Mediterranean Hake

 

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If you live by the sea you will know what I am talking about. It’s a sound every child that grew up with the scent of sea salt in the nostrils can identify. It is a faint, almost fading eerie sound of bells that come from the sea at down. Some days are clear but where I come from, fog is generally the background setting for the fishermen that return to shore. It grows in intensity as the waves rock the small boats and the engines buzz their way into the port. It means fresh fish. It means tired men. Fishing is done at night, is then when hakes are catch. They live fifty meters under the surface of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and they are closely related to cods. They are long, thin, slippery predators that feed on lanternfish on the continental shelf. They eat, and they are eaten, the circle of life.

They have a subtle flavour, soft and flaky that makes is a commercially important species and the star of a myriad of traditional dishes in the old continent. Modern fishing techniques, on those giant boats that carry no bells, have polluted the water with anisakis making a parasite that was seldom found in the fish an everyday problem. You see, I recently discovered why, apparently fish are processed as they are caught and the byproduct of the cleaning of the fish, it’s thrown back to the sea, where other fish feed on it. Sounds as an intrinsically good idea, until you realise that we are spreading a disease that was naturally contained before in the fish and that actually causes severe allergic reactions on human beings, well done us. Again.

If you buy your fish at a decent fishmonger, they will be able to spot the parasite if it’s there and remove it, and it is totally safe to eat. It is a highly nutritious fish, low in fat and very good for children. It doesn’t have too many bones and it’s not too “fishy” (if you know what I mean).

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I have paired my hake today with fresh tomato relish with herbs (and no sugar) and some wholegrain couscous. The fish has been cooked in the microwave (steamed) and has a lemon rind, fresh basil and olive oil dressing. All those flavours are very Mediterranean and pair perfectly with one another. It can be made in advance and just heated up in the oven so it’s great if you have people over, pretty easy and fuss free. This recipe is gluten free and low GI which makes it appropriate for low carb diets and diabetic patients. Should you be vegan and not eat fish, tempeh is a great alternative for this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 large ripe tomatoes

2 fillets of hake

60 gr. of gluten free couscous

1 bush fresh basil

Fresh Oregano (or dried if you cannot get hold of it)

1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

How to…

Chop the tomatoes in small square pieces and cook them in 1/2 tsp. of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs also chopped. Let the water evaporate until the it acquires the consistency of a sauce, tomatoes are very high in water and it could ruin your dish later on.

Prepare the couscous according to the packaging instructions, usually is twice the volume of water that the one of couscous, pinch of salt and a dollop of butter, you can use olive oil too instead. You can add some sultanas and some toasted pine nuts to the couscous to make it more a more substancial meal (for lunch instead of dinner for example).

Clean the hake fillets and wash them. To cook them in the microwave set them in a tray with 3 tbsp of water per fillet and cover them with transparent film. Cook at 800w for 2 minutes and check if they are ready. Be careful and don’t put them for too long the first time around because it is very easy to overcook fish in the microwave. You can always put more time on them if needed.

For the fish sauce: grate the lemon rind and put it in a mortar, add the fresh basil and mash with pestle. Add a pinch of salt, dash of lemon juice and then carefully mix in 2 tbsp. of good extra virgin olive oil. serve the dish as per the picture if you wish or get creative.

Bon appetit!

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Protein Vegan Pasta Bolognesa

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If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably know by now, I am slightly obsessed with protein. This is because I know for a fact that in this particular macronutrient is were the basis for a more balanced diet lays.

Since I stopped eating meat and I only fish on occasions, how to get high amounts of protein in my meals has become a concern and I am always looking for alternatives to traditional lean proteins (your poultry, red meat etc.)

Even though the body can survive on a much smaller percentage of protein than we think, when we are talking about diet and weight control, protein has the ability to keep us fuller for longer and our body uses up about 30% of its total calorie content in digestion. This is called the foods thermogenic effect. I am constantly striving to offer you delicious, yet healthy alternatives to traditional foods, in case like me, you are on the unfortunate part of the world that puts weight easily.

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In this case I wanted to show you a pasta dish that is made with chick pea fusilli. That is it, I swear to you that this is the only ingredient, 100% chick pea flour. It provides 6 gr. of fibre, 50 gr. of carbohydrates and a whooping 20gr. of protein per 100 gr. My portion though is 50 grams and I add to it some vegan “mince” with home made tomato sauce, fresh cherry tomatoes, yellow and red pepper and fresh basil. I cook my pasta for 9 minutes with a handful of broccoli florets thrown in half way, to increase the size of my plate adding goodness but not calories.

I am sure you will be able to find similar alternatives in supermarkets near you, they are increasingly popular. You can find them lentil, soja and chick pea based and even though the brands have different flavours, you can try until you find your favourite. This one tasted just like regular fusilli. The added benefit is that these are gluten free!

This is a way to get your family to eat less meat and no one will notice the difference!

Ingredients (serves 2)

100 gr. chick pea fusilli

200 ml. home made tomato sauce (no added sugar)

5 cherry tomatoes

1 cup red and yellow pepper chopped

Fresh basil

2 cups broccoli

2 tbsp. of parmesan cheese or vegan alternative

115 gr. of vegan “mince” or extra lean mince meat

How to…

In a cooking pot, boil some water with salt and add the fusilli, let cook for 4 minutes and then add the broccoli and let boil for another 5 minutes (check your pasta cooking instructions and add the broccoli just 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time).

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Once cooked, throw away the water and reserve the pasta. In the same cooking pot, add the cherry tomatoes and the chopped peppers and spray with olive oil, let cook for a couple of minutes and add the tomato sauce. Add the vegan mince, this is already cooked so you wont have to wait long. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and 1 tbsp of the vegan or parmesan cheese.

Divide in two plates and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and fresh basil and enjoy.