Baked hake with brown butter and samphire dressing

Baked hake with brown butter and samphire dressing

Preparation time
1-2 hours

Cooking time
10 to 30 mins

Serves 4

By Paul Ainsworth
From Saturday Kitchen


For the brine (optional)

  • 100g/3½oz table salt
  • 40g/1½oz caster sugar
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 6 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves, skin on and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 5 coriander seeds

For the croûtons

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 200g/7oz day-old bread, torn into small pieces (tin-style loaf is ideal)
  • 2 pinches Cornish sea salt
  • 3 pinches ground mace (or nutmeg)
  • 40g/1½oz salted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or chopped

For the hake

  • 4 x 180–200g/6¼ –7oz hake fillets
  • 250g/9oz unsalted butter, diced
  • dash olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 50g/1¾oz samphire
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dried seaweed salad, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 100g/3½oz croutons (see above)
  • ½ lemon, zest only
  • ½ lime, zest only
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper


  1. The hake can be soaked in brine before cooking or alternatively just sprinkled with salt (see below for salting instructions). If you want to make the brine, place all of the brine ingredients and 2 litres/3½ pints water in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer in a saucepan and cook until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Leave to cool, then add the hake fillets and brine for 1 hour. Take out of the brine and pat dry with kitchen paper or a tea towel. Set aside.

  2. To make the croutons, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the bread. Season with the sea salt and mace. Once the bread starts to turn golden, add the butter and keep the croutons moving. Let the butter foam and absorb into the bread. Add the garlic and toss through the toasted bread. Take the pan off the heat and transfer the crisp croutons to kitchen paper to drain.

  3. To make the hake, heat the butter in a medium-sized frying pan over a high heat. Spread the butter out with a wooden spoon but don’t shake or move the pan. The butter will go foamy then start to brown. Once the butter is a lovely golden brown, pass it through a sieve into a bowl and leave to cool, then transfer to the fridge to set. Once the butter has set, give it a good whisk to bring it back to a smooth consistency.

  4. Preheat the oven to 195C/175C Fan/Gas 5½. Place the four hake fillets on a non-stick baking tray or a baking tray lined with baking paper. If you are not making the brine, season the hake portions all over with sea salt. Generously spoon the brown butter all over each fish portion, making sure to spread it on the bottom of the fish and the sides. Bake for 7 minutes or until a food thermometer reads 45C in the centre of each portion.

  5. Heat the olive oil in the same pan used for the brown butter over a medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for 2–3 minutes without browning until the shallots and garlic are softened.

  6. Once the fish is cooked, remove from the oven and pour the brown butter and all the hake juices from the baking tray into the pan with the shallot mixture. Leave the fish on the tray and leave to rest for 2–3 minutes whilst you finish the sauce.

  7. Add the samphire, lemon juice and seaweed to the shallot mixture. Stir for 30 seconds, so the samphire starts to wilt slightly. Add the chives and parsley and a couple of twists of cracked black pepper.

  8. Place the baked hake on four plates and divide the brown butter dressing between the plates. Finish with the croutons and lemon and lime zests and serve.

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