Friday, 13 June 2014

Pan-Fried Hake with Braised Butter Beans

There is no doubt that eating a range of foods and sampling different cuisines, whether it be as a result of travelling or eating in restaurants does broaden your food knowledge. Being someone who loves cooking and experimenting in the kitchen; and more importantly being someone who enjoys eating, I particularly enjoy trying out different cuisines and incorporating this into my cooking. Although I enjoy the challenge of technical dishes I am always drawn to recipes that are simple to prepare and which are packed full of flavour.

In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter how beautiful a plate of food looks, if it doesn’t taste delicious also. Yes – it is absolutely true that you don’t feel inclined to eat something that looks unappealing, but I regret to say that many times (and I seem to have experienced this more with desserts), I have chosen something in a restaurant or shop and it has failed to live up to the promise shown. When it happens I always feel so disappointed.

Flavour doesn’t always have to assertive and in fact, some of the most beautiful dishes are based on subtlety of taste and balancing the different ingredients. This is why it is so important to keep tasting whilst you are cooking; adjusting seasoning and other elements of the dish as you go along. Some people lack the confidence to do this and it can make them less inclined to take out the pots and pans and cook something different, but the more you cook and the more you taste different flavours, the better and more confident a cook you will become. The most important tip I would give anyone when cooking is – have confidence in yourself and trust your own judgment!
I may sound a little evangelical at this stage, but I love cooking and the greatest pleasure I get is seeing the people I love enjoying the food that I have cooked.

I have recently been trying out some Spanish influenced recipes and will admit that I really love the foods and dishes that I have been sampling. I particularly love some of the tapas recipes. What’s great about Spanish food is that it is, in the main, so simple to prepare and yet, it is packed full of punchy flavours.

The following dish employs some classic Spanish ingredients including hake – a white-fleshed fish that I’m using more and more often in my cooking, as it has a lovely firm but still slightly flaky texture, similar to cod, when cooked.


Braised Butter Beans:
2tblsp olive oil
4 slices of Serrano ham chopped into small dice
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red pepper diced
100ml dry white wine
50ml brandy
1tblsp tomato purée
2 x 400g tins of butter beans, drained
A generous pinch of smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
½ tsp saffron threads
Finely grated zest if 1 lemon
2tsp fresh thyme, chopped
500ml vegetable or light chicken stock
To finish:
4 x 150g hake fillets, skinned
Small amount of olive oil for frying
1-2 slices of Serrano ham cut into thin strips
Salt & freshly ground black pepper


Braised Butter Beans:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a moderate to low heat and gently sweat the diced ham and onion until the onion is soft but not coloured (roughly 7 – 10 minutes). Add the crushed garlic and red pepper and allow to cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Increase the heat slightly and add the white wine. Allow to gently bubble until most of the wine has evaporated and then add in the brandy, flambéing it if you feel comfortable doing this. Once the flame has died down, add the tomato purée and cook stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the drained butter beans and the rest of the ingredients for the braised butter beans to the pan. Bring up to simmering point and then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Do not cover the pan. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
To finish:
4. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan. Season the hake and place into the hot oil. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes and then flip each fillet over. Allow to cook for a further 2-3 minutes depending on the size of the fillets and then remove from the heat. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes, making sure that the fish does not go cold.
5. Spoon some of the braised butter beans onto warm serving plates and top with a piece of cooked hake. Sprinkle over some of the Serrano ham strips. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
Serves 4.