Hake, Pancetta & Brown Shrimp Cassoulet, Kale and Salsa Verde
inspired by The Tolcarne Inn
Since I’ve been cooking with Cornish fish over the past six months now, I thought it was about time I made something inspired by a local restaurant.
Yes, you guessed it, I’m raiding the freezer again for dinner. Result! I still had some hake left from my last fish order. So now I am hunting for hake dish inspiration. I’m hoping to find it in Newlyn.
Newlyn, in South West Cornwall, is the largest fishing port in England. It’s home to the annual Newlyn Fish Festival that attracts thousands of visitors. It’s also home to Fresh Cornish Fish. This fishmongers sell amazing quality, sustainably caught seafood. Even more amazingly is they can send it, via courier, anywhere in the UK. They are hands down my favourite discovery of lockdown.
But where is good to eat fish in Newlyn? A quick google and a pub called The Tolcarne Inn catches my eye. It’s position next to the sea wall, its 300 years of history, its daily changing menu. I think I’ve fallen in love with this place and I’ve not even been there.
So what does the Tolcarne Inn do with hake, I wonder? At the moment it serves it with Pomme Anna potatoes, charred January King cabbage….
Ah, that’s no good.
Aidan is well and truly fed up with cabbage. A regular in our veg boxes, for once we have a cabbage free house. I think if I went to the shops and voluntarily brought more of the stuff into the kitchen he may kill me. So I need a plan B.
Thankfully after a bit of Instagram detective work I find a menu from October 2019. And it has this delicious sounding hake dish.
“Hake, Pancetta & Brown Shrimp Cassoulet, Cavolo Nero, Salsa Verde”
OK, I know that Cavolo Nero is a type of Italian cabbage. But I don’t have any of that. I’m using kale.
And yes, technically kale is also a type of leafy cabbage. But I’m taking my chances. (Since I’m writing this after cooking the dish, it’s safe to say Aidan didn’t kill me. I got away with it.)
Anyway the cabbage, whatever kind it may be, is not the reason I want to cook this dish. How amazing does “pancetta and brown shrimp cassoulet” sound? I would order this for sure. If I was in the pub. And had a time machine to take me back to last October. But you know what I mean.
So, with no recipe at all, off I go to try and recreate this seaside pub dish.
I finely dice half a large white onion, a celery stick and two cloves of garlic. Into a pan with some olive oil to fry gently until soft and translucent. I’m taking my time here, so it’s probably 10-15 minutes.
I scoop out the softened veg and add the lardons to the pan. I have smoked bacon lardons rather than pancetta, but I’m hoping the end result will still be just as good. The heat gets turned up slightly and I fry the bacon until it’s starting to colour and go crispy at the edges. A small splash of red wine deglazes the pan.
Next I add the veg back in along with a spoonful of tomato puree. After that has cooked for a couple of minutes in goes a tin of plum tomatoes, some chopped parsley stalks and a little salt and pepper. The lid goes on, the heat gets turned right down and I leave it to bubble away for half an hour.
In the meantime I make a salsa verde by chopping a mix of herbs (parsley, mint, basil and oregano) with cornichons, capers, anchovies oil and vinegar. I even chop in some carrot tops, to save them from going to waste.
Back to the cassoulet. I remove the lid and add the drained cannellini beans. Turn up the heat a little so it can bubble away until it’s thickened.
I simply pan fry the hake with some garlic and olive oil. The kale is boiled and left to steam dry before a knob of butter and lemon juice gets added.
A minute before serving I stir in the brown shrimps (which are already cooked) and chopped parsley leaves. It’s ready.
It’s delicious. The only thing that could make this dish better right now is a sea view. I’ll have to wait a while longer before I venture off to the coast.
However it’s comforting to know that the sea, or at least some of the fish caught in it, can come to me.
A little piece of Cornwall, delivered by courier, from Fresh Cornish Fish.
Hake, Pancetta & Brown Shrimp Cassoulet, Kale, Salsa Verde
- 2 hake fillets (ideally skin on)
- 2 handfuls kale
- olive oil
- 1 knob butter
- ½ lemon
Pancetta & Brown Shrimp Cassoulet
- ½ white onion
- 1 celery stick
- 2 garlic cloves
- 80 g diced pancetta (or smoked bacon lardons)
- 150 ml red wine
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tin plum tomatoes
- 1 tin cannellini beans, drained
- 70 g brown shrimps (peeled and precooked)
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- olive oil
- 1 bunch mixed soft herbs (I used basil, parsley, mint, oregano)
- 3 cornichons
- 1 tsp capers
- 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Finely chop the celery, onion and garlic for the cassoulet. Put a pan on a medium-low heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the veg and gently fry for 10-15minutes. You want it soft and translucent, but not brown.
- Scoop out the veg and set aside. and turn the heat up. Now add the pancetta or bacon and fry until golden and crisp. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan. Add the tomato puree and cook for a minute before adding the veg back in. Add the tin of plum tomatoes. Finely chop the parsley stalks (save the leaves for later) add them to the pan and put the lid on. Turn the heat down and cook slowly for 30 minutes.
- Make the salsa verde by finely chopping your selection of herbs. Add them to a small bowl and cover with the olive oil. Now finely chop all the other ingredients and add to the bowl with the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
- After the tomato base for the cassoulet has cooked for 30 minutes, remove the lid and add the drained cannellini beans. Turn the heat up slightly and let it bubble away until you have a nice thick bean stew.
- Once the cassoulet is almost ready it's time to cook the hake. Heat olive oil in a non stick frying pan. Season the fish all over and add it skin side down. Cook for about 4 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Flip the fillets over and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until cooked through.
- Meanwhite cook the kale for a few minutes in salted boiling water. Drain and mix in a knob of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. To finish the cassoulet stir in the brown shrimps and roughly chopped parsley leaves.
- To plate up spoon the cassoulet onto plates and put the fish fillets on top with the kale. Add salsa verde an enjoy!