Sunday, 15 September 2013

Spicy baked hake, baby aubergines and rhubarb

My friends Joe and Heather were kind enough to give me tasty baby aubergines, courgettes, chillis and rhubarb fresh from their garden. This dish was inspired by marvellous dishes of hake with garlic and olive oil which I was served as my first meal in a Spanish home on a visit to Valencia in 1987, although I know of no Iberian precedent for the addition of rhubarb. So perhaps I should call this Merluza y navajas al forno con berenjenas, calabacines, pimientas y ruibarbo.

Serves 2

Cooking time around 50 minutes.


  • 200g hake fillet or steaks
  • 4 razor clams
  • 3 or 4 small baby aubergines (c. 80g)
  • 1 small courgette (c. 100g)
  • 1 medium vine tomato
  • 4 small hot red chilli peppers
  • 1 stick of rhubarb
  • half a medium green pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 50g olive oil (or enough to comfortably cover the bottom of your dish)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or lemon thyme for a very strong alternative flavour)
  • papric√≥n (smoked paprika powder)
  • salt and pepper
  • saffron (optional)
  1. Turn on the oven to 200 degrees C and pour the oil into a casserole dish. Add the garlic and one sprig of thyme, and allow the flavours to start to infuse into the oil. Put the dish into the oven when it reaches temperature.  If using saffron, crumble it into a spoonful of warm water and set aside.
  2. While the oil heats up, wash and slice the vegetables. Cut them roughly into bite-sized pieces, except for the chilli which can be sliced more finely.
  3. After the oil has heated for ten minutes or more, remove the dish from the oven and add the vegetables, tossing them in the oil and then returning it to the oven. Cook for ten minutes.
  4. Now prepare the fish. Hake steaks can be used whole, and fillets should be skinned and cut into around 4 pieces. Wash the clams thoroughly in lots of clean fresh water, then blanche them for a few seconds in boiling water. Remove the clams from the shells and trim to leave just white bits.
  5. Remove the dish from the oven and add the hake, allowing it to sit on top of the vegetables, not in contact with the surface of the dish. Spoon some oil over the hake, throw the clams in, and return to the oven for 10 minutes, until the hake is just cooked.
  6. Pour the saffron water over the fish and serve with plain rice.

Drink suggestion: We ate it with Cava, but it might be best to try it with a white Rioja

Further thoughts: Very tasty, if a bit oily. The rhubarb was very well behaved and didn't dominate, and it is certainly optional. Next time I might try it with less oil, and add a bit of fish stock or wine when the fish goes in, and cover with foil to steam a bit.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Tangy Rhubarb Chutney

I've been waiting for some months this summer to find some rhubarb, and at last I've found some. In order to prolong our enjoyment of it, I decided to make chutney.


  • 750 g rhubarb, chopped into 1 cm long chunks
  • 200 g sugar (I used demerara, but for any kind will do depending on what taste you want, or honey, golden or maple syrup, or malt extract for a less sweet taste)
  • 100 g sultanas (or other dried fruit)
  • 550 ml vinegar (any - I used a combination of cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic and 1 glass of port!)
  • 50 ml orange juice
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 25 g chopped courgette (optional, and other veg possible)
  • 1 tbsp grated or finely chopped ginger
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 small red sweet pepper
  • freshly ground spices (1tbsp in total: black pepper, red chilli, cinnamon, cardamon, caraway, nutmeg)
  • 3 bay leaves (I had fresh, dried would be fine)
  • 1 dash tabasco
  • 25 g salt

Sterilize the jars in which you plan to keep the chutney. I sterilised them by washing in the dishwasher, and chose a selection of small jars so that I could give away a few and keep them closed and sterile as long as possible. In sterilized jars, the chutney should keep more or less indefinitely.

Choose a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the sugar, vinegar, sultanas and orange juice. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the other ingredients and add them when they are ready (except for the spices and salt). When it comes to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until all the sugar is dissolved, then add the tabasco, ground spices, bay leaves and salt, Stir in and then add the rhubarb. Bring back to the boil and simmer, for at least 10 minutes until the rhubarb has softened, but not entirely broken up, and the sauce has reduced to the required consistency. It should thicken to the point that, when you stir, you can see the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

When it has cooled enough to handle safely, but still hot, pour or ladle into the jars, seal and allow to cool. Cooling can be speeded up by sitting the jars in a bath of cold water.

The chutney should be good to eat straight away - I ate some still warm with roast duck legs and baked potatoes, which was nice. Cold, it goes rather well with strong cheese.