The inspiration for this dish came from a wonderful lunch at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, London.

Ingredients

There the hake was served with white polenta. I came home and tried it with a rich, soft puree of our local potatoes, and added a little roast pepper and basil.  The puree can also be served on toast or bruschetta!

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter

Salt Hake Puree

  • 225g piece of hake with skin on
  • 50g salt
  • 75ml cream
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • Black pepper

Pommes Puree

  • 600g potatoes, unpeeled
  • 150ml creamy milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 25-50g butter
  • Salt and pepper

Roast Peppers in Basil Oil

  • 1 large red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons vino cotto or balsamic vinegar
  • 6-8 basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Scatter half of the salt over the base of a dish that the hake will fit into snugly. Put the hake on the salt and scatter with the remaining salt. Pat the salt on to the surface of the fish. Cover and chill for 4 hours. While the fish is salting, prepare the potatoes and peppers. 
  2. Place the red pepper on an oven tray, rub all over with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven, 220c / 400f / gas 6 for c 30 minutes. The pepper should be well coloured, the skin blistered and starting to collapse.
  3. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl and seal tightly with cling film, and allow to cool. When cool, peel off the skin and remove the seeds.
  4. Cut the pepper flesh into very neat dice, c ¼ in / 5mm pieces. Season with salt and pepper and dress with the olive oil and a few drops of vino cotto or balsamic vinegar. Chop or tear the basil finely and immediately stir through the peppers and oil. Retain at room temperature.
  5. Scrub the potatoes and place in a saucepan of salted water. If the potatoes are new, start them in boiling water. If the potatoes are main season, start them in cold salted water. In any event, keep them covered and keep an eye on them. If they show signs of breaking up during the cooking, strain off all but 1 in / 2.5cm of the water and steam them covered, until cooked through.
  6. When the potatoes are cooked, heat the creamy milk to boiling point. Peel the potatoes immediately they are cooked, while still too hot to handle with bare hands. If you wish, pass the peeled potatoes through a vegetable mouli. This stage is optional but gives such a gorgeous smooth and creamy texture to the potatoes, that I always do it.
  7. Place in a food mixer or processor and beating gently, add the butter, egg and enough of the boiling milk to achieve a soft and rich mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep covered and hot in a low oven, 140c / 275f / gas 1.
  8. After the salting period, remove the fish and rinse off the salt thoroughly under a cold running tap. Place the fish in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 6 to10 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Remove the fish from the water, draining it well.
  9. Remove and discard the skin and place the flesh in a food processor. Heat the cream, olive oil and garlic to just under boiling point and add to the fish. Puree briefly, maybe 15 seconds, to attain a soft and slightly coarse puree. You can also use a pestle and mortar for pureeing the fish to achieve a less refined texture.
  10. Add a little freshly ground black pepper to taste. Keep covered and warm in a low oven or sitting over a saucepan of barley simmering water.
  11. To assemble the dish, Place a nice soft dollop of potato on each of 4 hot plates. Place a spoon of the hake puree on top. Drizzle the peppers around and spoon some of the basil infused oil over the top.
  12. Serve immediately.