A Miserable Fishmonger, Where I Found a New Taste Sensation

So near where I work is one of the few remaining fishmongers south of London (at least it’s the only one I can think of). But in the 12 years I have frequented the area I had never stepped inside. The wife, being that rare breed (a pescetarian), this week asked for, no demanded, a fish creation.

So, sick of salmon from Tesco, and prawns from Sainsbury’s, I dragged my sorry arse out of the office and set off, with high hopes, to the nearby fishmongers.

The window was stuffed with gigantic prawns that looked like lobsters, and lobsters that looked like…well whatever the next size up from a lobster is. Large slabs of cod and what looked like a whole side of tuna (although it was shrinked wrapped).

So I gamboled in and…

…was met by an empty shop. Very nice, with large stainless steel counters, some expensive looking cookery utensils and a large freezer full of the sort of thing you find in any Wing Yip oriental supermarket. But in terms of fresh fish, it was sorely lacking. What it had was all in the front window display.

Two figures were lurking around at the back with knives, bent over something large and shiny. I guessed, in a moment of genius, that these were the fishmongers, and that they were dealing with something that had come out the water somewhere.

I shuffled towards them in the hope that someone would ask me what I wanted. This only happened once I was nearly standing on top of them.

‘Can I help?’

‘Have you got any monkfish?’



And that would have been that, had the other fishery person not intervened.

‘No, sorry, all out’.

‘Oh’. I didn’t really know what to do. I am not a fish person really. If I asked a butcher if they had any rib-eye steaks and they said they didn’t I would know that sirloin was fine. Or a bit of rump. But fish? Well, it’s fish.

And I couldn’t very well walk in to a fishmonger’s saying ‘Got any fish?’.

So thinking on my feet I said

‘What else that’s white and firm?’

‘Cod. We’ve got some cod.’

Okaaaay. Everyone’s got cod. Then the wife (she definitely was the wife) animated.

‘How about some Hake.?

And so we went to the front display and dragged a massive silver lump out of the ice. It looked like a small whale.

‘Good one this. One big bone down the middle. Easy to cook. Very nice.’ And then she added. ‘Might have some monkfish, end of week.’

Fishmongers are a dying breed. I hope this one was just having a bad day. But if the stock of fish was anything to go by, a little customer service improvement would go a long way!

So anyway, I got my fish. Now all I had to do was think of how it was going to be eaten.

I arranged a large quantity of random ingredients together, took a photo and then drank a glass of wine.



In the end I dumped the mango and opted for Hake with Orzo Rice

  • 2 hake fillets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup orzo rice
  • 1 fish stock cube
  • large bunch coriander
  • big handful cashew nuts
  • 1 tub tomatoes
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 tsp chopped ginger (I cheated and used frozen ginger)
  • 1 glass white wine. Actually make that 2

First prepare the fillets. Using a small sharp knife, remove the bone in the centre and create four small steaks.



Flatten the steaks, rub with olive oil and season well. Heat a skillet with a little more oil and fry for two minutes, skin side down, turn and cook for a minute more, remove from the pan and set aside.


Fry the garlic, chilli and ginger in a little oil on a very low heat with some seasoning until it all starts to soften.


Add the onion, continue to cook, then add the wine.


Add the tomatoes and the pasta and leave to simmer for five minutes. Now add the paprika and any other seasoning that takes your fancy (I like a bit of worcestershire sauce with most things for example).


Lay the fish on top of the rice and leave to simmer for another five minutes.


Sprinkle on the remaining coriander and serve!


Now I can’t tell you how nice this fish is. It is firm but incredibly moist – like you wish cod would be but usually isn’t. Defo recommend you give it a try!


23 thoughts on “A Miserable Fishmonger, Where I Found a New Taste Sensation

  1. Hake is one of my favorite fishes, but not often available here. In Italy, France and Spain it is known as merluzza and very popular. Your technique of cooking the fish is perfect — quite impressive for such a carnivore. The key to fish is not overcooking, and that is what you did. If you replace the fish stock cube with some home made fish stock (from bones, you can get them for free from the fish monger’s) then it will be even more spectacular.

  2. A pescetarian, for some reason I thought of her as a Libra or maybe Gemini but I can see pescetarian too. Sorry, I don’t know what gets into me.
    The hake looks great & it’s funny but I never saw that growing up here until just recently the markets have had it. Of course if we ever get you across the pond, we’ll fill you up with all the cod, haddock, lobsters, scrod that you can eat.

  3. Great recipe Stan – Hake is the favourite fish of the Spanish, check out Moro cookbooks, and also the excellent Catalan Cuisine cookbook for more recipes. Hake with peas for example is a great dish at this time of year.

  4. Looks good. If you ever get to Australia, visit the Top End, go for a guided fishing trip around April or May and catch some barramundi. If the guide is a good bloke or sheila, he or she will be able to fillet the fish and cook it on the boat with some butter and lemon juice. There is truly nothing better.

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