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Merluza a la Sidra (Hake, prawns in a cider and apple sauce)

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Cooking time

Prep: 1 hour Cook: 1 hour 1 - 2 hrs preparing the clams (optional), but can be getting on with recipe meantime

Skill level

More effort


Serves 4

This is quite a complex recipe (with an equally complex taste). The most difficult part of this recipe is obtaining the cider! Fortunately there are a couple of enterprising Spanish food importers on line which will supply the real thing. If you find yourself flying out of Asturias airport the duty-free is overflowing with bottles of the stuff as is the rest of Asturias. I first tasted this in a rough and ready upstairs eating area of a bar as the main course of a menu del dia outside the bus station in Gijon, minus the clams and gambas. The combination of apples, cider and hake was astonishing, and this is my take on it, with added clams and gambas, as is often the case in Galicia and their 'menus degustacion' or Sunday 'menu especial'.

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  • 3/4 kg Hake – chopped into 3cm steaks
  • 16 fresh prawns (optional)
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh live clams (optional)
  • 1 large green apple (or 2 small) – Granny Smith’s or similar, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 300 ml of Asturian ‘naturel’ cider
  • 2 large onions – finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic – finely chopped
  • Flour
  • 500ml pre-prepared homemade tomato sauce
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthways into 1cm slices
  • Several tablespoons of EVOO
  • Salt
  • ½ bunch of flat-leaved parsley, chopped roughly
  • 3 bay Leaves (fresh if poss)


  1. Prepare the clams (if using). They need to be de-sanded before use. Rinse gently and place them in a colander. Place the colander into a bowl with as much water as possible but ensuring the water does not quite reach the level of the clams. Place a semi-wet cloth over the clams and set aside for no less than 1hr.

  2. Lightly salt the hake pieces on both sides and leave for 20mins. Meanwhile assemble/prepare all the ingredients mentioned above… In a plastic bag pour in some flour, throw in the hake pieces and give it a good shake. Remove the hake pieces and shake to remove excess flour. Set aside.

  3. In a large wide frying pan heat up the EVOO and gently shallow fry the hake steaks on both sides for about 5 mins (don’t overcook). Remove the hake and set aside for later. Next gently fry the prawns (if using) in the same pan for just 1 minute. Remove and set aside for later.

  4. In the same pan, add more EVOO if needed, and add the onions. Turn heat up to max for 3mins, then fry on a low heat, stirring occasionally for 15mins. Add the garlic and cook for another 10mins. By this time the onions should be a light brown colour (if they are not cook further until they are).

  5. Raise heat and stir in the home-made tomato sauce tomato sauce. Add bay leaves. Lower heat and simmer for about 30mins, stirring occasionally. Whilst this is simmering continue with the remainder of the recipe…

  6. If going down the clam route – remove the clams from the colander. In a bowl add them to lightly salted water enough to cover well for 3/4 hr. (Don’t ‘crowd’ the clams as they will suffocate).

  7. In another frying pan gently shallow fry the potato slices in batches until soft inside and crispy on the outer. Place them all in a warm oven.

  8. By now the onion/tomato sauce mixture will be ready to move onto the next stage. Add salt if needed. Pour in the cider and bay leaves to the sauce. Turn heat up for a couple of mins, then turn to low and simmer for 10mins.

  9. Add the hake and apple pieces. Combine well. Cook on lowish heat for 15mins. Shake pan gently occasionally, making sure to not break up the fish.

  10. Drain the clams and gently and briefly rinse them. Add the clams, parsley and prawns and cook whole dish for a further 5 mins on moderate heat.

  11. To serve – Place the warmed potato slices on each plate, evenly distributed. Spoon over the sauce making sure each serving gets an equal amount of hake, prawns, apple, clams and sauce. Alternatively, put the warmed potato slices onto each plate. Bring to the table and bring the pot/pan to the table and invite guests to help themselves. (In Gijon bus-station bar it was brought to me in a mini-cauldron with ladle to help myself!)

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