Hake, watercress pesto crust & butter sauce

by Neil Forbes

A spring recipe for a mild, flaky white fish


1 clove of garlic
75g hazelnuts
75g hard cheddar
100ml olive oil
75g breadcrumbs
2 big bunches of watercress
A handful of parsley
4 fillets of hake, roughly 200g each, scaled and bones removed
Half a lemon

For the butter sauce:
200ml white wine
200ml good cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
3 peppercorns
1 shallot, roughly chopped and peeled
1 tbsp cream
200g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes and chilled
A squeeze of lemon juice
Good salt
Chopped chives, optional


To make the sauce, firstly place the wine, vinegar, bay, thyme, peppercorns and shallot in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce down by ¾ until you are left with just a few tablespoons. Strain into a clean pan and add the cream.

Gently bring to just below the boil and slowly, cube by cube, add the cool butter shaking the pan as you go, or use a whisk, to emulsify. Once all the butter is added, do not boil it, just keep it warm. Season with salt and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Stir in some freshly snipped chives. Set aside. Any leftover sauce will keep for a few weeks in a jam jar in your fridge.

To make the pesto crust, place the garlic, hazelnuts, cheese, 75ml of the oil, the breadcrumbs, half the watercress and all the parsley into a food processor and blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Rub a tray with the remaining oil and, holding each piece of fish in your hand, sprinkle over the pesto crust mixture. Place the fish, crust-side up, in the tray and bake in a hot oven at 200C for 7 to 10 mins, until the fish is just cooked and the crust is just starting to colour.

Finish with a squeeze of lemon and a kick of good salt. Serve with the remaining watercress and butter sauce.

Recipe: Neil Forbes