Baked hake recipe - with almond and saffron sauce

Recipe by Neil Morris - 26 March 2013

tartaletas de pimientos

Region: Galicia, Cantabria, The Basque Country, Asturias

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Oven temp: 180°C (390 °F)

Difficulty: medium

Serves: 4+

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Hake is an extremely popular fish in Spain and can be found all over the country. It is especially popular along the northern coastline where hake recipes can be found in nearly every restaurant. Many of the recipes involve baking the fish and serving it with a simple sauce often accompanied by clams or green vegetables such as peas or asparagus. These sauces are typically flavoured with garlic, lemon and parsley but can also involve saffron, almonds, hazelnuts, mushrooms and cream.

This wonderful hake recipe uses a very Spanish method of using bread fried in olive oil that is then pounded in a mortar, to form the basis of the sauce. This helps to create a smooth sauce that thickens very easily; the thickness of the sauce can be controlled by the addition of liquid, in this case, white wine. The fried bread also adds a unique depth of flavour to the sauce.

Hake can become quite firm if it is over-cooked but is succulent and creamy if cooked correctly. In this hake recipe, perfect cooking of the fish is achieved by quickly adding heat and colour by frying and then finishing in the oven.

Shopping list

  • olive oil (aciete de oliva)
  • 1 potato (patata)
  • 1 shallot (chalote)
  • 125g/4oz fresh peas (guisantes frescos)
  • 2 hake steaks (filetes de merluza)
  • 1 thick slice of bread (rebanada de pan)
  • 4 blanched almonds (almendras)
  • 1 clove garlic (diente de ajo)
  • pinch of saffron (pizca de azafrán)
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley (perejil picado)
  • 150 ml white wine ( vino blanco)
  • 1 lemon (limon)
  • salt (sal)
  • freshly ground black pepper (pimienta recién molida negro)

Method

Heat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).

Lightly toast the almonds in a medium-hot dry frying pan and place to one side. Add a tablespoon of oil to the same pan, remove the crusts from the bread and fry until golden on both sides and put to one side with the almonds.

Season the hake steaks, drizzle with lemon juice and leave to stand.

Add another 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the thinly sliced potatoes; they should be no more than 1 cm in thickness. Cook the potatoes gently on a moderate heat for about 20 minutes until they soften (adding a lid can help them to cook). They should be soft but not breaking up and just starting to colour. Once ready, layer the potatoes in a shallow casserole dish and season with salt and pepper.

While the potatoes are cooking, you can prepare the base for the sauce. Pound the almonds, bread, garlic, parsley and saffron in apestle and mortar until you have a dark and smooth paste. This should take about 5 minutes or so.

Cook the fresh peas in boiling water for 2 minutes and place to one side.

Dust the hake fillets with plain flour and fry in 2 tablespoons of oil for a minute on each side over a high heat, spooning the hot oil over the fish as you cook. The flesh of the fish should just start to brown. If the steaks are very thick, then cook for a minute and a half on each side. Then, rest the fish on top of the potatoes and put in the oven for 10 minutes.

Add the very finely chopped shallot straight into the same pan and fry until translucent. Add the white wine and allow to sizzle for a minute. Now add the paste and keep stirring until it dissolves into a smooth sauce. Pass the sauce through a metal sieve (use a spoon to scrape the sauce from the bottom of the sieve) and return to the pan (if it feels too thick, loosen with a splash of vegetable stock or water). Add a squeeze of lemon and season. Pour half the sauce into a warmed serving jug and put to one side. Add the peas to the remaining sauce and stir for a few minutes until well coated and warmed through.

One the fish is cooked, remove from the oven and season with a touch more sea salt.

Serve on warmed plates with the hake on top of the potatoes and the peas spooned around the plate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with the jug of almond and saffron sauce to pour at the table.

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