Merluza a la Vasca
Hake is a white fish which comes from the same family as cod and haddock. It is Spain’s most popular fish which can be grilled, baked or fried. It also appears in countless cazuela (fish stew) recipes from all over the country. The best quality hake comes from the Atlantic waters of the Bay of Biscay. Not surprisingly it is in much demand from Basque chefs in the best restaurants of Bilbao and San Sebastian.
If you ever dine in such an establishment be sure to look out for ‘merluza de anzuelo’ on the menu which is fresh, line-caught hake from off the Basque coast. You might also find it further west in the upmarket restaurants of Santander, Gijon or A Coruña.
Of course this quality of hake isn’t what’s available in the vast majority of fishmongers around the country. If you check the labels in your local Spanish supermarket you may well find that the fish comes from European waters. However, the sheer demand for hake requires that some is imported from fisheries as far away as South Africa or South America.
This particular recipe is also known as Merluza a la Vasca (Basque-Style Hake) and is one of Spain’s most popular seafood recipes.
- 4 x 175g hake steaks
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 300ml white wine
- 150ml water
- 500g clams
- 100g peas
- 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Scrub the clams and throw out any damaged ones.
HINT: Soak them in cold, salty water which may make them open and get rid of any grains of sand that are inside them.
Start by washing the fish and then patting it dry. Season the flour with salt and pepper and then roll the hake in the flour.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan that has a lid and fry the onion slowly until it goes transparent. Add the hake steaks to the frying pan and cook gently for about 2 to 3 minutes before turning them and cooking them for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the wine and water, bring to the boil and add the clams and peas. Put the lid on the pan (this creates the heat which will help the clams to open) and cook for about another 5 minutes or until the clams open.
Transfer the fish and the clams to a warm serving plate (throw away any clams that haven’t opened) and keep warm.
Add about 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley to the liquid in the pan, stir well and check the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the hake and clams, sprinkle the rest of the parsley over the dish and serve immediately.
You could serve this with boiled potatoes or, as we like, with mashed potatoes.
NOTE: If you don’t like the flavour of parsley then you can miss it out.