Part of the pleasure of being in the South of Spain is shopping for fish and seafood, all for considerably less than in the UK. You can go to your local supermercado and buy raw king prawns for under a tenner for a kilo and there won’t be a whiff of fish in the air either.
On this occasion I was shopping for hake as an alternative Christmas lunch, to be served with pea puree, sweet potato wedges and a reduced fish stock. Heads were chopped off but included for stock, the fish descaled and cleaned, making it a lot easier to prepare and cook.
TIP You can make the accompanying sauce and the pea puree the day before. If you wish you can immerse the tomato in boiling water to skin it, but I don’t bother.
4 hake steaks, about an inch thick
handful of snipped chives
500ml dry white wine
1 large ripe tomato, deseeded and diced
1 mug of petit pois
4 tbs grated parmesan
1 tbs of creme fraiche
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut onto long chunks
2 hake heads
1 large carrot, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 bay leaves
a little paprika for dusting
olive oil for coating
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
Make the puree. Cook the peas in boiling water and place them in a processor, along with a good knob of butter, the parmesan and the cream. Wizz till you have a smooth puree. Refrigerate till needed.
Fill a saucepan with the water, add the vegetables and fish heads. Season with salt and a couple of bay leaves. Pour in all but a glass of wine and bring to the boil. Lower to a simmer and take the scum off with a large spoon. Reduce by two thirds, continually skimming to keep the stock clear. Now add the tomatoes and cook for a further five minutes. At this point you can turn the stock off, refrigerate and finish off just before serving.
Pre-heat the oven to 200oC
Place the potatoes in a bowl, sprinkle with paprika and salt and with your hands, coat them with the oil. Line a baking tray with foil, place the potatoes onto the tray and cover with foil. Bake for thirty minutes on the middle shelf and then lower the temperature to 180oC and place the potatoes on a lower shelf to allow the fish to cook on the middle shelf. Take a long piece of foil and place the steaks in the middle. Pour over the rest of the wine, scatter over the chives, dot with a quarter of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Now bring the sides of the foil together to make a loose parcel. Bake for 12 minutes and then open the parcels for another two minutes. Pour off the juices form the parcel into the stock.
Whilst the fish is cooking, pour the stock into a saucepan and gently heat. When hot, whisk in the rest of the butter for a glossy finish. You can reheat the puree in a microwave for two minutes or in a saucepan for the same time.
When ready to serve, place a tbs of puree in the middle of each plate, top with the fish, pour over the sauce and arrange the potatoes on the side of the fish. Finish with a grinding of black pepper and serve with a crisp Verdejo.