Wednesday 21 March 2018

Forkful's easy suppers: Lemon Caper Hake

Lemon caper hake. Photo: Mark Duggan
Lemon caper hake. Photo: Mark Duggan

Aoife McElwain

How did fish become associated with Fridays? Though there is a delicious conspiracy that a powerful Medieval pope made a secret pact with the fishing industry to boost sales, no evidence has ever been found to help the conspiracy make the transition to historical fact.

Instead, it seems that the cold-blooded nature of fish fits in with the theological Christian ritual of fasting on a Friday, particularly important on Good Friday itself.

This week's recipe might work for your Good Friday table, or for your table on any good day when you fancy eating fish.

Hake, specifically from the North Atlantic, is a current favourite for cooks who care about the sustainability of their fish. The cod schools in our seas have taken a serious beating from unsustainable over-fishing.

Personally, I would take the sweet, subtle flavour of hake over cod any day.

Be careful to source your fish from a reputable and reliable fishmongers who can tell you about the sourcing and provenance. I trust Kish Fish and Fitzsimon's Fishmongers in Dublin. Gannet Fishmongers in Galway are fantastic as is the famous fish aisle in Cork's English Market.

For me, butter is best when it comes to cooking fish. However, you can swap it out for olive oil if you prefer.

Similarly with the rapeseed oil in the lemon caper dressing, you can use olive oil if that's what you have to hand.

I love the golden colour of rapeseed oil as well as the gorgeous flavour it adds to the dressing. Try Newgrange Gold or Donegal Rapeseed Oil, both Irish companies making lovely products.

Lemon Caper Hake

Serves 2

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes


8 baby potatoes

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 tablespoon of capers



8 asparagus spears

2 x 100g hake fillets

Plenty of butter

Lemon wedges, to serve

Fresh dill, optional


1. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Cook your baby potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside. 2. Meanwhile, make your lemon caper dressing. Put the rapeseed oil in a bowl and add the zest of one lemon. Squeeze in the tablespoon of lemon juice. Roughly chop the capers and add them to the dressing. Mix well and season with a little salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 3. Heat a knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Fry the fish for four minutes on each side, or until cooked through and crisping around its edges. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

4. Add a little more butter to the same pan and fry the asparagus spears over a high heat for about 3 minutes, just a flash-fry so they soften a little but still maintain their beautiful green hue and lovely crunch. There are few things as miserable as an overcooked asparagus spear. 5. Transfer the asparagus spears to a plate and place the hake fillets on top. Depending on what shape of fillet you get, you can keep your fillet whole or let it break into two smaller pieces, like my dish. Spoon a bit of the dressing on top of the fish and serve the rest on the side, along with the boiled spuds and a slice of lemon. Finish the plate with sprigs of fresh dill if you have it to hand.

This week's storecupboard essential:

Capers: The little pickled capers that you find in supermarkets are actually the edible flower buds of the caper bush. They add a salty burst to a dressing and love being paired with fish.

Head to your local deli to pick up a good quality jar of these salty little supper savers.

Irish Independent

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