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.

Ingredients


  • 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.