ROAST HAKE FILLET, HERB CRUST, BUTTER BEANS AND CHORIZO
Hake, with its delicate, sweet-tasting flesh, is highly prized in Southern Europe, so much so that the Spaniards buy over 95% of the UK catch. This is a pity, as it’s a wonderful fish to work with and can take any number of strong-flavoured accompaniments.
Chorizo, of course, is well-known in this country now; it’s earthy, smoky flavour and deep red colour lifts the character of almost anything it’s added to. Here, it gives the butterbean stew an unctuous smoothness that perfectly complements the creamy flesh of the beans.
Here, the fish is cooked in a little foil “boat”, which captures all the lovely juices as it cooks – they can be added to the sauce at the end. The herb crust protects the delicate flesh while cooking and provides a lovely crunchy texture to the dish – like a very upmarket fishfinger.
600g hake fillet, in one slice or cut into 4 equal pieces – you can use cod if hake is unavailable
75g fresh bread – white is good, although any leftover bits of bread will do
A good handful of fresh herbs, eg parsley, tarragon, basil, chives – roughly chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stick celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped or crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
100g cooking chorizo, finely sliced
1 tbs tomato puree
600g fresh, ripe tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped – out of season use 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin butterbeans (or 200g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender)
1 bay leaf
Start with the beans: in a large pan, sweat the onion, carrots and celery over medium heat in a good slug of olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the chorizo, garlic and the leaves from the thyme. Cook until the fat from the chorizo starts to melt and the dish takes on a bright red hue. Stir in the tomato puree, then the drained butterbeans and finally the tomatoes and bayleaf. If using tinned tomatoes, a pinch of sugar wouldn’t go amiss – it just takes of that slight bitter edge. Bring to the boil and then simmer very gently until you have a rich, flavoursome stew and the vegetables are soft enough to cut with a spoon – this can take over an hour – add a little extra water if it starts to dry out. Remove the bayleaf, season to taste and set aside – keep hot if you plan to use straight away but this is much better made the day before and reheated.
For the crust, blitz everything except the oil to a fine crumb in a food processor – it should have a lovely bright green colour. Add the oil and process for another couple of seconds.
Remove any pin-bones from the fish with a pair of tweezers. Take a large square of foil, brush with olive oil and place the fish, skin side down, in the centre. Cover with the breadcrumbs and fold of the sides of the foil to make a little “boat”. Place the fish on a baking tray in the centre of a medium-hot oven and bake until the topping is crisp and the fish cooked through. Overcook the fish and it will dry out – even so, the flesh will have exuded a lot of moisture – the crust will soak some up and the rest you can add to the beans.
We normally serve the hake on top of the beans but you can place on a separate serving dish- lift carefully from the foil boat with a fish slice; the skin should stay attached to the foil. Pour any remaining juices into the butterbeans and serve. This goes well with some buttered new potatoes and fresh greens.