After weeks of travelling, packing and moving (yes, all of these at the same time. What, do you never travel to 4 different European cities just for pleasure whilst giving up your apartment, sending some stuff to storage and carting other stuff to your in-laws, renovating said apartment, doing the household in two apartments, moving your business to yet another town and preparing to open up a new business in a new country? Well, it sure was the last time I did such a crazy thing!) I finally was at (the current) home and decided I would go food shopping and cook something to feel thus as well.
Luckily, we have the great Spanish corner shop mere 25 meters from our door, which has supplied us with many a fresh fish, including a certain life altering (well, food preference modifying, at least) octopus. Yesterday’s catch (pun intended) was a fish I have eaten many times before but never cooked myself: Hake, also known as merluza.
As talking to the Spanish shopkeeper about possible ways to prepare it (being from Granada, she only knew of frying battered pieces of it) didn’t yield a lot of options, I made a quick search on the internet and saw that you could, actually, prepare it every which way you like: Baked, barbecued, steamed, deep-fried, pan-fried, with nantua sauce, with tomatoes, with almonds, with onions… It seemed like this was a fish lending itself perfectly to experimenting, which I love to do, especially when I am confronted with new ingredients.
I filleted the hake (no better way to get to know your fish) and, have to admit, didn’t do a very good job of it, next time I will just cut thick slices/medallions out of it. At first I thought about poaching the fillets in the stock I made with the head and the main fish bone, but saw that it wouldn’t be the best way. The flesh is rather firm and sturdy which lends it better to more robust methods. On a bed of eggplant puree (char eggplants from all sides in a dry grill-pan over high heat, peel off and mash), along with some slow-oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and slightly roasted almond slices, the resulting dish was perfectly balanced: The smokiness from the eggplant puree, the tart-sweet taste of the tomatoes, the sweetness, the nuttiness and the crunch of the almonds complimented the pan-fried hake perfectly. Wash it all down with strong bodied, probably barrique matured Chardonnay or Pinot Gris (we drank a Sanct Valentin Chardonnay 2003 from St. Micael-Eppan in South Tirol).
We followed this light and summery dish with a likewise dessert: Strawberry yogurt ice cream with wild flowers.
I made this with 0,1% yogurt and sweetener, but you could go ahead and use regular yogurt and sugar if you don’t have to watch your calories. Mash together equal amounts of yogurt and strawberries, add sugar and herbs/spices to your liking. I used fresh mint and bluebottle (cornflower). If you, like me, don’t have an ice cream machine just stick it in the fridge and remember to churn it with a fork every once in a while as it freezes.
Now that I feel at home, I can tell you all about our travels in the next days!