Let them eat hake. Pan-fried fresh hake fillet topped with squid and a vibrant, zesty gremolata crumb

You really can have your hake and eat it! When in Portugal just ask for pescada and if you pop across the border, the order of the day would be Merluza.
Mild, sweet and sustainable, this underrated fish that’s so big in Spain and Portugal deserves pride of place on your dinner table.
Hake always reminds me of an undervalued and misunderstood European pop star who tops the charts in Japan or Azerbaijan but remains relatively unknown in their home country.Perhaps this is why while living in England hake passed me by, it never made an appearance forefront of the fishmongers slab.
 It’s a shame because now I have discovered it properly, it is truly a fine white fish and one the Spanish and Portuguese go mad for. If truth be known these two countries snap up tonnes of the Uk´s supplies of finest hake, for which they are willing to pay much higher prices than they command on the domestic market.Not for much longer I hear you say. Why, I wonder, is a fish revered in one European country yet largely ignored in the others? The question arises whether there is enough hake in European waters to satisfy this enormous demand.
The mild, flaky flesh cooks to a moist and meaty texture with tender flakes that are deliciously sweet and clean-tasting. Line-caught or fish caught by gillnet are best, as trawled fish can be flabby and difficult to fillet without falling apart.
They are usually best cut into steaks or cooked on the bone. Tail pieces can be a bit tricky as they don’t keep their shape well and are hard to turn over when frying. However, the fish can be poached,steamed, baked or fried and lends itself beautifully to baking en papillote (wrapped in greaseproof paper parcels). It also combines beautifully with other fish in mousses and fishcakes.
Chef Nathan Outlaw suggests that hake make the best fish fingers when they’re coated in flour, egg and Japanese panko breadcrumbs, while Jamie Oliver pairs crispy hake fillets with soft braised artichokes, peas and bacon. At Moro in central London you will find a popular Spanish favourite Merluza en salsa verde (hake in a green parsley sauce, often with clams).Another one of the great stars of the northern Spanish cookbook is merluza à la Gallega (poached hake with boiled onions and potatoes served with a sweet pepper sauce), along with merluza à la sidra (hake cooked in cider). In Cadiz, a local speciality is caldillo de perro (dog soup), which traditionally combines hake with bitter Seville oranges.In Portugal, filetes de pescada (hake fillets) are first marinated in lemon juice, garlic and salt before being fried in a light batter, while pescada com todos (hake ‘with everything’) includes just about every ingredient in season, from greens to carrots, onions, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar.
My dish today is a pan-fried fresh hake fillet topped with calamari rings and a vibrant, zesty scintilla of gremolata crumb with fresh chilli.
And now a word about Gremolata.
Gremolata is one of those things where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.Yet, using just three common ingredients you have in your kitchen, garlic, lemon and parsley, and simply finely chopping them together, it becomes your secret ingredient. Sprinkled over any number of dishes, it will make every mouthful pop with its fresh flavours. A few twists of freshly ground black pepper and your mouth will think it had gone to umami never-never land. Sprinkle it over grilled or roasted vegetables, baked or grilled fish, chicken, or lamb. 
Garlic Since the garlic is raw, you want it as fresh as possible. Old garlic will be yellow and sticky, often with a green shoot growing out, and it will smell strongly and slightly acrid. Fresh garlic will be white, plump, and while its scent will be unmistakably garlicky, it will still smell fresh. If you only have older garlic, remove the green stem and blanch it for a few minutes in boiling water to remove some of the acrid taste.
Lemon Use organic if at all possible, since you will only be using the zest. (The zest-free lemon will keep a few days which leaves you plenty of time to do something with the juice.) The lemon zest adds acid, zippiness and brightness.
Parsley Use flat leaf parsley if available, and wash it well. Most importantly, be sure it is completely dry before you start chopping it. If possible wash and dry it a few hours before you use it and then wrap it in a towel to absorb the last few drops of water. If the stems are thin and subtle, don’t worry to much about including them. If the stems are thick and tough, you’ll want to pluck the leaves. Chop the parsley as finely as possible. Parsley adds a clean, fresh, herbal note. 
Makes about 1/3 cup
1 small bunch parsley, washed and dried (enough to make 1 cup loosely-packed)
1 clove garlic, papery skin removed
2 organic lemons, washed and dried
Chop the parsley until it is the texture you want it.I prefer a more rustic chopped gremolata as a general rule.First grate the garlic with a microplane over the parsley followed by the lemon.The order is not essential but by grating the garlic first the lemon then deodorizes the microplane for you.Set aside for the flavours to meld until you are ready to serve it. 
You can substitute other ingredients.Parsley, garlic, and lemon make up the classic gremolata, but you can certainly switch things around to suit your dish. The garlic can be replaced with shallots, for instance, or the lemon with another citrus such as lime. Consider a mandarin orange and mint version, for example, or coriander, lime and shallot. Or mix in a few fresh herbs or a small amount of red chilli finely chopped without the seeds.I added dried toasted breadcrumbs to my gremolata.
Place calamari rings, 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil, 1 tbsp of the gremolata,1/2 red chilli deseeded, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to coat .
Marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat remaining oil in a frying pan until very hot.
Remove calamari from marinade, drain well and fry in hot oil for 2 minutes. Add reserved marinade and and mix well. 

Heat a large non-stick pan with a dash of oil over a medium heat
Make sure the skin of your hake is completely dry
Season the fillet of hake with salt and place in the pan, skin-side down
Leave the hake fillet for about 3–4 minutes until the skin has become crisp, then turn over and cook for a further minute
To check the fish is cooked insert a metal skewer into the thickest part of the fish, it should go through easily and be warm to the touch
To assemble the dish spoon a generous portion of steamed spinach onto the middle of the plate.Place the hake on top of the wilted spinach and spoon some calamari rings over the fish.Finish by scattering the dish with your gremolata crumb.


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