Poached Fish and Roasted Hazelnuts

Poached Fish and Roasted Hazelnuts, with a butter sauce and spaghetti

Poached Fish and Roasted Hazelnuts

It’s a while since I’ve posted a savoury recipe. With ongoing dental problems again recently - from the age of five, in my case – it just wasn’t possible to eat anything that wasn’t softish or soupy. Thankfully the pain has subsided leaving only my lower right wisdom tooth teething with nowhere to go. Hmm, with five teeth out already you’d think there would be enough room by now. Never, is the case. Anyway, this combination of poached fish and hazelnuts I sort of happened on when flicking through one of my two cookery books on the off chance that I might find something to do with hazelnuts, that I especially love at this time of year. And I found a savoury, roasted dish for fish, lemon, Cheddar cheese and sherry vinegar – the stench of the latter during roasting would be enough to put me off. That aside, I was intrigued by the inclusion of hazelnuts. But not to the extent of wanting to roast anything as it was still too hot outside. So! I went with this very simple idea of a thin buttery sauce made from the poaching liquor from the fish with roasted and finely grated hazelnuts scattered over the top, like you would with Parmesan or Grana Padano (the latter would be even more suitable). It’s good. That’s all that I’m going to say. Except for, how come it’s taken me so long to cook with hazelnuts within anything other than pastry??

Poached Fish and Roasted Hazelnuts

Poached Fish and Roasted Hazelnuts, with a butter sauce and spaghetti


  • 8 x hazelnuts, roasted and skinned (see notes), finely grated and divided, with half being added to the melted butter
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x Basa or frozen white fish fillets (see notes)
  • 100ml (3.38 fl oz) x cold water
  • 1/6 - 1/4 x organic vegetable stock cube
  • 1 x dried bay leaf, split
  • 1 x plump organic garlic clove, peeled and crushed/minced
  • 20g (0.70 oz) x unsalted butter
  • 1/2 x tablespoon plain (AP) flour
  • 80g (2.82 oz) x dried spaghetti or pasta of choice (more to personal taste), cooked to packs instructions
  • freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to serve

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Fish cooks relatively quickly, even from frozen. However, as it is frozen to begin with it’s imperative to cook it all the way through. So, on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) put a large shallow pan with the fish fillets, water, bay leaf, stock and crush the garlic over the mixture as well. Once it’s near simmering reduce heat to No 2. If the pasta isn’t going to be ready for a while take the fish off heat. When needed turn the fillets over, put back on heat and simmer until the fish starts to flake.
  • Put a large saucepan with plenty of lightly salted cold water on heat No 4 for the pasta of choice.
  • Put a small saucepan on heat No 1 to melt the butter. Sprinkle over the flour, stir through and allow a couple of minutes for the flour to cook out. Add half the grated hazelnuts and take off heat. Once the fish is ready, and the pasta is almost cooked, strain the fish (the fish can be removed and set aside before straining) through a fine wire metal sieve into the butter and flour mixture, put back on heat No 3 and bring to a simmer, stirring often. The sauce will thicken slightly, but will probably have the consistency of a gravy.
  • To serve simply add the fish to the pasta and pour over the sauce.


  • To roast the hazelnuts add them to an oven suitable dish and place them into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 180°C or 356°F and keep an eye on the hazelnuts once the oven has preheated. There’s no actual timing here. It’s more a case of checking the nuts, and when their skins have visibly split remove them from the oven and allow to cool before removing the skins.
  • Sometimes with frozen fish and seafood they’re coated with a salt glaze. To get rid of that simply place the frozen fish into a shallow pan with barely enough cold water to cover. Put on moderate heat and bring to below boiling point. By that stage, and if there’s a lot of scum, take pan off heat and cool the fish by gently running cold water on the fillets. Cool completely and set aside. The fish won’t be cooked by this stage so it’s perfectly okay to continue with poaching them.
  • When poaching fillets like this I never cover with water. Instead, on moderate heat, the underside cooks through. I then take them off heat. When needed all I do is turn them over, put them back on heat and cook for several minutes more, or until the fillets flake easily when touched with a fork. That way they don’t overcook if the pasta and sauce aren’t ready.
  • If Basa fillets aren’t available other white fish will sub. With Pollock and others I might add some pan-fried bacon crumbs, freshly chopped parsley and finely grated hard cheese.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Kitschnflavours:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn

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  1. Like you I have never used hazelnuts for anything other than sweets, I think they would compliment an earthy tilapia nicely and that butter sauce sounds heavenly and light. Very nice!

    • Isn’t it strange that I always have hazelnuts in my cupboard but have never cooked with them, excepting in pastry. They’re such a good flavour with the fish. Now I’m wondering how many recipes are out there that uses them within savoury! And why don’t I know about them!!
      - The butter sauce is very light as my system just can’t deal with loads of it. Oddly, I don’t have the same problem with either cream nor cheese. Maybe I should try ghee or clarified butter next time.

