Hake in Green Sauce

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: easy
This is a staple of the Basque region of Spain. It seems in every way a bit foreign or difficult. But it's basically fish in a parsley flavoured sauce. It's a good recipe to learn as you can swap around the ingredients endlessly to suit your taste and budget.

What you need

800g hake fillets or fillets from other firm white fish (cut into 4 portions)

800g – 1kg clams, mussels or mix of shellfish/seafood

1 medium onion

1 stick of celery

2 cloves of garlic

600g  new potatoes

500ml fish stock or chicken stock

250ml white wine, stock or water

1tsp ground fennel (optional)

20 green gorda olives (optional)

200g peas

50g – 100g fresh parsley

4 bay leaves (optional)

Olive oil, butter, flour

Salt, pepper


Fish stock

Fish bones – whatever you can get from the fishmonger

1 onion

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 stick of celery

1 carrot

Parsley stalks from above parsley

Dad's Recipe Tales

Fish soup anyone?

That’s a no then… It’s a shame because fish soup is something I cook well and love to eat. So why do people have a problem with fish soup? They’re quite happy with most other things made into soup, even if that includes lentils, or broccoli, or oxtails, but as soon as liquid and fish come together it becomes a problem. Could it be fish soup is simply too ‘fishy’, does the lingering scent of cooked fish put people off? Is it the unlikely risk of choking on a fish bone or the possibility of suffering an allergic reaction to shellfish, or an assumption that we might be up all night vomiting? Perhaps, despite the increasing costs of fish, people still see something of ‘peasant food’ in fish soup, a watery gruel whose main source of sustenance is tentacles, fish heads and bones.

Yet, I’m sure most people would happily countenance a professionally made bouillabaisse were they to see it on the menu of a fine dinning restaurant. Many, I’m sure, would suddenly become aficionados of fish, expertly ordering the soupe de poisson whilst holidaying on the French Riviera (served with delicate croutons with grilled gruyere and pots of picante rouille). Who wouldn’t want to sample the colourful cacciucco featuring locally caught snapper, calamari and baby cuttlefish from a ristorante in the port of Livorno or try the famous Pacific West Coast specialty cioppino at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, perhaps they would be tempted by a spicy jjamppong brimming with clams and shrimps from a Seoul noodle bar or a delicate tom yum full of prawns and scented with lemon grass in a Bankok street market? Such local fish soup specialties have a compelling and exotic allure that ensnares the adventurous diner and piscine connoisseur alike. For these open-minded gourmands, immersing themselves in the abundant and diverse world of fish is all part of the pleasure of discovering new taste experiences.

But making fish soup at home is a different matter. It feels like too much trouble… We are told that a bouillabaisse cannot be made without dozens of fish varieties (including the ever-mentioned, extremely ugly and totally unobtainable red rascasse). Making a soupe de poisson will require hours of shopping and preparation, finally finishing in the blender, bones and all, then carefully sieved (preferably in a professional conical sieve). Most other fish soup recipes will put great emphasis on the stock requiring large pots of fishy scraps and skeletons.

Of course, fish-friendly foodies – like us – will be quite happy spending all day dispensing guts and gills in pursuit of our favourite fish soup recipe. The preparation will develop cooking skills, the varieties of recipes will suit any palette – from hot and fiery, to fresh and fragrant and aromatic and creamy – and of course it will be delicious. We serve our soup in a tureen at the table with large bowls, crusty bread, and cold glasses of white wine. The setting might be the suburbs, but with a little imagination it’s possible to be transported to a sunny seaside restaurant terrace, where the sounds of the sea and salty, ion-scented air will set the perfect epicurean scene… Fish soup anyone?

How Dad Cooked It

This recipe is part soup, part fish with sauce. I like it with a generous amount of sauce, not too thick so that it, well, is a bit like a soup. Adjust to suit your own taste.

  1. If making your own stock, rinse the bones and add into a pan with 1 litre of water. Peel and chop the vegetables and add with the stalks to the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.
  2. Cook the vegetables. Wash the potatoes – peel if you like – then boil in salted water until tender. Drain.
  3. Chop the onion, celery and garlic and fry gently in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry, stirring often for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and stir continuously. Cook for a further 5 minutes on very low heat. Add fennel, if using, and stir for a minute, then add the wine (or stock or water) stir and bring to the boil. Cook gently for a minute. Add the stock and bring back to the boil. Add the parsley, bay leaves, retaining a little for a garnish, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes of cooking add the peas. Season with salt and pepper and lemon.
  4. Cook the clams or mixed shellfish. Soak the clams or mussels in cold water, discard any that are broken or do not close when tapped. Put into a large pan with a splash of water. Put the lid on and cook on a high heat for 3 minutes or until all the shellfish are open. Discard any clams or mussels that have not opened. Drain the liquid from the pan and add to the sauce (minding not to add any dirt or grit).
  5. Cook the fish. Scale the fish but leave the skin on. Heat a large frying pan then add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons light olive oil. Put the fillets of fish in the pan skin side down. Cook for about 5 minutes until the skin is browned and turn. Let the other side take a little colour and take off the heat when cooked through.
  6. Finish the dish. Add the potatoes and olives, if using, to the sauce and heat. Put portions of fish in each bowl and pour over the sauce with potatoes and olives. Divide the clams between the bowls and serve with crusty bread.


NB: Add white asparagus if you like – just as they do in Spain.

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