book review, Catering, Cookbooks, Cooking, Uncategorized

Cooking the books …. and some fish!

I have a confession to make – my name is Yvonne and I am a Cookbook Addict.

I was brought up in a houseful of books and book lovers so I’m not quite sure when my obsession with cookery books started . I know I used to leaf through my Mum’s Good Housekeeping book and wish we had exotic ingredients like glucose and peppermint essence!

Fast forward to college and I was given a present of ‘Monica’s Kitchen’ – an absolute gem of a book even for someone like me who could barely boil an egg at the time.

Monica and good housekeeping sepia
How it started

Since then the collection has grown exponentially. Sometimes I think it’s all about the buying – the flicking through the book, deciding a recipe looks tempting, handing over the money and rushing home to place it reverently on the shelf.

book shelf colour
My crowded bookshelves

Some books stay there – just looking good. Some were bought as part of a phase – anybody remember macrobiotic cooking?  Then others become like old friends, to be taken out again and again. Indeed the lucky few graduate from the library to the hallowed shelf in the kitchen .

Way back when I started this blog the idea was to cook recipes from different books so that no book went unloved. So now I am going to attempt that again ……


First up is the third book in the Avoca series – A Year at Avoca. This was given to me by my good friend Siobhan as a Christmas present 5 years ago (yes my addiction makes it easy for people to buy me presents 🙂 ) . It’s a beautiful book and I always  think more suited to a coffee table than a kitchen … but last week in a hunt for a new fish recipe I took it down and it delivered.

I tweaked the recipe slightly  – I used smoked paprika instead of chilli in the bean mix and I  made buttered crumbs to  top the fish. If you’d like to try it this is what I did ….

Herb Crusted Hake 

What you need :

  • Bean & Spinach ‘Mash’
    • 1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
    • 2 shallots, finely chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 2 *400g tins butter beans , drained and rinsed
    • 15 cherry tomatoes  – I used a punnet of different colours
    • 125 ml white wine (or vegetable stock!)
    • half a bag of spinach leaves
  • Buttered crumbs:
    • approx 100g panko breadcrumbs
    • 30g butter
    • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
    • fresh herbs , chopped –  I used dill and parsley
  • 4 ‘decent sized’ hake pieces (rule of thumb is 100g for starter and 150g for main course)

What you do:

  • First make the bean ‘mash’ – heat the oil and sauté the shallots for a few minutes until softened but not coloured.
  • Add in the garlic, smoked paprika and some salt and continue to cook for about a minute.
  • Then add in the beans , cherry tomatoes and wine and leave to simmer over a low heat for about 2o mins. (This can be made in advance and reheated)
  • In the meantime prepare your fish topping by melting the butter in a frying pan and stirring in  the breadcrumbs. Add seasoning, lemon juice and zest and lots of fresh herbs. (This will also make a great topping for a pasta bake )
  • Divide the topping mix between your fish pieces and press on gently. It’s a good idea to put the fish onto a lined baking tray first – less mess!
  • Cook your fish in a preheated oven (170 fan/ 180/Gas 6) for about 12-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your fillets.
  • Reheat your bean mash and add in the spinach leaves just before serving  – don’t worry they will wilt in the heat!
  • To serve place each fillet on top of a generous helping of the beans and garnish with fresh herbs and a wedge of lemon or lime

Hake 1 serving overview

We didn’t really need them but we  had gratin potatoes with ours – well he is Irish!                I bought the beautiful fresh hake in my local fish shop – Bates of Kilmore Quay.                      I must confess the perfectly formed potato gratin came from Lidl  – handy things to have in the freezer !

High praise indeed  from the Chief Taster as he deemed it good enough to be added to the ‘do again pile’ !

Now to decide which cookbook is next on the list – any requests ?

Happy Cooking!

If you’d like to come along to one of my cookery classes then please click here  for details.
If you‘d like details of our catering options then please click here or contact me directly on 087 2488124






4 thoughts on “Cooking the books …. and some fish!”

  1. Yep, this is me to a T! Must dust some off and do the same as you are, thanks for reminding me 🙂

  2. I could have written this post Yvonne! I love buying a reading through new cookbooks. I’m not always successful at actually cooking from them. There are a few duds that I kno wI’ll never use but I still can’t bear to part with them 🙂

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