The trouble with always trying to make something new is that you often forget the gorgeous things that you have made in the past. That’s why I keep a recipe notebook, in which I write down the final versions of everything that I make that I wish to one day make again. Pushed for time and inspiration last night I was flipping through the book and came across this richly delicious, and ridiculously quick, dish that I haven’t made in a couple of years.
What was I thinking? This is fabulous. I wish I knew where I initially found it, credit is most definitely due.
RECIPE – serves 2 or 3
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
150ml vegetable stock
400g can chopped plum tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
1 tsp hot smoked paprika (pimentón picante)
210g dried Puy lentils OR 400g can Puy lentils
2 or 3 skinned hake fillet (or other firm, white fish)
flat-leaf parsley, chopped to garnish
If using dried lentils, submerge them in clean water and agitate to rinse them, pick out anything that looks like it doesn’t belong then add to a large pan and cover with around 1 1/2 inches of cold water – DO NOT ADD ANY SALT or anything with salt added, it will make the skins tough and essentially inedible. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes (depending on the age of the lentils) until they are just soft enough to eat. Drain and leave to cool on a plate.
Heat the oil in a large, nonstick sauté pan or cast iron casserole with a lid. Add the onion and fry over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until browned, turning up the heat a little if necessary. You want the flavour that a well-browned onion will give you so be brave!
When the onions are almost done, add the sliced garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic also browns, moving it around just enough to ensure it doesn’t catch. Burned garlic is bitter and ruins a dish, so be brave but take care to keep a close eye on things. You can always arrest the cooking by adding the stock…
Ah, the stock. Please, please, please, make your own. I have provided a link to my recipe in the ingredients list, so use that or use somebody else’s but whatever you do using a stock cube or bouillon powder should be your absolute last resort – the difference between home-made and powdered in the final dish is like the sun and the moon.
Lay the fish to dry on kitchen paper, and pat the top side of each fillet dry as well. Lightly season with salt and pepper and allow to sit for a few minutes while you carry on.
Add the stock to the onions and garlic and let it bubble for a few seconds, then tip in the tomatoes followed by the sun-dried tomato paste, paprika and lentils. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes before seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lay the fillets on top of the tomatoes and lentils, pressing them lightly into the sauce without submerging them, then cover the pan. Simmer over a very gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. The fish will poach on the underside and steam on the top side because of the lid, and will remain tender even if you slightly overcook it.
Serve in warmed bowls with crusty sourdough or wholemeal bread.