I love Christmas - wrapping the presents; the ritual of decorating the tree, a process which in our house usually extends to smothering the entire ground floor of the house with garlands and glitter; collecting the turkey from the farm; making the stuffings, the pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and all the other essential elements of our family Christmas dinner; setting the table with bits and pieces of inherited and precious silver and glassware (I don’t much enjoy polishing these but hey, they usually only come out once a year).
Then there’s the sound of car doors slamming as the extended family arrives and piles into the house with luggage and presents and wine and boxes of crackers and hugs all round; the laughter and jokes, the inevitable is-the-turkey-underdone-or-overdone moment, and the after dinner tradition of charades around the table, which only one of the family is actually any good at (take a bow, Alice).
I confess though that in the run-up I get a bit bored with the endless series of glossy magazine articles on how to cook a turkey without losing your mind and recipes designed to make sprouts palatable to those who dislike them (why bother? Just give them something they do like).
I’m more interested in family meals I can pre-cook so I don’t have to spend the entire holiday at the stove, like a good casserole or pie, or in lighter, brighter recipes that provide an antidote to seasonal over-eating.
This Spanish-style dish hits both sweet spots, with robust Mediterranean flavours that still allow the delicate flavour of the hake to shine, and a base that can be made ahead of time so all you have to do when you want to eat is re-heat it and cook the fish, a matter of minutes. I made it for two but it’s easily scaled up to feed four. Substitute cod steaks if you can’t get hake.
250g new potatoes
25g hot spicy chorizo, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 heaped tspn sweet smoked paprika
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 chargrilled red peppers (I used ones from a jar), sliced into ribbons
Handful of mixed olives, green and black, pitted
300g hake fillet
Parsley, to garnish
Cook the potatoes in salted water until just tender, then drain. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and halve or quarter them, depending on size. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or casserole and gently fry the chorizo for a minute or two. Add the onions and cook until soft and golden. Now add the garlic and paprika, stir them through and cook for a few minutes more.
Pour in the tomatoes, add the peppers, potatoes and olives and simmer until the sauce has reduced somewhat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the hake into two fillets, check it for bones, season it with salt and pepper and place it on top of the stew. Put on a lid and cook on a moderate heat for 10 minutes. Garnish with roughly torn parsley and serve.