Recipe of the week: hake and soft tomatoes with chilli butter

If you ate the tomatoes on their own, they’d make for an oddly elegant dinner, says Eleanor Steafel. But with the fish and the chilli butter, they turn into something really special. You can easily adjust the ingredients for the tomatoes to make a batch; leftovers can be blitzed for a sweet, fresh tomato sauce, or spread on bread with anchovies for pan con tomate.

Ingredients: serves one

For the tomatoes

olive oil, for frying 290g plum tomatoes, quartered 
1⁄2 tsp flaky salt, plus extra to season and finish 
1 garlic clove, finely sliced 
a splash of red wine vinegar 

For the fish 

a chunky hake steak, skin on 35g butter 
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1⁄2 a small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped 
a pinch of smoked paprika 
thick slices of good bread 
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, roughly torn 
a few big basil leaves 
flaky salt 
a lemon wedge, to serve (optional)


Heat a good glug of olive oil in a small frying pan or a casserole pan with a lid over a very low heat. If you can, pick a pan that is going to be able to fit the tomato wedges in a single, snug layer over the bottom. Arrange the tomato quarters in concentric circles. Sprinkle over the salt and garlic.Put the lid on and leave the tomatoes to cook for 30 mins – don’t move the pan too much, just leave the tomatoes to cook slowly, until they release lots of sweet juices and slump a little.
Shake over a little vinegar, smash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, replace the lid and cook for another 5 mins, so they return to a simmer.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the hake with salt. Set a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil and, when hot, fry the fish, skin-side down for 3 mins until the skin crisps and the flesh starts to cook. Then, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the fish to the tomatoes, lowering it into the pan so the skin stays above the liquid and the flesh can continue cooking in the simmering juices. Cook for 3 mins, until the fish is cooked through.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan with the sliced garlic, the chopped chilli and the paprika, plus a pinch of salt. Let it foam up and cook for a minute, swirling the pan as it does. Set the flavoured butter aside in the pan.
Toast the bread (either in a toaster or on a griddle pan), then drizzle it with oil and sprinkle it with flaky salt.
Finish the tomatoes and fish with the chilli butter and herbs. Serve with a wedge of lemon, if you wish.

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Recipe from The Art of Friday Night Dinner by Eleanor Steafel, published by Bloomsbury at £26. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £20.99, call 020-3176 3835 or visit

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