Hake with samphire and potatoes

Hake is a white fish, related to the cod and haddock family, and is considered reasonably sustainable, especially in comparison to cod itself. Cheaper than cod and haddock, it’s got a similar texture with a slightly milder flavour and is delicious when served with things such as butter and lemon juice. Reasonably cheap and dead quick to cook, it’s really worth a try.

In this recipe, we’ve quickly fried it and served it with potatoes and the rather unusual samphire. Often called glasswort, sea asparagus or poor man’s asparagus, samphire is found on sea cliffs and coastlines in Europe. Comprising aromatic, salty green  leaves, it’s great in salads and it goes particularly well with fish and shellfish. It only has a short season – usually the summer – but we’re finding that the season’s extending and it’s still available fresh at this time of year. It is available in jars from delicatessens but it’s quite a different when pickled and would overwhelm a fish dish such as this. If you can’t get it, an alternative is to use some lightly steamed spinach or chard or, of course, asparagus. But it’s worth noting that samphire’s quite salty so, depending on which vegetable you actually use, watch the seasoning.

Serves two

400g of hake fillets – prepared (see recipe)
Enough potatoes for two – peeled
A couple of handfuls of samphire – washed and drained
A walnut-sized knob of butter
A little oil for frying
A little lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Ask your fishmonger to ensure that the hake fillets are free of pin bones and have been de-scaled.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain, allow to cool a little and cut into thick slices. Heat a large frying pan with a little oil and fry the potato slices over a reasonably high heat until browned on both sides. Remove and keep warm.

Reheat the frying pan, add a little more oil if necessary but only to smear the base, and when hot, place the hake fillets in it, skin side down. Don’t be tempted to move them for at least three or four minutes while the skin crispens. When it is crisp, the fish will be largely cooked through. Turn the fillets over, add the knob of butter plus the samphire, allowing it to cook through in the juices for a couple of minutes. Finally, add some lemon juice, about a tablespoonful, but taste to check, and sprinkle over some black pepper.

Serve by placing the fish on top of the potatoes, scatter the samphire and pour the pan juices over and around along with a little sprinkling of sea salt.

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