Forget lamb, cook a whole fish for Easter lunch

Cooking meat on the bone is the best way to get the most flavour and the same applies to fish

Roasted whole hake with  minted baby potatoes, asparagus mimosa, courgette batons and Hollandaise sauce

Roasted whole hake with minted baby potatoes, asparagus mimosa, courgette batons and Hollandaise sauce

 

It’s always good to stand out from the crowd, and hosting Easter lunch (or a dinner party) where you roast a whole fish on the bone will certainly achieve just that. I’m amazed that it’s not something we do more often. Cooking meat on the bone is always the best way to get maximum flavour, and the same applies to seafood. There simply isn’t a better way to eat fish.

We eat a lot of filleted fish in Ireland, but a whole fish is a great alternative to lamb for Easter lunch. I cooked this whole hake in the oven, but if it were a whole turbot, trout, brill or a bass I’d have opted for a barbecue as they are firmer fish. Either will work fine though. You can remove the head but I like to leave it as it gives better balance to the fish while cooking and it allows you to get the punctured lemons into the body cavity. Just ask your fishmonger to scale the fish and remove the guts.

Champagne butter roasted whole hake with trimmings

Serves 8-10 adults

Ingredients

  • Whole hake (3.5-4.5kg)
  • 200g butter, cut into slices
  • 400ml champagne (or sparkling wine)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 lemons, punctured all over with a fork
  • Minted Baby Potatoes
  • 24 baby potatoes
  • 4 stalks of mint
  • 16 mint leaves, finely sliced
  • 20g butter
  • Fine sea salt and ground white pepper
  • Asparagus Mimosa
  • 24 asparagus spears, peeled from the stem down
  • Asparagus dressing
  • 2tsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 7tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 hard boiled egg, grated
  • Courgette Sauté
  • 1 large courgette, cut into batons
  • 20ml vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3g tarragon, chopped finely
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • 200ml water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 3tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 300g clarified butter
  • 1tbsp boiling water

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 180C. Place the hake on a large oven tray and curve the tail so that it fits. Sprinkle a generous layer of sea salt all over it and then place the punctured lemons underneath the head in the cavity that’s opened from the cleaning out of the fish. Make sure the fish is well balanced and then spread the butter slices around the tray and pour the champagne all over the fish. Place the fish in the oven for 40 minutes. Baste it every five minutes from the 20-minute mark onwards.

While the fish is cooking, cover the potatoes with cold water, add in the sprigs of mint along with four pinches of salt and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside, keeping warm.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and drop in the asparagus for four minutes then remove and plunge into a bowl of iced water. Drain and set aside.

After 40 minutes remove the hake from the oven, cover with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

For the Hollandaise, bring 200ml of water to the boil in a small pot. Add the egg yolks to a bowl, place the bowl over the pot of boiling water and whisk the egg yolks until thick, creamy and doubled in bulk. Add the vinegar and lemon juice as well as some seasoning.

Melt the butter, then slowly add to the egg yolks while continuously whisking until emulsified. Now add in the tablespoon of boiling water and season to taste. Set aside at room temperature.

To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, seasoning and shallot and slowly add in the oil until emulsified.

Heat two separate frying pans and add the potatoes, butter and mint to one and sauté for two minutes then spoon the potatoes into a serving bowl. Add the asparagus to the other pan for two minutes then place them on a serving plate. Drizzle over the vinaigrette followed by the grated egg.

Keep the asparagus pan and add in the remaining vegetable oil followed by the courgette batons and season. Sauté for two minutes, add the tarragon, adjust seasoning and serve.

You can garnish the mouth of the fish with half a lemon or a turned mushroom. I serve with the eyes in but you can remove them and place an olive in the cavity.

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