I have a confession – I don’t like fish. It didn’t use to be this way!! There was a time when sardines or seabass, a plate of oysters or mussels filled me with joy. Then I got pregnant and it all changed. Suddenly, and sadly ever since, I am one of those people who say they don’t like fish because it’s ‘fishy’.
Lexie loves fish. Lewis loves fish. My mum is from the Basque coastline near San Sebastian where seafood reigns supreme. For their sakes I’m trying to like fish again! I’ve made some headway with seafood. There is no way on earth I could stomach a mussel or oyster right now but I have started eating crab.
One of my favourite fish dishes used to be hake with clams and parsley. This is a staple of my family, especially my beautiful cousin Maite Miren and I always have it when I visit the Basque country. Hake is incredibly popular over there but very common in the waters around the UK. It’s mostly shipped to Spain which is a tragedy because it’s fantastic. Here is a photo of Maite with her two gorgeous daughters Sara and Andrea. I have no idea why they are so pouty in this photo so here’s a jollier pic of them with my other cousin Olatz (also beautiful!) during the famous ‘Carnavales de Tolosa’ (a week of fiestas before Easter, on the first Friday night the whole town buries a sardine at midnight, the next morning they dance la Diana around town and so on for a week… all in fancy dress!).
If anything is likely to cure me of my fish phobia this is it so Maite sent me her recipe. Lexie and I bought top quality hake fillets from Applebees, the best fishmongers at Borough market (we also shared one of their delicious prawn wraps). Then we bought Palourde clams from the popular fishmongers in the middle of the market as Applebees didn’t have any.
The verdict: this recipe is delicious… if you like fish! It’s very simple, the flavours are subtle so the hake and clams are the the stars of this dish. This is Lewis favourite style of Basque cooking. He’s not a fan of the mayonaisy/bechamely style of tapas that are also very popular. Lexie also loved it though I left the clams out for her, I’m not quite sure why. I liked the clams and the hake was cooked to perfection BUT it just tasted fishy!!!
Hake with clams
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5-10 mins
Budget: £15-20 – good quality fish costs lots of money (£13 hake, £4 clams, £1.50 parsley)
Ease: medium – there is a knack to cooking fish well that must be learnt by experience even though the recipe is simple
- Hake fillets or steaks (fillets have no bones so better for kids)
- Clams – as many as you fancy
- Olive oil
- A little flour for dusting
- Big handful of chopped fresh parsley
- 1 chopped garlic clove
- 1/2 white onion chopped
- 2 big glasses of white wine
Start by cleaning the clams. My cousin always gives them a bath in salty water ‘to make them feel at home’ she says, and to release any grit. Check all the clams and discard any that are open – they should be tightly sealed shut. Drain then add the clams to a pan with a glass of white wine and cover. Cook on a high heat until the clams have steamed open – 3-5 mins approx. Set aside reserving the liquid.
Gently fry the onion and garlic in a frying pan that will be big enough to take the fish fillets. Fry for 10 mins or until the onions have softened but not browned. Salt and dust the fish fillets with a little flour, turn up the hob to medium hot, then add to the onions with the skin side up. Add the clam liquid and some more wine – this recipe is poaching the fish in the pan, not frying it. Cook for 2-3 mins then gently turn and cook for another 2-3 mins. The sauce should be bubbling down and you may need to add a little fish stock or wine for more liquid if the fillets are thick or if the sauce drying up. At the last minute add the chopped parsley and clams y listo! My cousin recommends serving this with chunky chips and a hardboiled egg (I’m not sure if she means a finely chopped boiled egg to sprinkle on top – will check). Lewis hates boiled eggs so we omitted this and we made rice instead which was fine as there is a lot of sauce. I gave Lexie the fish with a little rice and sauteed courgette and she ate it all happily.