The local queen of “white” (i.e. non oily) fish in Gijón must definitely be hake, auctioned daily at the local fish market and on your plate the same day! This delicately flavoured fish, called merluza in Spanish, can be cooked in a variety of ways. One of the most popular hake dishes in Gijón is “merluza a la sidra”, i.e. pan cooked in a smooth sauce made with finely chopped onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, flour and a natural (still) cider, with just a touch of dried chilli to taste. A few fresh clams in the sauce never go amiss, either!
A simpler recipe, and one popular throughout Northern Spain, is “merluza en salsa verde” or hake in a garlic and parsley (hence the “green”) sauce, this time using some white wine and just a little flour to thicken the sauce to taste.
The traditional at heart and lovers of good old fish and chips should give “merluza a la romana” a try. As the name suggests, this recipe goes way back to Roman times. Long before fridges existed, it was sometimes deemed necessary to cover the fish in batter and fry it so as to hide the fact that it was going a bit off colour, with just a squirt of vinegar to offset any tell-tale odours that what you were eating hadn’t exactly been caught that same day!
Nowadays, however, the recipe has become a standard on any menu and the freshness of the fish need not be doubted, especially in Gijón, where the local residents take their fish seriously fresh. The usual way of battering hake in Spain is not like that used in UK fish and chip shops, however. The fish is simply lightly salted, dusted in flour, dipped in beaten egg and then popped into a pan of hot olive oil to be fried until a light golden brown.
To be (deliciously) continued…