Saturday, July 7

Hake, Puy Lentils Fennel & Serrano, Smoked Paprika Aioli

Hake is sustainable (if any wild fish is truly sustainable these days), lentils are good for you and fennel is in season on right now. What's not to like?

Thick hake fillet, skin on - 2x180g
Puy lentils - 100g
Leek - 1 small, washed
Carrot - 1
Fennel - 1 head, any herby sprigs reserved
Large ripe tomato - 1
Garlic - 5 fat cloves, roughly chopped
Chicken or vegetable stock - 500ml
Bay leaves - 2
Rosemary - 1 small sprig
Serrano ham - 100g, finely chopped
Olive Oil - 150ml
Lemon juice - 1/2 a lemons worth
Free range egg yolk - 1
Smoked Paprika - 1 tsp soaked in the lemon juice

Finely dice the leek, fennel and carrot and gently fry off in a large sauté pan with 3 cloves worth of the chopped garlic and 50ml of the olive oil. When the vegetables are soft and starting to go golden, add the lentils, ham, stock, herbs and a good season of salt and pepper. Cover and allow to simmer gently until the lentils are tender and the stock mostly absorbed - feel free to add more stock if the lentils seem a little dry. At the end skin, seed and chop up a raw tomato and throw in for the last 2 mins of cooking - it really freshens up the dish.

Heat a good nonstick frying pan with a heatproof handle and also set your oven to 200c. Season the fish fillets on both sides and add a little of the olive oil to the pan. Fry the fish on a medium hot heat - skin side down - until the skin is crispy and golden. Flip the fillets over and transfer to the oven to cook through - maybe 8 to 10 mins depending on the thickness of the fish. 

While the fish is cooking, make your aioli. Grind the remaining garlic to a paste using the flat of your knife on the chopping board with a pinch of salt to help the abrasion. Add this to a mixing bowl with the egg yolk and the lemon/paprika juice. Begin whisking (yes by hand) and drizzle in a thin stream of olive oil, whisking all the time. It is really easy, just start off really slow with the oil, you can drizzle faster as the aioli thickens. You want a really thick aioli so whisk in more oil if it looks a little thin. Taste and correct the seasoning with more lemon and salt.

Plate up the lentils in a suitable rustic bowl, fish and aioli next, then finish with any reserved fennel herb. Stir the aioli into the lentils as you eat - proper job!

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