I’ve been meaning to attempt this dish for quite a long time now and was really pleased by how well it turned out. This was inspired by one of the many delicious things we ate at The Shed a few months ago so I hope they won’t mind me pinching their idea. I actually used dry flageolet beans when I cooked this as that’s all I had but have put canned here as the dried ones took an AGE to cook.
I’m writing this 3 sets into the Wimbledon final so please forgive any spelling mistakes!
hake – 2 good sized fillet slices
1 can of flageolet beans
a couple of spicy Italian sausages or just good quality normal ones
1 tsp fennel seeds
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp capers
Begin by cooking the crispy kale. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Toss the kale in some olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and bake it in the oven until crispy and just beginning to brown at the edges. This will only take 5-8mins.
Crush the fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar. Next take the sausage meat out of the skins. Heat a heavy based saucepan over a medium-high heat and add a bit of olive oil; fry the sausage meat, breaking the meat down all the time with the back of a wooden spoon. As it begins to brown add the fennel seeds and stir in well. Continue to cook until the fat has rendered and the meat is like a coarse mince and has a lovely golden colour. Set aside.
Strain the flageolet beans in a sieve, empty into a saucepan and heat gently for a couple of minutes. Add enough double cream just to give it a bit of a sauce and then add a tbsp of capers and the lemon juice. Season to taste.
For the fish season well on each side of the fillet. Heat a generous knob of butter in a frying pan over a relatively high heat – I did this in the same pan I had just cooked the sausages in. Cook the hake skin side down, holding it down firmly for the first few seconds, for about 4 mins until the skin is golden brown and the fish starting to cook through. Turn it over and cook the other side – it will only need another minute or 2 on this side. Remove from the heat to rest for a minute.
To serve add the sausage meat to the beans and spoon onto warm plates. Place the fish on top and then arrange the kale around the outside.
I’m not normally one for surf and turf but this works brilliantly. There is a wonderful richness to this dish and the sausage meat and fennel seeds adds a bit of warmth and spice. As such you would need a wine with body and a bit of spice that can support these flavours. I would recommend an oaked Chardonnay for this. A decent Burgundy would be delicious but a southern French Chardonnay would do the job admirably well. If you go for a New World Chardonnay try to make sure there’s not too much tropical fruit on the palate as this will override the subtleness of the fish.
It is quite a spectacle going out to lunch with my family. There are so many of us (I have 2 brothers, 2 sisters and between us we now have 3 plus ones in tow) and inevitably end up slightly taking over every restaurant we ever go to leaving me feeling faintly sorry through the haze of alcohol for the other folk there who were probably looking forward to a nice quiet luncheon and who through no fault of their own and some horrible twist of fate ended up next to us.
On this occasion (my sister’s birthday) we took our noisiness (and discerning palates) to The Shed in Notting Hill. For me, as a concept, The Shed rather symbolises ‘living the dream’. The two guys who run it hale from Sussex not far from where I grew up and they source the majority of their produce either from their younger brother’s farm or other local farmers. The menu changes daily depending on what’s available and it makes you feel like jumping up and down on one of their kettle drum tables singing ‘The Circle of Life’. And it’s all very farmyard themed – the top of their bar is made out of what looks like the bonnet of a John Deer tractor and there’s tractor wallpaper in the loo. The other chap in the restaurant celebrating his birthday (who had obviously had the forethought to tell them in advance) had his birthday cake ‘rung’ in to the room with a cow bell!
All this would be incidental if the food wasn’t good. But it was SO GOOD! The kind of good that means we all sort of couldn’t cope with how good it was. We were at first slightly confused by the menu but had it gently explained to us by our extremely patient waiter – it’s all about small plates here, like tapas but English. This is bad news if you’re not good at sharing but really good news if you’re looking at a menu (like we all were) thinking there is no heavenly way in the world you would ever be able to pick two dishes out of all this deliciousness. As it was we ordered 13 out of the possible 16 dishes (they are split into two categories of ‘Slow Cooking’ and ‘Fast Cooking’) and many of these we doubled up on.
Highlights were the Lamb Chips – slow cooked lamb pulled apart and put back together into a ‘chip’ shape, rolled in bread crumbs and crisped up in the deep fat frier. The Scotched Mozzarella and Veal made us all literally all bend forward in unison and go ‘Ooooooh’ before having to up our order to 3 portions. The Veal Medallions with Bone Marrow Pesto almost made my father fall off his chair with excitement and for me the Hake with Fennel Ground Pork, White Beans and Wild Garlic was one of the best dishes I have had in a long long time and had me reaching for my notebook to try and remember to recreate it (in my dreams) at home. Even the desserts (yes we had room, just) were phenomenal – all twists on old favourites – Rhubarb Jelly with Crumble Ice Cream, Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding and Magnum Vienetta Parfait. I am still not genuinely sure what a parfait actually is (it always makes me think of Donkey from Shrek – you know the scene) but all I know is I would eat that for dessert every time I went out for the rest of my life and die a happy (yet rather portly) woman.
I never actually saw a wine list but the house red and white (a Merlot and a Languedoc blend respectively) kept us happy throughout the meal. I believe they serve ‘Nutty Nutbourne’ as their house fizz which is certainly worth a try if you have any interest in English Sparkling Wines and if you don’t, shame on you, you should and it’s time to get on board.
Please bear this place in mind the next time you go out. It really was one of the most fun lunches we had all had in a long long time. It is informal, relaxed but attentive service. The food is brilliant and exciting and delicious but without being fussy or poncy. I can’t wait to go back and I only hope that living the dream is as good for them on the inside looking out as it seemed to me from the outside looking in.