Hake is one of the most delicious white fish available to us and it's perfectly in season right now.
Our Back to Basics series takes a look at some common ingredients to help our readers make the most of the great produce that we have access to here in Ireland. Previously we looked at scallops, housekeeper’s cut of beef, chicken thighs, and pork belly; today we're looking at hake.
Similar to cod and haddock, hake is medium to large fish that usually grows to a maximum weight of about 3.5kg. It's most commonly found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and is known for its silvery belly. While we call it hake, the French call this fish 'saumon blanc', which means white salmon, and it's known as ling or whiting in the United States.
Europe is the largest consumer of hake, with Spain taking the top spot. It's also massively popular in France, Italy and Portugal. While Argentine and Chilean supplies of hake have drastically reduced in recent years, local supplies have levelled off, with The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations calling hake the UK's most sustainable fish.
Purchasing And Nutrition
When selecting hake, as with most fish, there are a few things you should look out for. Firstly, buy your fish from a fishmonger, as they will be able to advise you on your purchase. They will also be able to prepare the fish for you if that’s something you feel nervous about. Next, it’s important to make sure your fish is fresh when you buy it: look out for bright eyes, shiny skin and firm flesh. The hake also shouldn’t give off any majorly fishy smell as fresh fish should only smell like the sea.
Hake is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and potassium. It also isn't very high in saturated fat, which means it great for those watching their intake.
Cooking With Hake
Hake is very easy to work with as its flesh is firm, flaky and quite similar to cod. The firm flesh lends itself to a variety of different cooking methods, including barbecuing, pan-frying and baking. When cooked, the flesh should turn opaque and feel firm to the touch. If you buy your hake whole, make sure to keep the head and tail, as these often-discarded parts work really well in stock.
In continental Europe, hake is often cooked whole. To do this, we would recommend barbecuing or cooking en papillote (in paper). The flesh is super absorbent, so be sure to add butter, lemon and herbs to ensure delicious flavour in the final product.
Hake has a subtly sweet flavour, meaning it pairs well with a variety of flavours. Need some recipe inspiration? Read on for some of our favourite hake dishes.
- Arun Kapil's Calcutta 'spiced and spicy' hake is a delicious way to add spice to hake. The blackened look of the fish is very appealing, making it a good centrepiece for a dinner party.
- Orla Murphy's hake and broccoli gratin is total comfort food. Deliciously rich and flavourful, this delicious dish will quickly become a firm family favourite.
- If you're looking for a more refined dish, try Bryan McCarthy's pan-roasted hake with sea spinach, smoked bacon, dashi cream and sea lettuce. The combination of ingredients highlights both Irish and Asian flavours.