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After a summer of eating primarily with my fingers – the occasional appearance of fork and spoon notwithstanding (as an American I really don’t do knives) – I fancy a bit of, well, fancy. A spot of elegance. Something I can’t be tempted to scoop up with a flatbread or teeter atop a crisp bread. But, if you know me you know I don’t do fancy, or neat, or any of those other adjectives one may associate with ‘normal’ food bloggers and food writers.  In fact, rather than try and change I rather cling to my messiness. Fine dining is why I will go to a restaurant, not what I aspire to at home. I am essentially a home cook who happens to also cook for others, and write about it too.

But sometimes a gal has got to buck up her ideas. And today is just that day. There is no sunny sky to scream ‘barbeque’ at me, and it is far too windy to want to tame a flame in any case.

For me elegant eating doesn’t have to involve spending hours in the kitchen, or mega-bucks on just-so ingredients. It certainly doesn’t involve tortuous presentation, although I greatly admire those who can pull this off. Elegant eating is more the context – cloth napkins, a simply laid table in the garden or dining room, a jug of chilled water or a nice bottle of wine, and food served on plates. The latter is a must in my book. And speaking of books, no books, newspapers, phones, iPads or headphones allowed either. Tough, or what?

This food can be baked potatoes lovingly prepared and served with seasonal salads and fillings, or of course something properly fancy like my double salmon and beetroot stacks with cardamom-lemon creme fraiche, or an ooh-ahh beef Wellington. But more often than not my nod to elegance is cooking a piece of fish. There is just something about fresh fish that lends itself to elegant dining. Maybe it is because you can do very little to it for it to be delicious. And quick too –  a classy fast food. Perhaps it is just me but fish, if it were a person, would be someone understatedly elegant and naturally beautiful, like Helen Mirren, rather than one of the flashier, sequinned, Bumpit-wearing celebs. Well, maybe I can see a monkfish as a Bumpit-wearing celeb…

What food or recipe do you like to make when you want a touch of elegance? Do you think it is as much about the context as the food itself? Or is food the key element for you and to heck with cutlery and napkins?

Pan-fried Hake with Brown Shrimp & Caper Butter Sauce

Last Year: A Homemade Deodorant That Really Works
Miss R’s Track of the Week: “5/6” by Jason Mraz
This oh-so simple recipe sounds – and is – very luxurious, but is actually lower in fat than many other recipes of this ilk. And it is a very seasonal September recipe too, featuring hake, brown shrimps and garden chives – all still very much available in the UK. At other times of the year, and in other countries, use whatever firm white fish is seasonal and local to you, and use some gorgeous little potted shrimps (love the quaint name) rather than the fresh ones, or even small fresh grey shrimp. For a touch more luxury add a pinch of butter to the pan after you have turned the fish, allowing it to sizzle around the fish. My oh my…
2 fillets hake (about 175g each), skin on and pin-boned if necessary (hake is one of the least bony white fish)
1 tsp olive oil or rapeseed oil (not extra virgin)
20g salted butter
2 spring onions/scallions, sliced
juice of half a large lemon
1 tbsp capers, rinsed 
¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning, a popular US fish seasoning (optional) OR small pinch each of mild paprika, salt and mace 
1 heaped tbsp chopped chives
2 heaped tbsp chopped parsley
100g shelled brown shrimp
Sliced lemon and extra chives, to serve
Take each piece of fish and rub with the oil.  Pop these skin-side down into a snug non-stick pan or well-seasoned iron skillet on a medium heat. Fry until the skin is starting to crisp up – about 2 minutes – then carefully turn, frying for a further two minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. Slide the fish onto a serving plate and keep warm in a low oven, or cover loosely with foil.

If you are confident you can do the sauce in a separate saucepan at the same time as the fish, but otherwise turn up the heat and add the butter and chopped spring onion to the skillet and fry for a minute. Add the capers, Old Bay, or paprika, salt and mace, and the lemon juice, sizzling for one minute before finally adding the herbs and brown shrimps to warm through. Pour the hot sauce over the warm fish and serve with steamed new potatoes and something green like broccoli or a sharp salad. Simple and utterly delicious.

welcome to the (chive) jungle

16 thoughts on “Pan-fried Hake with Brown Shrimp and Caper Butter Sauce

  1. That looks so flavorful! You’re a fantastic photographer as well!

    1. Thank you Aly. Not so sure about the photography though -a bit hit and miss!

  2. travelchic says:

    beautiful food, beautiful pics..yummm…

    1. Thanks so much Ms Travel Chic. I’ll take a ‘yummm’ any day.

  3. This all sounds wonderful, can’t wait to try it!

    1. Ah bless, Linda. And thank you for your faithful tweeting on my behalf – you are more on the ball about my recipes than I am!

  4. julietfitzj says:

    I see Mimi is helping out in the garden!

    1. Looking out for wandering frogs more like it. She has a good disguise for our garden, doesn’t she? If she goes among the grasses she just disappears. Btw, look out for a knock out Italian recipe coming your way that you will be asking me to make when I visit. (she says, tooting her own horn)

  5. I’m not sure if my comment went through, so I apologize if this is a duplicate!

    This looks like a really lovely dish. We eat a lot of fish and I’m always looking for new ways to make it…this looks particularly flavorful!

    1. Thank you Faith. It is so simple and the brown shrimp are so delectable that it is a bit of a fishy favourite around here.

  6. I always learn something when I come here, and today my universe has been expanded on two fronts: brown shrimp (which I will try) and Bumpits (which I won’t – because somehow I don’t think I can pull off the elongated cranium look, fetching though it may be on others).

    For me, elegance is about simplicity and attention to detail – the perfect browning on the fish and the chive definitely strike the right tone there. A few pickled pink peppercorns in a classic cheese fondue, or just the right sauce on that special cut of [fill in the blank] can add a touch of elegance. Candles help too.

    1. Ah, I think you could pull off a Bumpit, if you grew your hair a bit. I might pay money to see that! I don’t know if you guys can get brown shrimp over in LA but just use the most flavoursome shrimp you can find – big is definitely not better when it comes to shrimp. I love your thoughts on elegant dining: attention to detail, whether it’s a cheese sandwich or lovely pink peppercorns in a cheese fondue, love and care can make most things elegant. And candles. Bonnie Lee is a lucky lady. But I’m sure she knows that. 😀

  7. Looks totally delish! Our idea of luxurious dinner is friends at the dining room table, candles lit, wine in our glasses, and talking about old memories – while making new ones! Thanks for the recipe idea.

  8. I LOVE fish, I LOVE Old Bay and I LOVE shrimp! I have a recipe myself for halibut in a shrimp butter sauce, but as I adore hake, this may make an appearance on my table soon! Karen

    1. Thanks Karen for the two very kind and enthusiastic comments. I remember your post: it was very posh and involved champagne, if I remember correctly. Hake and beets are two fave ingredients of mine. Not sure if I can have them meet though! Btw, I am really looking forward to meeting you in the radiant flesh on Friday. I will be arriving last second, sweaty and harassed from the train down. I hope you are forgoing the old 5-2 for the weekend…

  9. Looking forward to trying this recipe today in sunny Scotland. Pictures look wonderful.

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