fish, sprinkle on a little salt on both sizes, an hour before cooking. This firms up the flesh and helps to bring out the flavour.

cebollas y patatas

Peel the potatoes and slice them quite thickly. Cut the onion in half and then into thinner slices than the potatoes. Layer these vegetables in a large saucepan. Pour on a glass of dry white wine and 1/2 pint of fish stock. Add water just enough to cover. This is commonly cooked with water alone, but the wine and fish stock give it an extra litttle kick.


Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper, sink 2 bay leaves into the liquid and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to a simmer.


When the potatoes are tender to the fork (about 15 minutes) sit the hake steaks on top and put the lid back on for 5 minutes, or until the fish looks done. Take the dish off the heat.

ajos laminados

Next make the Ajada – gently fry the sliced garlic (ajos laminados) in olive oil until it starts to brown.

pimentón de la vera

Immediately add the pimentón and remove from the heat while stirring.


Splash on the sherry vinegar and return to the heat.


Pour on 2 cups of stock from the fish and potatoes – cook for a couple of minutes to reduce slightly.

habas y guisantes

Arrange the potatoes, onions and hake in a serving dish. Add some of the cooking liquid, but not all of it (reserve that for another day). Drizzle the fish with the Ajada and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with fresh peas and broad beans.


Allioli makes a perfect acompaniment, along with some crusty bread. I reccomend drinking a glass or two of Faustino Rivero Ulecia, an Albariño wine from Galicia.


About Mad Dog
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10 Responses to Merluza a la Gallega

  1. This sounds like a lovely dish, but I’m dubious about finding hake around these parts. Any thoughts about possible substitutes?

  2. another lovely post. Where does this love for Spanish food come from? I confess, I know very little about Spanish food. I had few books but I never really studied the subject. On a possible controversial note: as you know, the UK market is flooded with Spanish produce, which I think are inferior to their Italian and French counterpart… what do you think? or maybe that sad truth is that we have here in the UK is always, wherever it comes from, an inferior produce to what one can taste in the “original” country.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Stefano – when I first lived in Barcelona, 30 years ago, I fell in love with the culture food and people. It all started with the humble tortilla (no kidding). I think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding produce. There’s either the very expensive, with a mark up related to importing and status, or the cheap supermarket fodder. I think supermarkets in the UK have trained people into thinking that food should be cheap and they have lost touch with where food comes from. In Spain the markets and delicatessens are full of the most fantastic produce, which doesn’t necesarily cost an arm and a leg. There is even a very good quality Catalan supermarket chain called Bonpreu which is (IMHO) better than French supermarkets. Having said that, Lidl is very popular in Barcelona! I have noticed that the visible quality of meat in Lidl Barcelona is far better than that of the same stores in London. It’s the ready meals, in the UK, that really get my goat – full of sugar and chemicals!

      • I am always amazed by the way, the easiness I should say, my spanish friends make tortilla… much better than mine (and I am a seasoned cook). On Uk produce: right now the Angel’s farmers market has good things and today I found good peaches from a shop in Blackstock rd, Highbury side, not far from Highbruy Barn, called blossom and seasons (and damsons too actually). All in all, I think here in London, most shops selling fruit and vegs do not have the knowledge, hence the often disgraceful produce for sale. It is a matter of knowledge lost, so to speak. They sell vegetables, but the could sell anything else. In Italy, this is, fortunately, still rare: greengrocers are real greengrocer and they do know their produce.

        • Mad Dog says:

          Ha ha – there is a definitely an art to making a tortilla. I think a lot of the old traditional fruit and veg shops were put out of business by supermarkets and low prices. I think it would be hard to find one now that had been run by an English family for several generations, which is a very sad state of affairs.

  3. Velva says:

    I spent an extended amount of time this summer in Galicia and I can truly appreciate this dish, and the preparation. Simple ingredients and fabulous results. Thanks for sharing it with us.


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