        • You know, I tried clarifying butter but it wouldn’t work with such a small amount. Just impossible to separate the fats from the butter. Yes, you’re right. A beurre noisette as we call it would be superb. I’ve never bothered to do that either :) Beginning to realise I could be a right slob!

  2. I can almost smell the butter sauce! I used crushed walnuts on steak a few days ago, was surprisingly good, and imagine hazelnuts would suit tilapia well.

    • They do. I’m almost kicking myself for never using them within savoury before! Especially as they’re one of my favourites. Oh, I did use them within pesto during summer. Have just remembered that!

    • You may slip in a link to your own posts, as often as you need to :) It’s when people start endorsing pesto that I get miffed!
      - ‘Ere, how come you get away with feckin’ ejit! Sounds so innocuous!
      - And your wife’s ‘courgette, garlic and cheese things’ would be great with this. I served mine with plain ol’ fried courgette wedges, and forgot to add that to summary. Must update as a suggestion.

  3. What an intriguing combination! I would never have thought of using white fish and hazelnuts together. And a rich butter sauce on top? Delicious!

    • Neither would I. Isn’t it funny how recipes can trigger off ideas? The one in the book is more along the lines of a gratin, with breadcrumbs and chopped hazelnuts on top. The butter sauce for this is very basic. I sort of need to elaborate on it for two other possible recipes. One to stuff a ravioli type pasta (if and when I ever get around to making home-made pasta) and for a canapé with hazelnut pastry. And yes, it was surprisingly delicious!

  4. This looks wonderful Johnny. Yum, I adore soft poached fish and the idea of the hazelnut crumble sounds perfect. Sorry to hear about your teeth. Argh, dental issues are an endless curse, aren’t they? I always wish that we’d been created as a species with double reinforced teeth that always grew in the right place and lasted a lifetime. Alas, it is not to be! Anyway, I definitely want to try this recipe. Looks divine :)

    • The fact you’ve mentioned crumble could be one way forward with something like this. Will have to do some research. I’ve just mentioned to Darya about the possibility of using this within a ravioli type pasta. And for a canapé. Like a little handheld pie with a creamy sauce. Too easy to go along the lines of including a melted nutty cheese. Or would it??
      - Hah! A dentist told me about ten years ago my wisdom teeth were growing up straight. That would be fine if my gums were in the right place! Something’s off-kilter, as this brute of a tooth keeps chewing at my inner cheek. I just don’t relish having more extracted.

  5. Very much like the idea of using grated hazelnuts as a topping … opens up a whole bunch of possibilities, doesn’t it? [sorry re the "dandoon" and hope that wisdom teeth wisens up and finds a place to lodge.]

    • Don’t understand ‘dandoon’. Even checked on Google, and nothing came up. Are you making up your own language now?? Hope so. As much of the time I don’t know what I’m on about. Anyway, the hazelnuts work great with this. And I’m definitely on the lookout for more recipes to include them. Besides desserts and stuff, that is.

    • Thank you. It is nice. Although, I have to be careful with how much butter I use as I just don’t deal with it very well. Still, it’s very much along the lines of comfort food. And at least the fish and hazelnuts are healthy!

    • Thank you. It is nice. Although, I have to be careful with how much butter I use as I just don’t deal with it very well. Still, it’s very much along the lines of comfort food. And at least the fish and hazelnuts are healthy!

  6. I am sure this tastes delicious but I am going to come clean and say … that tilapia is best avoided… just google “the problem with tilapia” and you’ll see why. I have used toasted hazlenuts scattered over an octupus and radicchio salad (at a friend’s suggestion), and it was great. Viva hazlenuts!

    • It’s good to know that. And out of curiosity I’ve also Googled Basa, which I used. The debate is out on that one. However, I’m not overly keen on using farmed fish of any sort. Unfortunately, even though I live so close to the sea I can’t buy fresh fish here. I know, the irony.

    • I’ve never used hazelnuts with fish before, and yet! They were sensational. What isn’t is buying farmed fish. I’m off to the superstore within the next couple of days (hopefully without the need of an ark! It’s raining, it’s pouring) so differing types of fresh fish available will be noted. Especially as I really want to try making pasta from scratch. Even though my kitchen may or may not survive that possible onslaught :)

      • Yes, I noticed a comment about “farmed” fish. I’m not sure if your markets give that information or not. Here it is easy to avoid farmed fish…all the markets label the fish “wild caught” or “farmed fresh”. I think it is up to the discretion of the “recipe follower”. I’m sure everyone has their opinions and preferences and buys what is acceptable to them. I have followed recipes using a type of fish I wouldn’t buy and and just subbed it out. I want to make pasta from scratch too! One of these days! I’ll watch for your post…if it is successful!

        • They are labelled over here as well. It’s still a bit of a quagmire in choosing. Yes, seeing lots of posts recently for home-made ravioli! The horrors! They’re just showing off. And taunting me in turning my tiny kitchen into a wreck – which is going to be inevitable if I try making pasta :)

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